The Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft, specifically designed for tight and twisty street circuits such as Monaco, made its 2012 debut today in the Principality with Jenson Button setting the fastest time during the second practice session. The McLaren driver set a time of 1.15.746 on the supersoft tyre.
The supersoft is the only compound to remain unchanged compared to last year, although the profile is different. As usual, everybody concentrated on the soft tyre during the morning with the main focus on set-up work in free practice one. The teams switched to race and qualifying simulation during free practice two but intermittent rainfall brought the Cinturato Green intermediate tyre into play. Drivers waited for the weather to improve before continuing with their programmme but during the last ten minutes, more rainfall resulted in the use of the intermediate tyre by the majority of the field.
In the morning, Ferrari driver and joint championship leader Fernando Alonso went fastest with a time of 1m16.265s on the P Zero Yellow soft; a time that eclipsed the free practice one benchmark from last year by approximately four tenths of a second. The first session ended prematurely with just under 10 minutes left to go after a technical problem for Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham resulted in an oil spillage in the tunnel.
Conditions warmed up for the beginning of the second session in the afternoon, on a track that offered considerably more grip than the morning, due to the rubber that had been laid down on the track. As Monaco is a pure street circuit, which is only raced on once a year, track evolution is notable over the course of the weekend, with the times typically improving by more than three seconds from the first practice session on Thursday to the final qualifying session on Saturday.
Tyre wear is always low on what is the least abrasive and slowest track of the year, meaning that the soft tyre is anticipated to last for 50 laps or more on Sunday. The supersoft – which posted the fastest-ever lap of Monaco last year in qualifying – will deliver peak performance over just one or two laps during qualifying on Saturday, making the session even more important than usual, as overtaking is notoriously tricky.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Of all the tyres in our range, the teams have had the least running of all on the supersoft to date, so today was very important for them to get out and expand their knowledge of the compound in the truly unique conditions of Monaco. Unfortunately the changeable weather conditions meant that the majority of the field were unable to compare the soft and supersoft tyres as much as we had hoped making Saturday’s practice very important for the full fuel load runs. There will still be plenty of data for us to analyse tonight, and we would expect the soft tyre to last for around 50 laps and the supersoft to last for 35 laps, with a difference of about a second per lap between the two compounds. This is going to make strategy a very important part of the equation, with the key thing in qualifying being to find a clear lap, which is never easy. The supersofts have a rapid warm-up time: then it’s down to the driver to make it count. But even in Monaco, we’ve seen how a good tyre strategy can help drivers make up positions if they are further down the grid.”
Pirelli fact of the day:
The warm-up period is the time taken for the tyres to reach target temperature, which is approximately 95 degrees centigrade (measured on the surface of the tyre) in the case of the P Zero Red Supersoft. It has the fastest warm-up time of the entire range, and will be up to temperature within just one lap in Monaco. The whole tyre is directly influenced by this heating process; not just the tread pattern. The air inside the tyre expands as it heats up, increasing the tyre pressure by up to six psi in order to guarantee perfect rigidity and an optimal position of the contact patch.