In the past, the Nurburgring has been successful territory for Pirelli with several class wins at the 24-hour race, which uses both the grand prix circuit and the epic Nordschleife. The 60-lap grand prix will be a different challenge, particularly with uncertain weather predicted for the weekend.
The first area of heavy braking is into the complex, following the start-finish straight. The tyre absorbs all the energy from the braking process. Under acceleration out of the tight first corner, the back of the car can step out, placing heavy demands on the rear tyres – as they need to guarantee a combination of grip and traction on one of the most technical parts of the circuit that is key to a fast lap time.
Out of the complex the drivers accelerate through the gears before another area of heavy braking to turns five and six: two downhill corners to the left and to the right that rob the car of grip at the front. The driver then has to look for grip on the external kerb, making the most of it as he goes through the corner.
Going into turn seven a sharp deceleration produces 5G of longitudinal force that transmits plenty of energy to the tyres. The front-left works at a high slip angle in order to compensate for the unusual camber of the circuit, ensuring the maximum precision and reducing the effects of understeer.
In the final part of the circuit, which is very fast, the drivers use KERS to unlock the maximum power from the engine and reach a top speed of 300kph. A key point is the NGK chicane: there is a good opportunity for overtaking into the braking zone before the chicane, then the driver has to use the kerbing. The impact puts a lot of energy into the shoulders of the tyre, which stresses the carcass through a load equivalent to more than 800 kilogrammes in a very small area.
The final right-hand corner, turn 15, is very long. Once more the driver uses the kerbing on the exit of the corner before putting the power down for the start-finish straight.
The other corners are generally medium speed, meaning that it is a circuit that flows nicely, with only three instances of heavy braking. As Pirelli’s test driver Lucas di Grassi explains: “There are a lot of corners in sequence where if you get one bit wrong, then you compromise the whole sequence. So you have to be very neat, precise and tidy. If you do this, you will not only be quick, but you will look after the tyres as well. The key to the set-up is to have a car that has a good change in direction.”
Nick Heidfeld visits Pirelli media function in Germany:
Lotus Renault driver Nick Heidfeld was Pirelli’s star guest at a pre-event press lunch for German media at the Dorint Hotel next to the Nurburgring today, hosted by Pirelli Germany managing director Michael Schwobel and Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery.
Heidfeld, who was Pirelli’s original test driver before moving to a race drive at Sauber and then Lotus Renault commented: “Bearing in mind the short amount of time that Pirelli had to develop the tyres, the job that was done was amazing. But I have to say that I always had every confidence that this would be the case.”
Heidfeld carried out all the initial running with the Pirelli P Zero tyres last year, giving them their debut in August 2010 at the Italian circuit of Mugello. He concentrated mostly on testing the construction of the tyres, before beginning the work on the compounds.
Heidfeld also confirmed that the new generation of Pirelli P Zero tyres was as much fun to drive as they are for the spectators to watch. “The spectacle has definitely improved this year,” he said. “There is more overtaking and that is a lot of fun for every driver. I think it’s great.”
A 3D video was shown to the audience, with a lap of the Nurburgring commented on by Heidfeld. The German driver knows the circuit well, having claimed pole and finished second in 2005.