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By John Floyd

Motorsport columnist

FLOYD ON F1: Cold night temperatures big poser for tyre grip

Teams will struggle to heat up the rubberware at the Las Vegas Grand Prix street circuit.

I don’t think I have ever seen so many video clips and media releases than those emanating from the latest addition to the F1 calendar.

The event, of course, is this weekend’s Las Vegas Grand Prix. It featured the all-new street circuit, rather than the almost “gymkhana-style” circuit of the 1980s Grand Prix. Back then the F1 race it was held in the car park of the Caesars Palace Hotel.

The investment to set up the circuit is reported as requiring a break-even figure of some $1.3 billion (about R24 billion) – but this is Vegas.

The 6.021 kilometre Formula 1 track, with its 17 bends, will be circumnavigated 50 times for a total distance of 310.05 km, all under floodlights.

The Nevada desert night race will eliminate the high daytime temperatures.

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F1 curveball

Unfortunately, running practices, qualifying and the night race introduces an issue that appears to have escaped the notice of the organisers until very recently. It gets awfully cold at night in the desert as temperatures can drop to just three degrees Celsius

The price of grandstand tickets requires a sizable slice of most local’s annual budgets. The cheapest is reportedly $500 and this does not mean seating; it could be standing room only.

Assuming one can afford an F1 ticket, I would personally find the idea of paying so much to attend and having to dress for the cold, not just a thrilling, but also a “chilling” experience.

But a far more significant factor is the issue of getting heat into the cars tyres and how much the low ambient temperatures will affect the Pirelli rubber.

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Into the unknown

Mario Isola, Pirelli’s motorsport director, is reported as saying: “It is a step into the unknown, for everybody I believe.

“Las Vegas will be cold. It’s a street circuit. So we were working with the teams and we asked them for simulations in advance. This is to try to understand how much energy the layout of the F1 circuit is putting on tyres.

“We had information from the companies that are making the tarmac in order to understand how abrasive is the tarmac and which is the level of grip we can expect. But still, a lot of question marks are on Las Vegas.

“We decided to use the three softest compounds in the range to try to generate grip.”

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But the Italian still expects problems with grip, not the ideal situation. Particularly with an unknown street circuit where speeds on the long straights are expected to exceed 321 km/h. With lots of solid objects surrounding the track.

Don’t miss the Las Vegas Grand Prix!

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