After three consecutive street circuits, Formula One returns to one of the most traditional permanent tracks of the year at Silverstone. For Pirelli
, this can be considered a second home race, as the companys motorsport hub is located in Didcot, only around an hour away. During free practice on Friday, the teams will have the opportunity to test a new hard P Zero compound that is under development for the future. Pirelli tried out a number of experimental compounds during last years free practice sessions, but this is the first time that a new compound will have been tried during a race weekend in 2012.
The teams will each have two sets of the experimental hard tyre for the two Friday sessions in addition to their usual allocation, before reverting to the standard P Zero Silver hard compound and P Zero Yellow soft compound for the rest of the race weekend. Last year, the early stages of the British Grand Prix were affected by rain, so the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue wet will also be on standby.
As well as several high-speed corners that put plenty of lateral energy through the tyres, Silverstone is often characterised by a wide variety of climatic conditions over the race weekend, with ambient temperatures between 15 to 30 degrees centigrade possible. The track surface is also quite abrasive, which further increases tyre wear, while the tyre structure has to cope with extended periods when the cars are at top speed and full throttle.
Pirellis motorsport director Paul Hembery: "Silverstone is one of the most iconic circuits on the Formula One calendar, precisely because it is so demanding for the drivers, cars and tyres. This is why we have chosen to test a new experimental hard compound here during free practice, which we may use in the future. The new tyre has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres into the right operating temperature window. But with the championship so finely balanced, our priority is to ensure that no one team is handed any particular advantage. We want to keep the performance of the tyres at the highest level for as long as possible, so this is a valuable opportunity for ourselves and all the teams to gather more information about the potential effect of a new compound, and gain some data for the future. Silverstone is a very high-energy circuit that can see some unpredictable weather conditions, so a strong performance from the tyres and an effective strategy are vital ingredients in a successful race outcome."
Pirellis test driver Lucas di Grassi: "I drove the new Silverstone circuit at the 2010 British Grand Prix and its very interesting: high speed and high energy are the main characteristics, which has a big effect on the tyres because of all the aerodynamic grip. But traction is also tested a lot in the slower and more technical sections, particularly in terms of combined acceleration, when you are turning and accelerating at the same time. Hard and soft is a very good combination here, with the soft tyre definitely the one to qualify on. The biggest difficulty in terms of set-up is the unpredictability of the weather conditions, so you really have to focus on your car and collect as much information as you can during all the sessions. Its still easy to get caught out by a set-up that isnt perfectly suited to the conditions on race day though. I tested the experimental hard compound tyre in Jerez earlier this year: its a similar concept to the current hard but with improved combined grip and better wear. Its particularly effective in warm weather and when the track conditions are poor so you end up with a tyre that is quicker and lasts longer."