Why the banking's not the biggest challenge...
The two contrasting sections of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway its high-speed oval part, featuring the longest straight of the season, and the tight infield require an unusual compromise on tyres.
It is a challenge to develop tyres that will withstand the build-up of heat generated by more than 20 seconds on full throttle yet provide enough grip to maximise traction through the tighter parts of the track, said Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin motorsport director.
Strangely, however, the section of the circuit the layman might expect to present problems the famous Indianapolis banking is, in fact, more of a help than a hindrance, as Michelins F1 programme manager Pascal Vasselon explained.
The Indianapolis track is obviously highly specific, but not in fact exactly for the reasons you might imagine, he said. The banking is not that difficult for the tyres, despite the extreme loads and speeds, since this helps get the tyres up to temperature more easily. In wet or dry conditions, a good first lap is therefore not a problem.
Michelin will be bringing two dry-weather compounds to the USA, following recent tests with their teams at Monza and Silverstone, while rivals Bridgestone plan to have four options available, all from the mid to soft end of their compound range, which they are confident will cope well with the relatively smooth track surface and unusual layout.
While this enables Bridgestone to gives its teams sufficient grip in the infield, said Bridgestone Technical Manager Hisao Suganuma, we have also had to ensure these compounds will be able to give optimum performance on the high speed section where we can expect heat generation to increase. So, the key challenge for this race has been to provide soft tyres with good heat durability - something I think we have done.
The weather could also play a key role in tyre choice this weekend. With the race having been moved forward almost three months from its previous September date, track temperatures will be higher. On top of this, current forecasts suggest that wet-weather tyres could get their first proper outing of the year, with rain highly likely at some point during the meeting.