Pirelli have confirmed that the re-surfaced Sepang circuit, has made the 2016 cars around 3 seconds faster than last year.
Championship chaser Lewis Hamilton set the pace during Friday’s practice 2 with a best time of 1:34:944, which was nearly 5 seconds faster than last years equivalent.
A big differential this year is the tyres themselves, as the drives have the yellow marked soft’s to choose from this year. In 2015 we only had the medium and the hard compounds, with the medium tyre being the softer ‘option’.
The extra ‘soft’ compound has made a big difference to the times at various circuits this year, however Pirelli technical boss Mario Isola says that the new freshly laid asphalt is also a factor.
“Yesterday during free practice from GP2 we already saw a better laptime compared to the past, we were here in 2013 with GP2, and today the laptime increase is there, you can see four to five seconds,” Isola said.
“Okay, we have the soft compound, but we believe it’s around 1.3-1.4 seconds quicker than the medium, so we should take out the effect of the soft if we make a comparison to last year.
“But we still have 2.5-3 seconds quicker than last year. The Tarmac has a big influence on that, we believe, and the development of the car of course.”
Mario also confirmed that the new surface is a lot kinder on the tyres too.
“The track is completely different from last year,” said Isola. “With the new Tarmac the behaviour of the tyre is different. We still have a good level of grip, probably because the Tarmac is new. The grip is there. But in terms of abrasiveness, it’s much lower than in the past.
“We already saw this value when we measured the Tarmac. We did two measurements, the first one when our colleagues were here with the superbikes, with the Tarmac brand new, just laid down, and the second one on Wednesday.
“Of course we always find a difference in micro roughness because you have big changes in the first three or four months. But we saw the macro roughness decreasing compared to last year. And this is what we have seen during last year.”
The Pirelli guru also expects qualifying times to be assisted by the cooler temperatures, of the later 5pm start.
“Of course, tomorrow qualifying is in a different time of the day, so it should be a bit cooler. But the race is in these conditions.”
Qualifying could see the cars dip below the fastest race lap at the circuit. Juan Pablo Montoya currently holds this record with a 1:34:223, this was set in his 2004 Williams. The FW26 Williams was powered by a BMW 3 litre V10 engine.
The fastest qualifying lap though belongs to Fernando Alonso and his 2005 Renault, with a 1:32:582. The R25 Renault was the last of the V10 era. Could this time be challenged?
Now who said technological advances in F1 are boring?