Pirelli expecting complaints as it heads into Las Vegas ‘unknown’

Pirelli head into the unknown with the Las Vegas GP

Pirelli heads into the unknown with the Las Vegas GP. Image: Russell Batchelor/XPB

Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola is fully expecting the drivers and teams to “complain” about the Italian manufacturer’s tyres across the upcoming inaugural F1 weekend in Las Vegas.

Isola is no stranger to grumbles and moans since taking up his position in 2017 as Pirelli has often been cited as the reason behind a number of F1’s issues since the company first entered the sport six years previously.

Whilst a new circuit will always present challenges for Pirelli, Las Vegas will provide a relatively unique difficulty for a grand prix weekend given the temperatures late at night and early hours of the morning local time when the action unfolds.

It is anticipated for the start of qualifying at midnight on Friday, and the race at 10pm on Saturday, the air temperature could be as low as six degrees Celsius. Such temperatures are more akin to past days of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

It means tyre warm-up will be pivotal to performance. Whichever team is able to do so relatively quickly will have an advantage before their rivals get up to speed.

For the event, Pirelli is using the three softest compounds across its range. Even now, it does not know how they will perform.

Whilst it has as much information as possible regarding the track surface, and simulations from the teams, as Isola concedes, overall, Pirelli, along with the drivers and teams, face “a step into the unknown” given how the temperatures will come into play.

“Las Vegas will be cold, it’s a street circuit,” said Isola. “We have been working with the teams, asking them for simulations in advance to try to understand how much energy the layout of the track puts on tyres.

“We had information from the companies that have made the Tarmac in order to understand how abrasive it is, and the level of grip we can expect. But there are still a lot of question marks on Las Vegas.

“We decided to use the three softest compounds in the range to try to generate grip. I can imagine there will be a lot of track evolution and very low grip. So they will complain! It’s fine. We will manage this situation.

“But it’s a big unknown. Fast track, long straights, high speed. All conditions that are quite difficult to manage.”

Isola has confirmed that Pirelli has been preparing for this event for a considerable period, holding initial discussions with F1’s former director of motorsports Ross Brawn “quite a long time ago”.

Asked whether the low temperatures would be the biggest hurdle, he added: “Obviously, we cannot change the weather, we cannot increase the temperature.

“A challenge could be to keep the temperature in the tyre. That’s why we decided to select the three softest compounds, and then, as I said before, it’s a bit of jumping into the unknown.

“We just have data based on simulation, nothing else. So we will try to do our best but consider that the tyres are homologated so we cannot make a special tyre for Las Vegas, as we cannot make a special tyre for Monte Carlo, for example.

“It is what it is and we just have to select the best option we have.”

For his part, Brawn has revealed that in his role prior to leaving at the end of last year, when F1 held initial discussions with Las Vegas about staging a race, the temperatures at the times of the sessions were not considered.

Speaking to Talksport, Brawn said: “The one thing we hadn’t considered initially is that it gets very, very cold at night.

“So when the race is happening, it has been known to drop down to three or four degrees. It can be really quite cold.

“Of course, getting the cars to work in those temperatures can be a challenge. The tyre company has done some work to make sure the tyres can cope with that.

“But we’re definitely facing some new challenges that we didn’t have before, but I think it will be spectacular.”

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