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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports


Busy times ahead for F1 pit crews

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 06:31 PM PDT

McLaren Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during a training session at Catalunya's racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona, on March 12, 2011. — Reuters pic

LONDON, March 15 — Formula One pit crews will be busier than ever this season with the arrival of new sole tyre supplier Pirelli forcing drivers to make many more stops.

Gone are the days when a driver could complete most of a race on a single set of tyres, before a late dash into the pits for the mandatory change, and no more will grands prix be a series of flat-out sprints between stops.

Speaking to Reuters before the March 27 season-opener in Australia, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said his company's PZero tyres would wear out far faster than the previous Bridgestone rubber.

While that may not sound like the best marketing for the Italian brand, or for a sport seeking greener credentials, it is all part of a plan drawn up with team bosses and the powers-that-be to make races more exciting.

"If you want to do durability... then maybe Formula One isn't the right place to do that," said Hembery.

"In any case a Formula One race is only 60 laps, it's not exactly a huge distance for travelling even if you use one set of tyres."

Drivers who have complained in pre-season testing about degradation and expressed their frustration at how the tyres rapidly "go off" get short shrift.

"We are actually trying to deliver what we were asked to deliver, and it was their bosses that wanted us to try this," said Hembery.

"You are going to see more pitstops, for sure... and you will probably see that different teams will operate different strategies."

Melbourne's race, said Hembery, could see each driver do three or four pitstops. Managing the drop in performance, and looking after the tyres, will be a new challenge.

Outright speed over one lap is no longer the be-all-and-end-all. Drivers will have to be clever with their tyres and strike a balance in a classic hare and tortoise dilemma.

A slower pace at the start of a stint means tyres will last longer, but a driver who pushes harder, and wears out the tyres quicker, may gain enough time to stay ahead despite having to make an extra stop.

"What you (Pirelli) are trying to do is show that you can provide a performance product that can add to the show," said Hembery. "You want to show that you can influence and impact by use of tyres, by choice of tyres on the strategy of the race.

"The whole objective is you are going to have people changing tyres at different times and depending on what product (compound) they've chosen and what stage of wear they are at, you'll have cars going at different speeds. That should encourage overtaking."

Last year's Canadian Grand Prix has provided the inspiration. In that race in Montreal, the issue of tyre wear was the talk of the paddock due to the particular asphalt conditions with all teams struggling for grip and balance.

Different tyre strategies, with some starting on the softer compound and others the harder, produced a riveting tactical race with the leading five drivers all in contention at different stages but swapping places during the many pit stops.

"Basically the description was: 'We want a race like Canada'," said Hembery. "We've spent a lot of time and energy trying to create that situation."

"Judging by the testing we've seen so far, I don't think there's one clear pattern emerging," he added when asked how the racing would pan out.

"We are seeing quite different influences on the tyres between the different teams and driving styles.

"It's going to be the balance between performance and not doing that extra stop. I have to be careful what I say because I can see what's going on on different cars and all I can say is that there are quite clearly different strategies being evolved for different teams."

Australia will be Pirelli's first grand prix in 20 years, with their last race win coming at the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix with Brazilian Nelson Piquet in a Benetton. This year they are sure to win every race but there is still plenty to worry about.

Apart from four tests in Spain this year, and a young driver test in Abu Dhabi in November, Pirelli have had to develop their tyres in cooler conditions than they would like and with different cars to the ones racing in Melbourne.

The chemical grip, or "stickiness", of the tyre that also allows a track to be "rubbered-in" comes out only when temperatures rise above 25 degrees Celsius.

"If you rubberise the circuit, you start extending the tyre life and you can get up to a 40 per cent increase in tyre life between a Friday and a Sunday just by that action," said Hembery. "So there are still a lot of variables to see.

"There are elements that we clearly won't have been able to simulate in testing," he added.

"Certainly for the first few races the teams are all going to have their own ideas and that should make for excitement. In time will they all start gravitating to the same strategy? That I don't know." — Reuters

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Nani to return for Man United against Marseille

Posted: 14 Mar 2011 05:43 PM PDT

Nani sprints during a training session at Manchester United's Carrington training complex in Manchester yesterday, March 14, 2011. — Reuters pic

MANCHESTER, March 15 — Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has in three days gone from scratching his head as he scrabbled together a makeshift midfield to grappling with an abundance of riches.

Winger Nani's speedier than expected recovery from a leg injury and the availability of Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia has come just in time for today's Champions League last-16 second leg against Olympique Marseille at Old Trafford.

Portuguese Nani trained with the first team yesterday and will play a part in the game despite Ferguson previously ruling him out after he sustained a gash in a tackle by Liverpool's Jamie Carragher just over a week ago.

"He trained on Sunday also, he and Michael Carrick, which is a better situation than I had at the weekend," Ferguson told a news conference, referring to Saturday's FA Cup win over Arsenal where midfield injuries forced him to field seven defenders.

"Both will be involved tomorrow."

It was unclear whether Ferguson planned to name Nani in the starting line-up or whether fellow winger Valencia was in the running for the battle with the French champions which resumes after a 0-0 draw in Marseille last month.

Valencia made his first appearance for six months on Saturday following a broken ankle and put in a good performance when he came on for the second half of the 2-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory.

"It was a fantastic bonus for us to get 45 minutes from Antonio on Saturday," said Ferguson. "The question is whether we can play him from the start or continue as we did on Saturday as a substitute.

"It's a great selection problem for me."

Ferguson said his team's pursuit of three trophies — the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League — would be boosted by others also close to returning, such as midfielder Park Ji-sung who could be fit for Saturday's game against Bolton Wanderers.

Even injury-cursed Owen Hargreaves, who has made only 39 appearances since moving to United from Bayern Munich for £17 million (RM85 million) in 2007, could still feature this term.

"Hargreaves started training this morning. Hopefully, you never know, we may have him available towards the end of the season," said Ferguson.

"It doesn't matter how many players have been injured in the past, the important thing is to have them all available for the run-in. Hopefully if we can do that it will definitely increase our chances."

Defender and captain Nemanja Vidic missed training yesterday after picking up a knock against Arsenal but should be fit for today.

United should feel confident against a team who have not been in the last eight since winning the 1993 Champions League as the English side are unbeaten in all competitions at home this season and have never lost to French opposition at Old Trafford.

However when asked by a French reporter whether that confidence had led to United playing for a draw in Marseille, Ferguson did not mince his words.

"I thought Marseille went for a 0-0, I must admit," he said. "Maybe they're the ones that are confident." — Reuters

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