Ross Brawn, former Ferrari boss for Micheal Schumacher, most recently technical director of F1 under Liberty Media and engineering ‘guru’ with numerous successes including ending his team boss career as the Mercedes AMG F1 principal, reveals the one thing the Las Vegas GP ‘didn’t take into account’ about its new track.
The Las Vegas Grand Prix brings Formula One back to Nevada with much fanfare and anticipation. Returning after several decades, the event is expected to be a glittering addition to the F1 calendar. However, Ross Brawn, a stalwart of the sport, has highlighted an unforeseen challenge that could add an extra layer of complexity to the race.
Unexpected weather conditions in the desert
While the desert is synonymous with searing heat, Brawn highlighted a unique predicament for the Las Vegas race: the unexpectedly low temperatures at night. The desert’s nocturnal chill was an aspect the designers hadn’t fully considered in the early stages.
The race, scheduled for a Saturday night, can see temperatures plummet to around three or four degrees Celsius. At these temperatures, keeping the cars in optimum working condition is no small feat. Tyres, in particular, are sensitive to temperature changes and it is vital that they perform consistently in such cold conditions.
Pirelli tries to address the issues
The forthcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix is entering uncharted waters, with temperatures expected to hover around 10 degrees Celsius at the start of the race. This, coupled with the circuit’s three long straights – two of which are 800 metres long, and one of a considerable 1.9 kilometres – puts tyre temperature management in the spotlight.
Teams have voiced their concerns, and Pirelli boss Mario Isola has weighed in on the situation.
Pirelli’s proactive approach to the Vegas race
Isola points out that the weekend is a venture into the unknown for everyone involved. The city circuit’s cold climate adds another layer of complexity.
“It’s an urban track. That’s why we worked with the teams and asked them to do simulations beforehand to understand how much energy the car set-up puts on the tyres,” explains Isola.
In a proactive move, Pirelli has been working with the asphalt manufacturers to assess the abrasiveness of the tarmac and anticipate the level of degradation they might face. To counter the low grip expected due to the cold, Pirelli chose the three softest compounds in their arsenal.
Managing expectations and uncertainties
Isola doesn’t sugar-coat the reality of the situation, anticipating a dynamic and evolving track that is likely to result in poor grip conditions – and, as a result, a fair share of driver complaints. “We will manage the situation. But it’s a big unknown,” he says, pointing out the limitations imposed by homologation rules, which prevent the creation of special tyres for specific tracks.
Despite the limitations, Isola is adamant that they are choosing the best options available and are ready to meet the challenges of the Vegas Grand Prix.
The traditional race weekend format, including three free practice sessions, will provide ample opportunity for teams to gather much-needed data to adapt to the conditions.
Adapting to the cold
Acknowledging the problem, Brawn noted that Pirelli has been proactive. They’ve been testing and making the necessary adjustments to ensure that the tyres are up to the task. The cold could indeed prove to be an unexpected adversary for teams and drivers, testing their adaptability and strategic acumen.
A spectacular night race
Despite these challenges, the allure of the Las Vegas night race remains undiminished. The neon lights of the city provide a mesmerising backdrop to the high-speed drama on the track. It’s a spectacle that promises to captivate audiences around the world, even as the teams grapple with the new challenges posed by the desert’s night-time cold.
As the teams prepare for this unprecedented event, there’s a sense of opportunity in the air. Could the unusual conditions level the playing field and give teams like McLaren and Mercedes a chance to upset the dominant Red Bull? It’s a question that adds an intriguing subplot to the Las Vegas Grand Prix, as the F1 fraternity eagerly awaits the answers that only race night can provide.
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