Fierce temperatures and the threat of a Malaysian downpour promise to challenge Bridgestone Motorsport and drivers alike at Sepang. After marking the start of the 2001 season with a full podium, Bridgestone is aiming to build on the results in...
Fierce temperatures and the threat of a Malaysian downpour promise to challenge Bridgestone Motorsport and drivers alike at Sepang.
After marking the start of the 2001 season with a full podium, Bridgestone is aiming to build on the results in Melbourne and continue the past success it has enjoyed in Malaysia.
Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has won both the previous Grands Prix here on Bridgestone tyres.
But the different variables that come into play at Sepang present a tough test for everyone, not least tyre suppliers.
The heat, the long straights, slow and medium speed corners and the track surface all make different demands on tyres. The challenge for Bridgestone Motorsport's engineers and our partner teams -- Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, West McLaren Mercedes, BAR Honda, B&H Jordan Honda, OrangeArrows Asiatech and Sauber Petronas -- is to choose the right tyre to suit all the conditions that Sepang throws at them.
The heat and humidity of Malaysia is legendary; in terms of tyres, temperatures well into the 30s and even up to 50C in the past, can affect durability.
Then there is the rain; March is renowned for being a wet month in Malaysia and moving the race from its previous place as the penultimate grand prix of the season could also bring dramatic weather.
It may not have been monsoon conditions, but Bridgestone's partners all encountered wet weather during race testing last week at Silverstone, Magny-Cours and Fiorano.
Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager at Bridgestone Motorsport, explained: "All three tracks had rain at some point during testing. It gave us plenty of opportunities to gather some useful data regarding the wet-weather compounds we will have in Malaysia.
"The information we were able to collect will not only be useful at Sepang but will also help us as we work on further development of our wet-weather tyres."
Race testing for Malaysia was completed on Friday, and the Bridgestone team began to arrive in Malaysia yesterday.
The Sepang circuit consists of eight straights, two of the longest sandwiching the main spectator grandstand, and 15 technical corners which demand a great deal of driver input.
Although it is the widest track in the F1 calendar, Sepang allows few opportunities for overtaking. Drivers battling to out-brake each other going into the corners creates more work for the tyres, so durable rubber is an important factor. "With fewer chances for overtaking in the race here, qualifying well is especially important," said Mr Suganuma.
However, with a track that is relatively smooth, a softer compound is likely to be the most appropriate choice.
Mr Suganuma added: "Not unlike Melbourne, the challenge at Sepang is to have tyres that grip well but also perform consistently in the hot weather.
"I believe our tyres will perform well both during qualifying and the race because they have good initial grip and behave consistently."