The durability and performance of the super-soft compound tyres, which all drivers will have to use for at least one stint, is a major cause for concern.
As McLaren have often struggled with tyre wear in past races, it could hand an advantage to Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen.
Lewis Hamilton did his ‘fuel burn’ laps in qualifying yesterday on a set of the troublesome super-softs, and reported that they were destroyed after about five laps.
Where the tyres usually degrade in performance by less than 0.05s per lap, at Interlagos the degradation for the super-soft tyres is half a second per lap. The soft tyres are also seeing above average wear degradation of around 0.3s per lap.
A major contributor is the new surface at Interlagos which was installed relatively recently. It is the same compound use at the remodelled Spa-Francorchamps, where Ferrari were dominant earlier this year.
It has also been extremely hot. The track temperature during qualifying yesterday was around 60C and with 75 minutes to go before the start of the race it’s just as hot again today.
Teams hope that, as more rubber goes down on the surface, tyre wear will become less of a problem. This has been the case at other races this year including at Istanbul, where Hamilton suffered a tyre failure just before his second pit stop.
Article 25.5d of the Sporting Regulations requires each driver to use at least one set of each type of tyre during the race, unless they use either of the wet tyre compounds:
Unless he has used wet or extreme-weather tyres during the race, each driver must use at least one set of each specification of dry-weather tyres during the race.
No rain is forecast for today’s race.
Expect teams to try to spend as little time as possible on the super-soft tyres by doing a short final stint on the rubber. This could favour Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, who start behind their respective team mates, presumably with more fuel on board.
Earlier in the season tyre supplier Bridgestone were encouraged to bring more challenging mixes of compounds to enliven a series of very boring races.
The last season finale that featured three championship contenders, in 1986, was also hit by a spate of tyre problems in the latter stages. A spectacular tyre blow-out for Nigel Mansell handed the title to Alain Prost.
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