This weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix will provide an early opportunity for all eleven F1 teams to try out the latest-specification 2014 prototype tyres as Pirelli gears up for the new-look formula on the horizon
Different engine characteristics will have an important effect on next year's tyres, and Pirelli is keen to test them out, even though this weekend will, of course, be the final call for the venerable V8 era. Each car will have two sets of next year's tyres - featuring the 2014 construction and profile and proposed medium compound - to use in FP1 and FP2, as allowed by the current regulations.
The rest of the Interlagos weekend will be conducted on the same hard and medium compounds as taken to the last race, the USGP at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
“We've chosen the hard and medium tyres for Brazil to deal with the different demands of the famous Interlagos circuit,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery explained, “There are a number of things to look out as, despite being resurfaced a few years back, the track is always quite bumpy, which makes it hard for the tyres to find traction and increases the physical demands on the drivers.
“Just like last year, we'll also be giving all the teams the opportunity to test next year's tyres during Friday free practice, given the fundamental changes in the technical regulations for 2014. Brazil is actually Pirelli's biggest market, so we're all really looking forward to getting back there, for a race that marks the end of a technical era.”
Interlagos puts a big emphasis on combined traction, the transition when drivers go from braking to putting the power down. The Sao Paulo circuit is usually light on brakes, so conserving momentum is important, but set-up tends to be a compromise. The long uphill straight towards the start-finish line puts the emphasis on speed and power - a challenge for the engines due to the altitude of Interlagos - but the more twisty infield section requires more downforce. The final sector of the lap, however, is the most crucial one for the overall time.
“Interlagos is a circuit where the driver really feels involved,” veteran Jean Alesi confirmed, “While that sounds illogical, there are some circuits where you basically drive from corner to corner. At Interlagos, it's a real experience that takes you over.
“Even though the track has been resurfaced a few times, it's still quite bumpy, with big compressions, and, because it's anti-clockwise, it feels very physical to drive. The key to Interlagos is finding the right rhythm: if you manage this then you can minimize the tyre wear and have a good performance.”
McLaren's Jenson Button won the race last year, with a two-stop strategy in mixed weather conditions. Key to his success was his ability to remain on slick tyres even when it was raining, but the mixed conditions meant that the strategies were extremely varied, with some drivers stopping four times.
“I love the feeling and the atmosphere at Interlagos,” Alesi continued, “The fans are absolutely fantastic, so it's a great place to go racing, but the weather is always very changeable, so you have to be prepared for everything!
“Obviously, for Pirelli, this is a very important race because of the Brazilian market - and this has always been the case. In my era, I remember that Nelson Piquet owned a Pirelli tyre distributor in Brazil and was involved in promotional work to underline the importance of having the right tyres!”