Sepang: Formula One tyre supplier Pirelli are predicting a possible three-stop strategy for the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend after track temperatures soared to around 60 degrees Celsius in the first two free practice sessions on Friday.
World champion Lewis Hamilton overcame some early engine issues to clock the fastest time of the day around the 5.543 km Sepang International Circuit but several drivers struggled for grip on the faster medium tyres in the sweltering Malaysian heat.
"Today`s conditions were the hottest we have seen anywhere for sometime, hotter than last year," Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery told reporters.
"So the medium tyre was overheating and there was maybe a second to eight-tenths of a second (per lap) between the two compounds," the Briton added.
"If it is anything like this on Sunday, then that would lead us to a three-stop race we would think... which would be good after a few too many one-stops in recent times.
"Of course, what happens here is determined by what the weather is like on raceday as that is one of the biggest variables for everybody."
Hembery admitted that both sets of tyres (hard and medium) showed some graining in the morning but neither blistered as the track evolved and the ideal target of more than one stop per race was likely to become more common in the future.
"In reality, we are hoping to ensure more two to three-stop races as we are understanding more the evolution of the cars this year," he added, saying he was disappointed that the season-opening Australian Grand Prix saw a majority of teams getting by with just one stop.
"...and as we gain more confidence as to where they are then we will make choices to make sure we are closer to the number of stops per race we are aiming for."