All about tyres
Malaysian GP - Ferrari - Preview
Ross Brawn knows that there are three critical elements towards the success of
any Formula One car, the chassis, the engine package and the tyres. According
to Ferrari's Technical Director, this weekend's second round on the 2003
calendar, the Malaysian Grand Prix, could again be all about tyres for the
heat and the track surface is very tough on the tyres and consistency is
vital, remembering only too well that last year's race where the Michelin
shod BMW-Williams cars took the win.
"We have formed a very strong partnership with Bridgestone and after last
year's race they did a fantastic job developing a more consistent and durable
tyre for the rest of the year,” he said. “Magny Cours is another difficult
track on tyres and we knew that would be the next big test but the tyre
performed perfectly and we stuffed Michelin on their home turf."
This year Brawn is optimistic that there will be no specific tyre problems in
Malaysia but whatever the outcome of the race; he knows the tyres will play a
critical role. Also, the new regulations have made life a little easier for
the team in some directions.
"Each team may now have only two choices of dry tyres for the race, but each
team can make their own choice of compound and construction,” Brawn added, the
team having chosen their tyres for Malaysia following test session in Fiorano
right after the Australian GP. “That could mean that Bridgestone would need to
make ten different dry weather tyres to supply their five teams, but on the
positive side, they do not need to make overall as many tyres to cover all
possible options like they did in the past, so their response time is much
quicker. We can now test and choose a tyre between races and then race that
tyre the next weekend."
The new regulations and one-lap qualifying rule has also influenced the way
the team go about preparing for race day and tyre choice. It would be possible
to choose a soft tyre for a quick time on Friday and thus a better qualifying
starting position for Saturday, but then qualify a harder tyre that has to
then stay on the car to start the race. Qualifying is now effectively part of
the race with the new regulations.
"In fact, we prefer to concentrate entirely on the race preparation, so the
tyres we choose are both variations of race rubber one of which we choose for
qualifying and the race depending on what we see during free practice. The
emphasis now has to be on consistency and the tyres cannot be scrubbed now
like they used to as we only get one lap in qualifying and we have to start
the race the next day with the same tyres,” he explained. “The track in
Malaysia absorbs the heat and is very severe on the tyres. You need a softer
tyre to get the grip, but it cannot be too soft because of the heat. It's a
bit of a compromise. We have had to work on a new compound philosophy with a
more durable tyre in the heat, while the new regulations means that the tyres
do not have to have as long a life as they did for a one- stop race strategy."
Where things could become difficult in Malaysia is in the case of rain, the
new regulations have not made things any easier by stipulating just one type
of rain tyre for each team.
"Malaysia can have a sudden monsoon downpour during the race and be dry
again 10 laps later. With only one rain tyre it is impossible to cater for all
eventualities,” he continued. “You either choose a deep grooved full wet which
can be dangerous and start chunking when the track begins to dry or you choose
a shallow groove intermediate tyre and their will be cars falling off the road
in heavy rain. We have chosen a compromise between the two that we have
developed during wet weather testing during the winter, but it is not the
There are also very limited changes that can be made to the set-up of the
car in the event of rain. The front wings can be adjusted and brake ducts
taped up, which is not really a safety problem, because all they do when it
rains in a dry race is stick on some wets and perhaps change the front wings
to balance the car better.
"The new regulations have put a lot more emphasis on tyre performance and
Bridgestone have really proved that they are up to the job of producing the
right tyre for the job," Brawn concluded.