The Sepang tests aren't just important for teams and riders, Michelin is also using the three days in Malaysia to test and develop their tyres. As always, Piero Taramasso is at the helm, carefully following each lap to better prepare for the new season, in which there will be some new features, such as the Sprint Race and the introduction of tyre pressure sensors.
Piero, how many and which tyres did you bring for these tests?
"The riders have the same tyres at their disposal that they will then have in the Grand Prix: therefore three options on the front and two on the rear, because starting this year there will be only two compounds to choose from for the rear tyre. The quantities, on the other hand, will not change for the race weekend: they will be able to use 7 soft and 5 hard tyres during the race weekend".
In the tests, however?
"They have 7 per compound and can use a maximum of 10 in total over the 3 days, as well as for the front".
Some riders have complained of having few tyres available.
“It's not true, the quantity is the same as last season, the regulation in this sense hasn't changed for about ten years. They have enough to work well: even if you only want to use the soft compound, you can do 180 laps with 7 tyres, therefore 60 a day. Only two riders did more yesterday, so they have enough tyres. Using all the tyres at their disposal, therefore 10 on the front and the same number on the rear, they could reach a total of 260 laps".
Do the riders also have something new to try?
“Two front tyres with a medium-hard compound that we want to introduce this season. One important thing: when they test these two tyres, the riders can have as many rear tyres in addition, so there's no quantity problem."
What are the characteristics of the new front tyre?
“The casing hasn't changed, but it has a new medium-hard compound: we are looking for the grip of a medium tyre with the support of a hard one. The riders had already tested it in the Misano tests last year and it seems to work well. We are following the evolution of motorcycles and riding style which leads to more stress on the front tyre which must give more support".
The Sprint Race will be introduced this year, will there be specific tyres?
“We've thought about it, but there won't be any changes to the tyres. We want tyres that can cover the standard race distance, not tyres that can only be used on Saturdays and not on Sundays. Logically there will be more soft tyres available, 7 against 5 for the harder option. This is good news for us, one more race means having more spectators on the track and in front of the TV, even if I understand that it will be more difficult for the riders. Another positive aspect is that FP2 will be longer and will allow for long runs ahead of the race."
In the first 3 GPs there will also be testing of the tyre pressure sensors.
“It will be a centralized system and we are developing it. Basically, it won't change the way we work."
Wouldn't it have been enough to simply check the pressure with a gauge on the grid?
“It would have been possible, but with current technology it would have been a shame not to take advantage of it. In MotoE and Moto2 sensors are already used and they work well, MotoGP is the top of technology and it is right that they are used".
What could the problems be?
"I honestly don't see any because, as I said, the way of working won't change, the system will simply be unified and the only difficulty will be making it work well, I'm referring to the software and the communication between sensors and Race Direction".
What are the pressure limits you have to stay within?
“We have lowered the limits because, as there are penalties for those who exceed them, the teams will be even more scrupulous. For the front we go from a minimum pressure of 1.90 bar to 1.88, which taking into account the tolerances can arrive at up to 1.85, a relatively low pressure but with which the tyre still works relatively well. The maximum limit, however, will be 2.2 bar, there is a good margin to work and not make mistakes. On the rear, however, the limit was 1.70 bar and we went to 1.68, but the rear tyre is less sensitive to changes in pressure".