If you thought the Australian GP was dull, unfortunately it may be a sign of things to come for the rest of the season. And this has nothing to do with Mercedes.
On their return to the sport, Pirelli were given a mandate from the FIA to develop tyres that would produce races with between 2 and 3 pit stops.
2013 was an annus horibilus for the Italian tyre manufacturer, as they produced a range of new compounds with a different construction, designed to make the tyre degrade more quickly than those from the previous season.
In Barcelona the pit stop count for some teams exceeded certain TV commentators’ ability to record them on their tally sheets. By Silverstone, there was uproar, as the sight of dramatic pictures of Pirelli tyres shredding at full speed during the race filled TV screens across the world.
Christian Horner warned, “We need a solution because someone will get hurt if that keeps happening. Something needs to be done.”
In an unprecedented move, Pirelli were forced to abandon their 2013 design and revert to a similar tyre construction used the previous year.
By 2014, the new engine regulations had come into force and Pirelli delivered tyres which had to cope with huge increases in torque successfully and they avoided being the ‘topic of the year’.
Following this year’s race in Australia, we have some insight into how the 2015 Pirelli rubber is going to perform. The race was run in similar conditions to that of 2014.
The fastest lap during the 2015 weekend was a full three seconds quicker than the one from the previous year. Pirelli will be relieved because tyres held up well during the race given this leap forward in pace and the associated demands placed on the rubber.
This year’s fastest race lap was 1m30.945s, set by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on the medium tyre. This was 1.5 seconds faster than the fastest race lap last year but that was set on the medium tyre by Rosberg.
Paul Hembery states: “These figures underline what we expected to see following pre-season testing: a significant reduction in lap times, with cars that will only get faster as the year goes on. We could even see some new lap records on certain circuits. With this in mind, we have introduced evolutions to the rear structure of all our 2015 tyres this year, in order to give them greater capability in handling the extreme demands placed on them.”
The role of the tyre supplier to Formula One is not an easy one compared to the days when they had more in season testing. However, there are signs from the opening race in Australia that the Pirelli compounds in 2015 are even more conservative than those introduced to be “bullet proof” for the introduction of the new V6 Turbo engines and the unknown’s surrounding this.
In 2014, of the drivers who completed the Australian GP just Adrian Sutil stopped once. This year only 2 drivers stopped during the race for more than the mandatory 1 stop.
Australia 2014: 7% one stopped
Australia 2015: 91% one stopped
To deliver at least 2 pit stops in a race, Pirelli must ensure it selects a combination of the tyre compounds which, used once, each cannot complete the race distance.
Given that Pirelli cannot re-engineer the time differential between the 2015 compounds they have created, it appears they need to ensure the 2 compounds they bring to this year’s races are a step softer than the combination they selected for the same race venue last year.
The problem is that the tyre compound selection for the next 3 races is identical to those they chose in 2014.
This means the super soft tyre will be required to make more appearances than in 2014. However, following winter testing there were rumours Pirelli were concerned about this compound, which will now be a vital part of the Pirelli armoury.
With Mercedes set to dominate the races this year, it is critical that tyre strategy provides some kind of challenge for the teams racing behind the Silver Arrows – and some kind of interest for the viewers.