Degradation set to create Sepang thriller

Malaysian Grand Prix qualifying and the race are set to be turned into strategic thrillers thanks to the high degradation of tyres witnessed at Sepang so far, reckons Pirelli

Degradation set to create Sepang thriller

With the hot temperatures and abrasive track surface leading to high-wear rates, the indications after opening practice in Malaysia are that teams are going to need to be at their tactical best in both qualifying and the race if they are to achieve success.

With early predictions suggesting the soft tyre is only likely to last for around eight laps if they are qualified on and then raced, it means at least a three-stop race for those opting for the one-second advantage that the option tyre could bring in Q3.

However, if track evolution can be stretched up to 20 laps for the hard tyre, then there is the possibility that those starting on hard may be able to get away with doing one less stop - which could hand them a good advantage in the race.

Speaking to AUTOSPORT after analysing the Friday data, Hembery said that the tyre situation was on course to produce major excitement.

"I think on average we are going to see three stops, and I would be surprised if it is four," he explained. "This is only Friday and we've got full running tomorrow and in the race, so things can change.

"In Melbourne, we saw quite a rapid evolution of the track, although I am not sure if that was representative. But, at the moment, you are looking at 12-14 laps on the hard tyre - with some evolution to arrive at 18 laps. That brings you pretty close to a three-stop strategy. You will probably also get some people who will try and two-stop.

"This circuit is tough. With a 50-degrees asphalt temperature, aggressive wear, it means that the degradation is more than what we saw in Melbourne for sure. But equally it is pretty close to what we were trying to create.

"If you are an engineer working for a team you probably don't want that, as the balance of your car is changing through the race and through the stint, where there are fuel loads changing as well. But from our point of view, it is pretty much in line with expectations."

Hembery reckons that the one second time difference between the soft and the hard tyre, allied to the degradation situation, was enough to leave open the possibility of outfits sacrificing grid position for the more durable tyre.

"The gap between the compounds is one second, up to 1.2 seconds - which is good actually," explained Hembery. "That will lead to the qualifying question - and there is definitely a choice to be made now.

"Maybe Red Bull might have a different strategy because they can think in a different way [as their car is so quick], but I think everyone else would have to qualify on the soft.

"Most people tried the soft in the afternoon session and were doing a chrono lap. Some were then trying to back off and go again, which seemed to work for a few drivers.

"At the moment you are looking for eight laps. I don't know when they would use the soft, either right at the start or right at the end, but it would be a three-stop strategy with that level of wear if you started with it."

Hembery said he was also not unduly concerned about the high level of marbles that were seen on the track during Friday's running - and he said the situation was different to that witnessed in pre-season testing.

"They are slightly different," he said. "We had strips in winter testing, big strips. These are actually smaller pieces that actually get picked up on the tyres. We haven't been able to tell if they actually wear off.

"Some of the cars picked it up on the in-lap, but it would have been more interesting if they had done that and carried on going around, then we could see what the wear off rate is.

"That is something that we are going to have to look at tomorrow, but it is a big wide circuit. There should be plenty of opportunity to overtake and there should not be an issue with the marbles.

"But we will go out tonight, wander around and see the marbles. It hasn't been highlighted to us in a great way. There is high wear, so there is bound to be material coming off the tyre.

"It has to go somewhere; they cannot all go down on the racing line so there will always be a high level of material coming off the tyres. It is just if that material then causes an issue regarding the racing."

shares
comments
Di Grassi to be evaluated for Pirelli role
Previous article

Di Grassi to be evaluated for Pirelli role

Next article

Brawn: Teams may need to copy RBR

Brawn: Teams may need to copy RBR
Load comments
The lessons F1 can take from the Masi "souk" deal criticisms Plus

The lessons F1 can take from the Masi "souk" deal criticisms

As Formula 1 heads to its Abu Dhabi season finale, the FIA and race director Michael Masi are under increased scrutiny, with radio messages broadcast during last weekend's race prompting discussion and controversy. But what can they learn from the Saudi Arabia debacle?

Why thrilling Jeddah F1 circuit needs to be safer Plus

Why thrilling Jeddah F1 circuit needs to be safer

OPINION: Saudi Arabia's new F1 circuit delivered a memorable first event, although not necessarily for all the right reasons. In the wake of the chaotic race, drivers voiced their concerns about the track but small changes could make significant improvements ahead of a return in four months

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain Plus

The long-term F1 vision causing Haas’s short-term pain

From ranking as one of the most impressive new teams to join the Formula 1 grid, Haas’s stock has plummeted along with its on-track performances over the past two seasons. Everything now hangs on whether its reforged alliance with Ferrari can deliver a better car – and whether its rookie drivers can set aside their quarrels. OLEG KARPOV asks if any of these goals are achievable…

Formula 1
Dec 8, 2021
The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Plus

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 7, 2021
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Plus

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Plus

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes Plus

How Formula E factors could negate Red Bull's Jeddah practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton

Formula 1
Dec 3, 2021