Pirelli expects challenge in China: ‘It’s like a new circuit’

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Pirelli expects challenge in China: 'It's like a new circuit'

Simone Berra, chief engineer of Pirelli Formula 1, expects the Chinese Grand Prix to be a major challenge for both the tire manufacturer and the teams themselves. The race in Shanghai will be held again for the first time in five years, after it was canceled several times due to COVID-19. “It’s like a new circuit,” Berra told Autosport.

After the last race in China in 2019, there have been changes in regulations. Pirelli expects the track surface to have also changed in recent years. Normally the tire company has the option to send a number of engineers to a new or returning circuit to assess the condition of the asphalt. In the case of China this was not possible. In addition, the circuit is built on a swampy surface, which means that bumps may have formed that cannot be seen with the naked eye, but which the drivers in their cars will feel. In addition, the first sprint race of the season will also be held in China.

Circuit in Shanghai has hardly been used in years

“It’s like a new track, because we have new cars and new tires,” says the chief engineer. ‘The circuit hasn’t really been used in the last five years. At most, one race was held per year,” he continues. “So it will be very green and dirty, although they will of course clean the track.” Pirelli must therefore understand how much the circuit has changed in recent years. ‘It was quite rough in the past, both in terms of micro and macro roughness. We now have to see how it has held up in recent times.

Berra sees this as a challenge for his team. “It’s interesting for us,” he admits. ‘After five years we come back and a sprint race is held, which means that only one free practice can take place.’ For this reason, the engineer also provides tension for the teams. ‘So much data and it will also be an enormous challenge for the teams. For them probably even more than for us,” he realizes.

No inspection, but tire selection is already determined

Pirelli was therefore unable to send engineers to China to inspect the track, but is still confident that they have made the right tire choice. “There was no one available to do it,” Berra said of the inspection. “So we have to do that immediately on Wednesday.” However, it will make little difference what the inspection reveals, because the tire selection has already been made. Pirelli decided to go for the C2, C3 and C4. “The C5 was really too soft and the C1 was probably a bit too conservative for this circuit,” said the chief engineer of Pirelli Formula 1.

Graining doesn’t rule out Berra. “In the past we didn’t have much trouble with it, but some light graining did occur,” he says. “So yeah, there’s a chance that could happen.” The C3 and C4 in particular could suffer some problems. “I expect the C2 to offer more resistance compared to the other two compounds, so I think we are in a good position,” he continues. “Let’s say we expect a high degree of wear rather than graining.”

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