The 2013 Formula One season gets underway in Australia this weekend, with Pirelli supplying the new P Zero White medium and P Zero Red supersoft compounds: the first time that such a nomination has been made by the Italian firm for the Albert Park circuit.
This year's compounds are generally softer and faster than their predecessors, but two to three pit stops are still expected per car on race day. Melbourne - which has opened the Formula One season since 1996 - is a semi-permanent facility that is well-known for its low levels of grip, which gradually improve over the course of the weekend as the surface rubbers in.
Paul Hembery: "After 12 days of pre-season testing we finally get to go racing with our 2013 compounds. They were developed over the course of the last season in private testing and they are the most focussed and performance-orientated tyres we have ever made. Cold weather conditions during pre-season testing meant that we weren't able to showcase them to the best of their abilities, but we are expecting a different story in Albert Park, with two to three pit stops per car. The start of any new season is always a very exciting time and from what we have observed during pre-season testing the field seems to be closer than ever: quite an achievement when you consider that we had seven different winners from the first seven races last year. All the compounds and constructions have changed for 2013, and the drivers should notice a wider working range and a bigger window of peak performance. The performance gaps between the compounds are also larger, which means that teams have a greater opportunity to use strategy to their advantage by exploiting the consequent speed differentials."
Jean Alesi, Pirelli brand ambassador: "I'm delighted to become Pirelli's brand ambassador at the start of what should be an extremely exciting season: especially if last year is anything to judge by. Albert Park was a circuit that I enjoyed as a driver - I competed there from its debut year after the grand prix moved from Adelaide - but it's really not typical of anywhere else. You have some bits that are similar to a street circuit like Monaco and other places that are more like a permanent track such as Barcelona. So I probably wouldn't read too much into the results from Melbourne, as it is so atypical of anywhere else and also because at the start of the season the teams are still learning a lot about their new cars and tyres. The tyres this year seem very interesting and in qualifying in particular I think a really attacking driver should be able to do something quite special. I would definitely have liked to use these tyres when I was driving!"
The tyre from a circuit point of view:
With all the compounds having become softer this year, the medium and the supersoft were chosen in Australia to give the teams a challenge in terms of tyre management and strategy, in accordance with Pirelli's brief from the teams themselves and Formula One's promoters.
The P Zero White medium tyre is ideal for circuits with lower ambient temperatures and not particularly aggressive asphalt, such as Melbourne. Its durability characteristics are very similar to those of last year's soft tyre, resulting in lap times that are around 0.8s quicker than the 2012-specification medium.
The P Zero Red supersoft has been designed to come up to temperature quickly and it is ideal when it comes to delivering maximum performance instantly on a twisty and slow-speed circuit.
Last year, the medium and soft compounds were chosen for the Australian Grand Prix, with the top seven drivers adopting a two-stop strategy.
Technical tyre notes:
Acceleration and braking are the keys to a good performance in Melbourne, with the longitudinal forces at work on the tyres being greater than the lateral forces. The improved combined traction of the P Zero tyres this year marks a significant step forward in this area.
Melbourne has hosted a number of wet races in the past: last year's Friday's free practice sessions were held in wet weather. Pirelli is bringing a new-specification of Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet tyre to Australia, which has a redesigned construction to help improve traction and prevent snap oversteer.
The left-rear tyre works hardest in Melbourne, with 10 right-hand corners and six left-hand corners.
The 3.295 miles (5.303 km) Albert Park circuit is not used outside of the Australian Grand Prix, which means that it is extremely 'green' and slippery on Friday in particular. But the faster warm-up time of Pirelli's 2013 tyres should help drivers find grip more quickly.