This year’s Formula One tires faced extreme conditions during today’s two free practice sessions for the Malaysian Grand Prix: track temperatures that peaked at 49 degrees centigrade and very abrasive asphalt. tire wear and thermal degradation were in line with expectations and the top seven in FP2 were covered by four-tenths of a second, setting the scene for a closely fought race.
The P Zero Orange hard tire, completely revised from last year’s version, took to the track for the first time this year. The performance gap between the hard and the medium tire, also nominated for Sepang, was between 1.0 and 1.2s today, opening up several strategy options.
Only the hard tire was used in FP1 this morning, before the teams moved onto a combination of the hard and the soft tire for race simulations during FP2 this afternoon. A new rule this year allows drivers an extra set of the harder compound tire to be used in the first 30 minutes of FP1: as a result there was plenty of on-track action right from the start of the session.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “As was the case in Australia we’ve seen fewer marbles out on track, but what was surprising was the amount of pick-up that we found on the circuit during FP1, with plenty of non-F1 rubber already laid down on the track. The surface cleaned considerably for FP2, which allowed us to have a more representative read of the track conditions. We’ve seen a performance gap of between 1.0 and 1.2 seconds between the hard and medium compounds, which should remain consistent if temperatures stay high. If temperatures drop slightly, we would expect the medium tire to come more into its own. But we’re still at an early point in the cycle of car development, so for everyone it’s going to be a question of very carefully analyzing the data that was obtained today when it comes to formulating a strategy. It can rain at any point in Malaysia, and that’s another factor to consider in preparing for the race.”
Free Practice two:
1. Rosberg 1m39.909s
2. Raikkonen 1m39.944s
3. Vettel 1m39.970s
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.