Cool rainy weather expected at Suzuka
Formula One’s late-season long-haul run of events now takes the teams to the epic Suzuka circuit in Japan, where the two hardest tires in the range will be in action: the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium, the same combination as was last seen in Monza.
While the two circuits are very different in character, Suzuka does have some elements in common with Spa: another well-known driver’s circuit with flowing corners but even higher lateral energy demands. As a result, the nomination for Suzuka is one step harder than Spa: hard and medium rather than medium and soft.
This does not make life easier for the tires however, as there is a non-stop series of demands to cope with. Coupled with a track surface that is relatively abrasive, this means that wear and degradation is high. Initial forecasts suggest cool weather, which is not unusual for Japan at this time of year. Heavy rain showers have been a feature of Suzuka in the past, making a wet race a distinct possibility.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:
“Japan is one of the highlights of the year, not just for ourselves but for the whole of Formula One. The fans are absolutely brilliant, with huge enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport, which is almost unparalleled anywhere in the world. Suzuka is a real drivers’ circuit, and because of that it is a considerable challenge for the tires, with some of the biggest lateral energy loads of the year. As a result, it would probably be realistic to look at between two to three pit stops, with tire management forming a key part of the race. However, we’ll obviously know more about that after free practice. It’s a track where several forces are often acting on the tire at once, and the increased torque but decreased downforce of this year’s cars will only place more demands on mechanical grip. If a tire can perform well in Suzuka, it can perform well almost everywhere.”
The circuit from a tire point of view:
Japan is characterized by high lateral energy loads, combined with some of the lowest longitudinal demands seen all year. Turn 15, known as 130R, is taken entirely flat at speeds in excess of 300kph. This puts a sustained load onto the tires, subjecting them (and the driver) to massive g-forces. The front-left tire is worked hardest at Suzuka.
The medium tire is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The hard tire by contrast is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures. Cool temperatures are expected for this year’s Japanese Grand Prix, with a threat of rain.
The asphalt in Suzuka is quite abrasive, but there is a high degree of track evolution. Getting the right set-up is essential, to be able to stick to the optimal racing line. There can be a risk of graining: especially during the early stages of the weekend when the track is at its most green.