The Korean Grand Prix from a tyre point of view: Mokpo,12-14 October 2012

TOUGH CHALLENGE FOR P ZERO RED SUPERSOFT IN KOREA What’s the story? The Yeongam circuit takes in a very wide variety of speeds and corners, with Pirelli bringing the P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft compounds: making it one of the toughest tracks that the softest tyre in the range has to cope with. As well as some corners that are as fast as those of the previous race in Suzuka, there are other sections more reminiscent of Monaco, meaning that every aspect of a tyre’s performance is tested thoroughly. The circuit is used very infrequently, meaning that there is a high degree of track evolution over the course of the weekend as the racing line rubbers in, despite a relatively abrasive surface. Yeongam is actually a semi-permanent facility, with the section of track that runs along the harbourside using normal roads – and this means that variable levels of grip add to the challenge. As uncertain weather conditions are often a feature of the Korean weekend, the Cinturato Green and Cinturato Blue intermediate and wet tyres could also make an appearance. Heavy braking is one of the defining characteristics of Korea, with the cars subjected to deceleration forces of 5.2g under braking into turn three. With the weight transfer involved, the front tyres are subjected to a load equivalent to 900 kilogrammes or more. The most demanding part of the circuit for the tyres is the section from turns 10 to 17, which is a continuous sequence of corners with rapid direction changes. Being one of the few anti-clockwise circuits of the year, the front-right tyre is the most stressed as it has to provide all the mechanical grip needed to negotiate the corners, with the supersoft compound proving particularly effective in generating high levels of adhesion. Pirelli’s motorsport director says: Paul Hembery: “We’re bringing the same tyre nominations to Korea as we did last year, which at the time was seen as quite a bold choice because Korea has the highest lateral energy loadings of all the circuits where we use the supersoft tyre. In the end, we saw the supersoft lasting for 10 laps or more and the soft lasting for 20 laps or more, enabling a two-stop strategy for the majority of the drivers. This year, however, all our Formula One tyres are softer apart from the supersoft, which has remained the same. We should see another two-stop race this year, which in theory should be even faster. This year though, there have been some changes to the aerodynamic regulations, which have generally slowed lap times down over the course of the season. Strategy played a key role in last year’s race but there was also a safety car and some rain at the start of the weekend. So Korea is the sort of circuit where anything can happen, and as always the teams with the most data and the ability to adapt that information to rapidly changing circumstances will be the most successful.” The men behind the steering wheel say: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren): “The first sector at Korea is quite stop-start: the entries to Turns One, Three and Four are all heavy braking zones, coming at the end of long straights into hairpins that require good traction at the exit. But then the second and third sectors are very different: they’re more technical and flowing, which means the tyres and brakes are put through very different operating conditions, and it can be a bit of a challenge to manage the changes in temperature. As was the case last year, Pirelli will bring its supersoft and soft compounds to this race. The smooth track surface means you should be able to make the tyres last, but it’s still a challenge for the drivers. However, I think that two-stopping ought to be achievable, as it was last season. The Korean International Circuit is a great track. It’s a race I haven’t won yet, so I’ll be looking to put that right this year.” Pirelli’s test driver says: Jaime Alguersuari: “Korea is one of my favourite tracks, especially because I had one of my best results there last year when I passed Nico Rosberg on the last lap to finish seventh. I really like the track: the layout is fantastic and I actually think it is one of the best layouts on the Formula One calendar. It is a mixture of high and medium speed corners and the downforce level of the car is not so high. It is also very smooth and has some good places to overtake. From a tyre point of view, the circuit is easy on the tyres because the weather is usually quite cold and humid. We had two stops last year, and degradation will be low, so I think it should the same this year. There are three heavy braking areas on this circuit and it will be a fantastic race to watch: South Korea’s circuit has the potential to provide a perfect Formula One show.” Technical tyre notes:

  • The aerodynamic set-up adopted for Korea by the teams is quite similar to Japan, with medium to high levels of downforce. However, the traction demands are much higher than in Japan, so the teams use different engine maps to help put the power down out of the slow corners.
  • Graining can be a risk in Korea, particularly in the low-grip conditions at the start of the weekend. Graining is caused when the cars slide sideways too much, creating an uneven wave-like pattern of wear on the surface of the tread that affects performance.
  • There is a long straight right at the beginning of the lap, which means that it can be hard to warm up the tyres effectively at the beginning of the lap. Subjecting the tyres to too much stress when cold is another main reason for graining and cold tearing.

The tyre choices so far:

  PZero Red PZero Yellow PZero White PZero Silver
Australia   Soft Medium  
Malaysia     Medium Hard
China   Soft Medium  
Bahrain   Soft Medium  
Spain   Soft   Hard
Monaco Supersoft Soft    
Canada Supersoft Soft    
Europe   Soft Medium  
Great Britain   Soft   Hard
Germany   Soft Medium  
Hungary   Soft Medium  
Belgium     Medium Hard
Italy     Medium Hard
Singapore Supersoft Soft    
Japan   Soft   Hard
Korea Supersoft Soft    

Pirelli in Korea:

  • Korea is the world’s fifth-largest car market and a significant opportunity for Pirelli. The Italian firm currently provides products in Korea through its three partners including Korea’s largest tyre chain. To help achieve steady market growth, Pirelli will open its first dedicated shop this month located in Jeonro-Gu, Seoul.
  • Pirelli’s dedicated Korean-language website will also launch this month. A multimedia platform will allow users to step into the world of Pirelli, getting to know the premium product ranges and the advanced technology behind them. There will also be updates on Pirelli’s motorsport activities, including Formula One. The web address is www.kr.pirelli.com

Other news from Pirelli:

  • Pirelli’s road car tyres played a starring role at the recent Paris motor show, with a bespoke version of the P Zero equipping the McLaren P1 sports car. The new Volkswagen Golf 7 was also unveiled, which uses Pirelli’s Cinturato P7 tyre as original equipment.
  • Ford Fiesta driver Elfyn Evans won the Pirelli-backed WRC Academy section of the Rallye de France last weekend in Alsace, sealing the championship title with one round left to go.
  • Former Pirelli Star Driver Keith Cronin became British Rally Champion for the third time on Pirelli tyres, at the International Rally Yorkshire in England, driving a Citroen DS3 R3T.
  • Pirelli recently supported the Green Rally of Montreal in Canada, a round of the FIA Alternative Energies Cup, by supplying the event with its Cinturato Green Performance tyres. The FIA Alternative Energies Cup is a world championship for vehicles with alternative energy propulsion.