Formula One's late-season long-haul run of events now takes the teams to the epic Suzuka circuit in Japan, where the two hardest tyres in the range will be in action: the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium, the same combination as was last seen in Monza. While the two circuits are very different in character, Suzuka does have some elements in common with Spa: another well-known driver’s circuit with flowing corners but even higher lateral energy demands. As a result, the nomination for Suzuka is one step harder than Spa: hard and medium rather than medium and soft.
This does not make life easier for the tyres however, as there is a non-stop series of demands to cope with. Coupled with a track surface that is relatively abrasive, this means that wear and degradation is high. Initial forecasts suggest cool weather, which is not unusual for Japan at this time of year. Heavy rain showers have been a feature of Suzuka in the past, making a wet race a distinct possibility.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: "Japan is one of the highlights of the year, not just for ourselves but for the whole of Formula One. The fans are absolutely brilliant, with huge enthusiasm and knowledge of the sport, which is almost unparalleled anywhere in the world. Suzuka is a real drivers' circuit, and because of that it is a considerable challenge for the tyres, with some of the biggest lateral energy loads of the year. As a result, it would probably be realistic to look at between two to three pit stops, with tyre management forming a key part of the race. However, we'll obviously know more about that after free practice. It's a track where several forces are often acting on the tyre at once, and the increased torque but decreased downforce of this year's cars will only place more demands on mechanical grip. If a tyre can perform well in Suzuka, it can perform well almost everywhere."
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: "Suzuka is just an amazing track from a driver's perspective. It's very technical, with each bit of the circuit very different from the others. I would say that 130R is one of the most demanding corners of the entire year, which requires the right set-up and a car that is absolutely planted to the ground. The esses are also extremely demanding: if you make just one mistake here that will disrupt the whole sequence and you lose a lot of time. We've raced many times at Suzuka in the rain: in those situations, visibility is extremely low. We also tend to see a lot of track evolution over the course of the weekend. So we start off with a surface that is very abrasive and 'green' but the driver has to pay a lot of attention to how the situation changes over the weekend and how in turn that affects the tyres."