Motor racing: New tyres and unique Singapore circuit will 'challenge' F1 drivers, says Pirelli's Isola

Pirelli motorsports' director Mario Isola noted other factors are also in play, such as the hot temperature and humidity in Singapore. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - The Marina Bay Street Circuit will provide a unique and challenging test for Formula One teams and drivers at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix, Pirelli motorsports' director Mario Isola said on Thursday.

The new 18-inch tyres that have been in use this season - up from 13-inch ones - will prove tricky on the twisty 5.063km circuit, he said during an event at the Embassy of Italy in Singapore at Republic Plaza.

"With 23 corners (in Singapore) and most of them low speed, you need to optimise the traction," Isola said. "We have very strong rear tyres but... if you put too much attention on the traction, you understeer a lot.

"So balancing the car, protecting the rear tyre but also not have too much of an understeer is a real challenge for the engineers and drivers."

He noted other factors are also in play, such as the hot temperature and humidity in Singapore, and the fact that the Marina Bay track is "one of the few street circuits that has... more aggressive" asphalt, which means cars do not slide as much as on other street circuits like Monaco, for example.

"The characteristics and the layout of Singapore is different from any other race," said Isola, who had previously said this year's Singapore Grand Prix will be "almost a completely new race" with the tyre change.

He added that Pirelli is pleased with the performance of the new 18-inch tyres and the impact it has made on races, with more action on the track and less overheating.

This success, he explained, is part of the reason why Pirelli pushed for a gradual move to ban tyre-warming blankets only from 2024, and to adjust to the change by gradually applying lower heating temperatures for tyres this season and next.

Tyre blankets, a part of Formula One since the 1980s, are used by teams mainly to maintain optimal tyre temperature so as to increase their efficiency during races, and also sometimes to hide tyres from other teams so as to not reveal strategies.

These run on electricity and are seen as energy guzzlers, which Formula One is trying to clamp down on as it pushes toward its net zero carbon target set for 2030.

Describing the blanket ban as a "complicated" issue, Isola explained that the increase of temperature - usually about 100 deg C - to get the tyres to optimum performance to race means that for 2024, "we have to redesign completely the construction and also compounds with a working range that are able to operate" across a range of temperatures.

But it is an undertaking he is pleased to take, as Pirelli plays a part in Formula One's sustainability push.

"We are looking at any small detail to be more sustainable... even our team kit (uniform) is made with a percentage of recycled materials, and so are our shoes," he said.

Isola and other senior Pirelli officials were hosted by Italy's Ambassador to Singapore Mario Andrea Vattani at the Embassy's new location, which it moved to in August 2022.

Said Vattani: "It is great to say that Pirelli has been with us for 150 years, which is very close to the history of our country (161 years since unification) so it is a brand which is... so deeply connected with Italy, Italian culture and also art."

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