Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has set the fastest lap of the all-new Buddh International Circuit, with a time of 1m25.706s during the second free practice session this afternoon. The Brazilian used the P Zero Yellow soft tire to set his fastest time, beating Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel by just 0.088s.

For Friday’s two sessions, the drivers had three sets of P Zero Yellow soft tires and one set of P Zero Silver hard tires at their disposal. The teams are expected to use mostly the softer tires for the race to maximize grip and performance, which is why one additional set of the P Zero Yellow compound was made available today. This tire is expected to be up to two seconds per lap faster than the P Zero Silver.

Karun Chandok, third driver for Team Lotus, was the first person to set a time on the Buddh International Circuit during the first practice session this morning, also becoming the very first Indian to star on his home track. Initially, the track was ‘green’ and very dirty, with plenty of dust on the surface even though the asphalt had been washed overnight. As more cars went out the circuit became progressively cleaner with more rubber laid down to enhance the grip available. Nonetheless, grip levels remained low, which resulted in a number of drivers going off the track as they struggled to find the correct balance.

As expected, the circuit provided an interesting challenge, with Turns 3 and 10 proving to be a particular hit with the drivers – where consistent tire performance is essential.

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was quickest overall in the first free practice session this morning with a time of 1m26.836s on the P Zero Yellow soft tires, a time that was immediately bettered within the opening half-hour of the second free practice session. Further track evolution is expected tomorrow; with qualifying times likely to comfortably beat today’s benchmark.

The priority for all the teams was to accumulate as much data as possible on this brand new circuit, with the only track information before today coming via computer simulation. Although the majority of teams ran on both the hard and the soft compounds during both sessions, they concentrated on the softer rubber – assessing the performance of the P Zero Yellow tire with different fuel loads and different set-ups.

Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery commented: “It’s been a busy day, which matched our expectations – underlining the quality of the simulation data that we created before the start of the event. Our first impressions of the track are very positive, and from what we can see there will be a number of good overtaking opportunities. The layout provides an interesting work-out for our tires, due to the mix of high-speed straights, constant loaded corners and heavy braking areas. Working out exactly how the tires degrade is tricky because the track is still cleaning, having started off very dusty before clear racing lines emerged. This dust has a significant effect on tire performance, as the tires can grain due to sliding and rear wheelspin. As the performance gap between the soft tire and the hard tire is notable here, the key to race strategy will be getting the softs to last for as long as possible. It will be interesting to see what all the different teams come up with to achieve that goal. We can see from our data so far that wear levels are in line with a two to three stop strategy.”

Pirelli facts of the day:

·     Today, 28 October, is the birthday of Bernie Ecclestone: the President and CEO of Formula One Management, which holds all the commercial rights to Formula One. Mr. Ecclestone is 81 today.

·     India marks the final appearance of Pirelli’s P Zero Silver hard tire this year. It was last used at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone and will have taken part in six grands prix by the end of the season. The latest evolution of the P Zero Silver made its debut at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

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