Japanese GP: Preview - Pirelli


Coming straight off the back of the Malaysian Grand Prix, the Japanese Grand Prix uses exactly the same three nominations: P Zero Orange hard, P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft. Another thing that the Japanese Grand Prix has in common with Malaysia is the fact that two sets of the hard compound have been nominated as mandatory sets, meaning that the hardest compound will definitely be used at some point during the race by every driver.

Suzuka is one of the most atmospheric races of the season, with an old-school feel thanks to its fast corners and small run-off areas. Just like Malaysia, there's a strong possibility of rain featuring during the weekend: but unlike Malaysia the track is quite narrow, which makes overtaking more difficult.

The Circuit from a Tyre Point of View

Track temperatures can vary massively, from very warm weather to cold and wet conditions.

Teams tend to run a high downforce set-up to maximise speed through the fast corners.

Plenty of energy goes through tyres because many corners are very long, maximising loads. The famous 130R, for example, contains the highest continuous g-force loading of the year.

There are few longitudinal forces: instead Suzuka is all about lateral loads through corners.

These factors tend to lead to high levels of wear and degradation, with more than one pit stop.

Track evolution can be hard to predict: strategy also needs to remain flexible because of the possibility of safety cars and relative difficulty of overtaking at Suzuka.

The Three Nominated Compounds

Orange hard: will definitely be used for the race, as it is nominated twice as an obligatory set.

White medium: drivers have selected between one and four sets of these, with different ideas.

Yellow soft: this is the first time that the soft has been seen in Japan; will be quick in qualifying.

How it was a Year Ago

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won with a two-stop strategy, starting on medium, switching to medium again on lap 16, then hard on lap 31. The 53-lap race was dry after a wet Friday.

Best alternative strategy: the big majority of drivers adopted a two-stop strategy, but a medium-hard-hard run allowed Nico Rosberg to undercut his key rivals and move up to second.

What's New

There are no major changes to the infrastructure or track in Japan this year.

The race takes place one week later than it did last year, returning to its 2014 calendar slot.

Ferrari has gone for the most aggressive tyre choice with nine sets of the soft. In particular, Sebastian Vettel is the only driver to have selected just one set of medium tyres in Japan.

Paul Hembery: "Suzuka is a race that everybody looks forward to coming to: there's little left to say that hasn't been said already about the amazing welcome we receive each year from the Japanese fans and the depth of their enthusiasm and knowledge. For the first time we bring the soft tyre to Suzuka, which should provide a different aspect to the strategy, so we may have some tactical thinking right from qualifying on Saturday. Whatever happens, we'll be seeing the hard tyre used during the race, as was the case in Malaysia, and also high wear and degradation: which always additionally provides varied strategic opportunities."

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Published: 03/10/2016
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