What’s the story?
Milan, May 21, 2012 – The softest compound in Pirelli’s Formula One range – the P Zero Red supersoft – makes its first appearance of the year at the famed Monaco Grand Prix circuit: the slowest, tightest but also most prestigious race of the season. Alongside it, the P Zero Yellow soft has also been nominated.
With the street circuit relying almost exclusively on mechanical grip, it is ideal territory for the supersoft – which benefits from a rapid warm-up time and is capable of generating very high levels of traction and cornering forces. This is particularly important during qualifying: with so few opportunities to overtake in Monaco, being as far up the grid as possible is even more important than usual. For the same reason, race strategy has a profound effect. It is often easier to make up positions in the pits through an effective strategy rather than by passing on the track. Tyre wear and degradation is the lowest seen all season, making a one-stop strategy a distinct possibility for some teams. As Monaco is a street circuit, there is a high degree of track evolution over the course of the race weekend, which lasts for one day longer than anywhere else as free practice takes place on Thursday with the circuit is open to normal traffic again for much of Friday. This consequently affects the amount of rubber that is found on the surface for qualifying.
Pirelli’s Motorsport Director says:
Paul Hembery: “Monaco is a highlight of the season and a place where our supersoft and soft tyres have provided plenty of entertainment in the past. Last year, we had three drivers on three different strategies set for a grandstand finish – before a red flag got in the way. The supersoft is the only compound that remains unaltered from last year, as it proved to be so effective on circuits like Monaco, but of course the profile has been re-designed to better suit the 2012 regulations. With the wear rate being so low in Monaco, the drivers will be able to push at their hardest from start to finish. Tyre strategy will be very important in Monaco, where on-track overtaking is more difficult than anywhere else. Having said that, the Principality has a history of often springing a surprise. With the cars so evenly matched now, even the slightest advantage or smallest mistake can have a big impact on the final outcome of a race, as we’ve seen so far this season.”
The men behind the steering wheel say:
Jenson Button (McLaren): “Monaco is a very special place. It’s probably the grand prix track where the sensation of speed is at its greatest, particularly during your first laps on a Thursday morning, when it just seems unreal to be controlling 750bhp through the narrow winding streets of the Principality. But it’s also a place where you find a groove and a rhythm like nowhere else and, before, too long, it feels very comfortable to be reeling off fast laps and pushing the back end out around the corners. Monaco will be the first time this season that we’ll have used Pirelli’s supersoft compound, and I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, we’ll start the weekend using the soft compound tyres, but when we first switch to the supersofts, I know the car’s going to feel very different. As always, it’s going to be fascinating to discover how the tyres react and behave across the weekend – particularly at a place where qualifying will be crucial – but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
Pirelli’s test driver says:
Lucas di Grassi: “Like many drivers I live in Monaco, but you need to work so accurately with the car balance and set-up for the race, that even if you drove on the roads every day it would give you no advantage at all. Monaco is one of the most complex races of the year, as you need to be so precise on every lap. Most people don’t realise just how bumpy the circuit is too, so there is a lot to consider when it comes to finding the right set-up and the best way to get the most out of the tyres. With the tyre nominations that Pirelli has made, there are plenty of opportunities for some very different strategies, as we saw last year. So far it’s been a fantastic season, but also I think there are some drivers who should have won by now who haven’t: anything can happen in Monaco. That’s just one of the things that makes it such a fascinating race.”
Technical tyre notes:
• The track surface is the least abrasive of the year, and added to the slow average speed (including the slowest hairpin bend on the calendar, taken at just 47kph) this leads to a very low level of tyre wear. The soft tyres are capable of lasting for 50 laps or more, making a one-stop strategy entirely realistic – although McLaren’s Jenson Button used a three-stop sprint strategy to finish on the podium last year.
• The tight and twisty confines of the circuit, with no run-off area, have an important effect on race strategy. With a high risk of incidents that can bring out the safety car, the teams need enough flexibility in their strategies to be able to adapt to changing circumstances.
• The brakes are used heavily in Monaco, and this transmits heat to the tyres that adds to the stress placed on the structure. Going into Sainte Devote, for example, the cars lose 160kph in just 100 metres. The tyres are also heavily challenged at the swimming pool complex. They hit the kerbs at more than 200kph, generating a lateral force of 3.65g.
The tyre choices so far:
Pirelli in Monaco:
• Apart from Sebastien Vettel’s success last year, Pirelli’s most high-profile event in the Principality has been the Monte Carlo Rally, which the Italian firm has won 13 times. The most recent triumph came in 2010, with Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen winning comfortably in a Ford Fiesta S2000.
• Pirelli’s commercial presence in Monaco is handled by Pirelli France. Based near Paris, Pirelli France has around 100 employees. The company is the third tyre manufacturer in France in terms of brand awareness.
• Pirelli has an extensive programme of activities for GT owners in France, such as the P Zero Experience: top quality track days held on the best circuits in France. There is also the P Zero by Night Experience: regularity rallies run at night for gentlemen drivers, attracting up to 80 cars at a time.
• Pirelli France is also actively engaged in rallying, supporting almost 100 young drivers through the Pirelli Trophee. In total, Pirelli France’s engineers are present at more than 25 rally weekends per year.
Other news from Pirelli:
• Monaco will host the GP2 Series together with the GP3 Series for the first time in the circuit’s history, giving the stars of the future the chance to shine in front of the most influential people in Formula One. This creates a big logistical challenge for Pirelli’s fitting crews, who will be fitting around 3100 tyres in total in the cramped confines of the paddock over the weekend.
• A new recipe book with a difference will be launched in the Pirelli Motorhome at the Monaco paddock on Wednesday evening at 1800, inspired by the cuisine that has made Pirelli’s kitchen legendary. Some special driver guests will also be on hand to try out some of the recipes.
• The first gravel event of the Italian Rally Championship took place the week before the Monaco Grand Prix: the Rally dell’Adriatico. The Italian firm used its K series Scorpion rubber, which uses similar technology to the tyres that had a failure rate of less than 0.02% when Pirelli was sole supplier to the World Rally Championship from 2008-2010. Pirelli driver Paolo Andreucci claimed another victory to reinforce his lead of the championship.
• Pirelli recently released its 2011 annual report in Milan. As well as presenting all the facts and figures about the company’s performance last year, the book is also designed as a work of art. The drawings were made by renowned Dutch illustrator Stefan Glerum and there are contributions from some of Europe’s leading writers and academics.
• Pirelli’s test driver Lucas di Grassi took part in the Nurburgring 24 Hour race the weekend before the Monaco GP, driving a McLaren MP412C running on Pirelli tyres. It was di Grassi’s debut at the endurance classic, but he was unlucky: his team mate crashed the car on Saturday evening and the crew were forced to retire.