Bridgestone and Michelin battle about to warm up
The searing heat in Kuala Lumpur means that the Malaysian Grand Prix has always been one of the toughest races on tyres. This year, with the revised tyre regulations, it is going to get even tougher.
"Keeping rear tyres cool will be critical this weekend, explained Toyota's technical director Mike Gascoyne. That has always been a significant factor at Sepang, given the high track temperatures, but it will be particularly vital now that we have to make one set of tyres last a full race distance.
With its mixture of quick, slow and medium corners, Sepang is already a technical circuit, but it is the heat - even during a tropical rainstorm track temperatures can exceed 40 degrees Celsius - that poses the toughest challenge for the tyre suppliers.
"It is always tricky selecting compounds for Malaysia, continued Gascoyne. The surface temperature is likely to be 40 to 50 degrees and we have to conduct the preparatory tyre tests during the European winter - which has been particularly cold this year. That presented an added complication, but we have a good understanding of Sepang's characteristics - and so does Michelin."
Even with the greater durability required this year, tyre compounds for Malaysia are likely to be from the medium range to provide the optimum combination of grip and wear performance for the smooth but tough track Sepang circuit.
We make predictions on the compound characteristics required for the race based on the temperatures anticipated during the course of the weekend, explained Bridgestones technical manager Hisao Suganuma. In order to develop good grip we have to use as soft a tyre as possible, but this is countered this year with the tyre having to last for qualifying and the race.
That means we will opt for a slightly harder compound than in previous visits to Malaysia. We picked up some good data and feedback from the first race and we are putting that to good use in our preparations for Sepang. I am confident that we have a durable tyre which will perform well for our partner teams in this hot and humid race.
In the four Malaysian Grands Prix held since Michelin rejoined Formula One racing, the French company have taken victory twice. Japanese rivals Bridgestone have also won twice, including last year with Ferrari.