Pirelli rubber plays an important role in the battle for the Formula 1 title between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. So the Miami Grand Prix is a challenge.
Nothing is impossible. This might be a gray advertising slogan from a Japanese car manufacturer, but the sentence fits better with Americans’ self-image. They want to be faster, louder, bigger and crazier than the rest of the world in the US, and now they back that claim with the new racetrack where the Miami Grand Prix will take place on Sunday (9:30 p.m. CEST).
The 5.41-kilometer Miami International Autodrome winds its way around the Miami Dolphins football stadium, but because that’s not enough as a unique selling point—in Mexico, the road passes through a baseball field—a beach has been constructed and a waterless marina, with six anchors, has been built. Fake Ships Anchor. All this is an illusion – and a little copied from Monaco, where the path leads along a real harbor and seaworthy yachts worth millions in the waters of the Mediterranean.
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In any case, Grand Prix boss Tom Garfinkel is proud of Formula 1, the track, his team and himself, especially since the demanding project was completed on time. “The last coat of asphalt was applied 45 days before the race,” Garfinkel said happily. The condition of the surface will not be trivial, because engineers and racing drivers have identified tires as the tip of the iceberg in a world championship duel after completing four races. World Champion Max Verstappen said, “The bottom line is it’s all about the details, you get the fastest car – if the balance isn’t right, it won’t work. And the tire budget is very important for these vehicles.” To confirm his words, the Dutchman from Red Bull stable provided examples of Imola Melbourne. “In Australia, we were only chasing Ferrari. In Italy Ferrari was wrong, especially in the sprint and didn’t have a chance,” said the 24-year-old.
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Tire management is all about getting the rubber into the appropriate temperature window where it develops the best grip. To do this, the balance between the rear and front axles must be correct. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admitted: “We didn’t have that at Imola in the race, which is why we were struggling a lot earlier.” When the temperature rises, rubber granules form on the tires and the adhesion decreases significantly. Correct balance depends on adjusting the front and rear wings and whether this generates more or less downforce on the axles. What seems simple is a science in itself, to which even resourceful engineers succumb. Tire pressure also plays a role. “So far we don’t know anything about the runway in Miami, so the game starts all over again there,” Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, said before the trip to Florida.
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Depending on the compound, tire stain temperatures range from 80 to 140 degrees Celsius, and the optimum working range is between 80 and 100 degrees. Intermediate (wet) and rain tires develop their best stability at 40 to 70 degrees. Many factors play a role: the characteristics of the car, the nature and temperature of the asphalt, the air temperature, the driver’s driving style, the layout of the lane with the number of left and right turns – the work of coordination is sometimes like writing the lottery numbers.
Ferrari and Red Bull are the best in this field, Mercedes and Alpine in particular are suffering. Lewis Hamilton’s Silver Arrow takes a long time to warm up the tires to the right temperature. He’s keen on the tires in the race – but the jump (rebound) prevents Mercedes from vying for victories. In Alpine, the rubber heats up and granulates very quickly during the race. Ferrari seems to have a small advantage. In 2021, the Scuderia invested most of the time in tire testing: seven days. “We took every opportunity that came of it,” said team boss Binotto. Ferrari interfered with a rain tire test, a test Mercedes rejected on cost grounds.
80,000 fans can see for themselves live on Sunday which team has the best hand in the tyres. Tickets are very expensive, and a ticket right in the grandstand at home costs $1,200 (1,130 euros). But this is the case in the United States: nothing is impossible.
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