Medium and soft tyres make a return at the Nurburgring
What’s the story?
The Nurburgring is one of the most iconic venues in motorsport, but the modern 5.148- kilometre circuit built in 1984 for the European Grand Prix has little in common with the 22-kilometre Nordschleife that made the name famous.
The rollercoaster blind crests of the legendary northern loop, which hosted the German race until 1976, have given way to a much more open and technical track, which tests all the parameters on a Formula One car, including the tyres.
To cope with the varied demands of the Nurburgring, Pirelli is bringing its P Zero White medium tyre as the prime and the P Zero Yellow soft as an option.
There is an ample variety of speeds and corners, with plenty of changes in direction and some steep cambers that enable the drivers to carry a lot of speed through the corners. This also gives rise to a number of heavy braking areas, while the tyres are also put to the test by several impacts with the kerbing that is a feature of the track.
With six German drivers on the grid this year, the country is better represented than any other nationality, making Germany’s round of the Formula One World Championship extremely popular with the fans. However, none of the teams have particularly recent data for the Nurburgring, as the circuit takes turns with Hockenheim to host the German Grand Prix. Although the Nurburgring has not often been declared a wet race, the last one being in 2007, the weather in the Eifel region is notoriously changeable due to the mountainous nature of the terrain.
This means that it can be dry on one part of the circuit but very wet at another: just as was the case at the beginning of the British Grand Prix two weeks ago in Silverstone. On that occasion the P Zero Blue intermediate tyres impressed with their consistent and durable performance in a wide range of conditions, and they could feature once again in Germany, along with the P Zero Orange wets.
During Friday’s free practice sessions, the teams will have the chance to try out a new version of the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, which is being evaluated for use in the future. This new version of the tyre features increased durability and less degradation.
We expect most of the teams to adopt a two-stop strategy
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery:
“The Nurburgring is one of the most technical circuits we face all year, with a lot of lateral energy going through the tyres, and this makes strategy very important. Although they sit next to each other in our range, there is still a significant difference between the P Zero Yellow soft and the P Zero White medium tyre, as we saw on the last occasion that this combination was used at the Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia. The biggest difference will be the weather, which could be a lot cooler than the conditions we saw in Spain.
This means that we expect most of the teams to adopt a two-stop strategy, unless of course it rains, in which case anything is possible. On Friday, the teams will be evaluating a new version of the P Zero Yellow soft tyre. It’s not a big change from the current specification, but it is designed to fit in line with our latest versions of the P Zero Silver hard tyre and P Zero White medium, both of which are a little harder than their original specification in order to reduce degradation. There’s no decision yet on when we might use the new tyre yet, but it will be very interesting to hear all the feedback from the teams.”
The men behind the steering wheel say
Timo Glock (Virgin Racing): “I have quite a lot of experience of racing at the Nurburgring as I have been there many times. It’s a really enjoyable track to drive at and I have very good memories as I won a couple of races there. Pirelli have made Formula One even more exciting so I’m looking forward to racing at this track with the P Zero tyres. In general I think the track is not very demanding on the tyres. It’s quite technical and has a very interesting first section. The Mercedes Arena gives you a good possibility to overtake during the race and there are a couple of quick corners that are also very interesting, so it will be good fun and I can’t wait to race in front of my home crowd.”
• The Nurburgring requires reasonably high levels of downforce, mainly in order to minimise the effects of understeer through the high-speed corners. However, it is a circuit that is not particularly hard on tyres if they are managed properly and the car has the correct set-up. Unlike many other circuits, it is possible for drivers to take quite a wide range of racing lines through the corners.
• The modern Nurburgring has undergone some substantial modifications since it was inaugurated 27 years ago. In 2002 the Castrol Chicane was reprofiled and a new infield section known as the Mercedes Arena was added, increasing the length of the track from 4.556 to the current 5.148 kilometres.
• The Nurburgring is the only grand prix circuit in the world that has a corner named after a driver who is still competing in Formula One. Turns 9 and 10 are also known as ‘the Michael Schumacher Esses’