Sat, Apr 09, 2011 - Page 20 News List

Tire talk permeates Sepang race paddock

Reuters, SEPANG, MALAYSIA

The degradation of the Pirelli tires in searing Sepang temperatures was the talk of the paddock ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Red Bull and McLaren predicting a forced three-stop race strategy tomorrow.

The tires, which lasted longer than expected on their debut at the season-opening race in Australia two weeks ago, have suffered in the stifling Malaysian heat where track temperatures reached 49°C yesterday with 50 percent humidity.

The tire wear meant drivers were forced to take a more conservative approach than last year during the two practice sessions ahead of tomorrow’s 56-lap race.

“Obviously tires don’t last as long [as in Melbourne] that’s for sure, but I think this is the same for everyone,” world champion Sebastian Vettel told a swarm of reporters after finishing fourth in the second practice session.

“It is difficult to give a number [of laps the tires will last for], but I don’t think you will two-stop and one-stop is ... forbidden,” the championship leader joked after a long pause to choose a suitable final word.

Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber topped the time sheets in both practice sessions yesterday and offered a similarly dim view of the tire’s longevity.

“More than five, less than 25,” the quick-talking Australian replied when asked how many laps he thought the tires would last in the race.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery faced a number of questions about the tires in a media conference after the day’s action and said the conditions had been very testing.

“We do have more degradation here than at Melbourne and there’s quite a bit of difference in times between the soft and hard tires, so the teams must be working out their strategies now based on that,” he said. “I’m guessing on a three-stop strategy, but we were surprised by the one-stop Sauber managed in Melbourne, which we did not envisage. But three looks like being the strategy here and that is the expected scenario.”

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