THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW:
• Track temperatures are nearly always high: it’s actually possible to fry an egg on the asphalt.
• In the past, wear and degradation has been high, making a multi-stop race likely.
• Heavy rain has often been a feature of the Malaysian Grand Prix, even causing red flags. It also means that any rubber laid down is washed away, affecting the weekend’s track evolution.
• Thermal degradation is an important factor, again due to high ambient and track temperatures.
• Sepang is a varied circuit but there are also some fast corners with high lateral energy loads.
• The new surface should mean that the track is a lot less bumpy.
• The front-left tyre gets worked hardest, which tends to be the limiting factor in stint lengths.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS:
• Orange hard: must be used in the race as two sets have been nominated as obligatory sets.
• White medium: should be key to a flexible strategy, which often pays off in Sepang.
• Yellow soft: a soft compound but high working range, which makes it very usable in Malaysia.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO:
• Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won with a two-stop strategy, starting on medium, switching to medium again on lap 17, then hard on lap 37. Track temperatures of 56 degrees were seen.
• Best alternative strategy: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton used a three-stop strategy to finish second, having started from pole. Three stops were also used by his third-placed team mate.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR:
“In terms of extreme conditions that provide a real test for the tyres, Malaysia is right up there with anything else we see all year. That’s because of the extremely high temperatures as well as the high energy loadings through the fast corners. The big unknown for this year is the track surface, which is completely new. The weather can also change in an instant, turning the track into a monsoon. As a result of all that, Sepang tends to be quite a varied weekend where track evolution is hard to follow. We’ve seen a high number of pit stops in the past and we would probably expect multiple stops from most drivers again this year: this of course opens up an even wider array of variables when it comes to potential race strategies, now that teams have three compounds to choose from.”
• There’s an entirely new surface, plus new drainage, new kerbs and redesigned gravel traps.
• Malaysia shifts calendar slot, moving from a March date last year to late September this year.
• The 2017 wider tyre test campaign continued last week, with Mercedes testing wet tyres in France.
• The track action starts on Thursday this year with the first GP2 session in the late afternoon.
OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE CAUGHT OUR EYE RECENTLY:
• The two title protagonists ¬– Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg – have slightly different choices for Malaysia. Hamilton has an extra set of hards, while Rosberg has chosen more mediums
• Pirelli recently won the FIA European Rally Championship for the second consecutive season with Kajetan Kajetanowicz in Latvia, as well as the ERC2 category for R4 (Group N) cars.
• The Paris Motor Show takes place during the week of the Malaysian Grand Prix, with a number of prestige and premium cars making their debut using Pirelli as original equipment.
TYRES NOMINATED THIS YEAR:
Purple Red Yellow White Orange
Australia Supersoft Soft Medium
Bahrain Supersoft Soft Medium
China Supersoft Soft Medium
Russia Supersoft Soft Medium
Spain Soft Medium Hard
Monaco Ultrasoft Supersoft Soft
Canada Ultrasoft Supersoft Soft
Azerbaijan Supersoft Soft Medium
Austria Ultrasoft Supersoft Soft
Great Britain Soft Medium Hard
Hungary Supersoft Soft Medium
Germany Supersoft Soft Medium
Belgium Supersoft Soft Medium
Italy Supersoft Soft Medium
Singapore Ultrasoft Supersoft Soft
Malaysia Soft Medium Hard
Japan Soft Medium Hard
United States Supersoft Soft Medium
Mexico Supersoft Soft Medium
Brazil Soft Medium Hard
Abu Dhabi Ultrasoft Supersoft Soft