Ferrari reserve Marc Gene has suggested that Pirelli's decision to take the same compounds of tyre to both the Indian and Abu Dhabi grands prix represents a safe choice ahead of the latter.
As Abu Dhabi is the only race that starts in the late afternoon and ends in the twilight of the evening, Pirelli has explained that the medium and soft compound tyres last seen at Buddh International Circuit on Sunday will also be the chosen tyres for the race at Yas Marina this weekend, despite the temperature range that the tyres will experience being very different and falling, rather than rising as at other events.
“The way that the track temperature falls in Abu Dhabi obviously has an effect on both wear and degradation, meaning that teams are able to do longer runs, even on the softer compound later in the race,” motorsport director Paul Hembery pointed out, “There are some important implications for strategy here, which means that it's often possible to try something different in Abu Dhabi than you would in other places, which might well pay off at the end of the race.
“As a company, Abu Dhabi is a circuit that we know very well because it's where we did some testing before we started in F1. It's also where the F1 teams got to sample our tyres for the first time, back at the end of 2010. When it comes to the actual venue, Yas Marina is one of the most modern and spectacular circuits of the year, with a number of different technical challenges that test most aspects of a tyre's overall performance.”
Despite the compounds being the same as nominated for last year's Abu Dhabi race, Hembery expects strategies to be a little different.
“Tyre wear and degradation isn't especially high here,” he noted, “Last year, when we also nominated the medium and soft, most drivers just stopped once, but, as the compounds are generally softer this year, we'd expect two stops this time, although it's quite possible that some teams might try just one.
“We will have to wait for the Friday running until we have a clearer picture of the time difference between the two compounds but, overall, we'd anticipate race pace among the frontrunners to be reasonably closely balanced, and it's always under these circumstances that having the right strategy can really make a significant difference. Although there's quite a high degree of track evolution, and conditions in free practice aren't always representative of the race, the work done during the Friday and Saturday sessions will be instrumental in shaping each team's understanding of which strategies are both possible and advantageous on Sunday.”
On average, track temperatures drop by 15 degrees during the race, from around 45 degrees at the start to 30 degrees at the end. This is the opposite to what is seen at most hot races taking place in the early afternoon, where track temperature tends to remain higher than ambient temperature.
“I think medium and soft is quite a safe bet for Pirelli,” Gene told the official Ferrari website, “It's probably the combination we have seen the most this year even if, at some circuits, most recently India, the soft can suffer if it's under stress.”
Colleague Pedro de la Rosa agreed, suggesting that, even at the relatively late time that race takes place, the harder tyre could be the best option.
“At Yas Marina, it will be quite easy on strategy, but you have to take into account how the track will evolve over the course of the weekend, not just in terms of rubbering in but also the temperature drop of the surface is quite big from daytime to night,” he pointed out, “It means that track temperature can influence your choice of compound. Funnily enough, the medium has a low working range and the soft a high working range, so it could be that, at night, with low track temperature, the harder compound could work better.”