Pirelli expectations for 2015 fail to transpire

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Pirelli should now make more aggressive tyre compound selections

TJ13 commented following the Australian GP, that the 2015 Pirelli compounds appear more durable than their predecessors. This may appear somewhat simplistic, but the tyre degradation was such that most cars managed a one stop strategy in Albert Park, whereas the year before we saw predominantly two stop race strategies.

In Malaysia, we saw the majority of drivers adopted a three stop race strategy, but this was due to the almost unprecedented temperatures on race day. China and Bahrain reverted to becoming two stop races.

Pirelli’s brief is to deliver tyres that provide optimum race strategies of between two and three stops and as such have this season been on the conservative side in their tyre selection.

The F1 tyre manufacturer will soon announce its tyre selection for the next three races – Barcelona, Monaco and Canada.

In 2014 the compound selection was as follows.

  • Barcelona – medium/hard
  • Monaco – super soft/soft
  • Canada – super soft/soft

The big call will be whether to change the Barcelona selection to soft/medium.

At the circuit de Catalunya, the key tyre performance requirement is to cope with high energy loads particularly through the now infamous long turn three where Alonso and his MacHonda made big news during winter testing.

The surface of the track is one of the most abrasive of the year and the wear on the left hand tyres is particularly high.

Yet in 2014, by selecting the medium and hard compounds, two stops was the preferred strategy in Catalunya, with just 6 cars electing to adopt a three stop approach to the race.

Further the preferred race tyre in 2014 was the medium tyre and not the hard compound. Pirelli need to seriously consider changing their historic compound selection for the Spanish GP or we risk seeing a race that becomes a one/two stop and not a two/three stop.

With the increased durability of the 2015 tyre, Pirelli can afford to go aggressive and elect the dry compounds as soft/medium without criticism. If they revert to tyre then the season to Canada will be dominated by two stop races.

Pirelli believed in January that the step forward in engine power this year, may make their ‘conservative’ choices appear less so.

“So like many we are interested to see what happens with the unfreeze for a little while of the engine regulations”, commented Pirelli’s commercial director Paul Hembery.

“What that is going to mean for the majority of teams – particularly on race pace, that is the one aspect where we expect to see a big improvement in performance. And that might make a conservative choice suddenly a bit more aggressive.”

To the average fan, this has simply not happened.

Of course should the Italian tyre manufacture make an aggressive compound selection for the Spanish GP, then the politics may well kick off. Yet having suffered the battering they received in 2013, this would be insignificant and would raise the profile of the F1 tyre provider for the weekend nicely.

Of course an aggressive choice of compounds means Ferrari would think all their Christmases had come at once, and Mercedes may well be quaking in their rubber boots.

Choosing softer compounds for Barcelona would be applauded by the fans – as the races this year have bubbled along nicely, but are nowhere near being likened to Champagne.

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26 responses to “Pirelli expectations for 2015 fail to transpire

  1. Not sure softer tires are better for Ferrari. Obviously Malaysia was on med/hards, and Ferrari spent more time on the mediums. Allison has said that they designed the car around the medium tire, which is used in most races.

    Having said that, I can’t see Pirelli going soft/med for Barcelona. Just too much downside risk for them.

    • Lol. They just announced medium/hard – what’s the risk? They won’t explode – teams just have to run three stop strategy’s – which makes qualifying more interesting too.

      Interesting Ferrari designed their car around the medium tyre – seeing as it wasn’t finalised until this year.

      • There was a story not too long ago where Allison said exactly that. I did a quick search, couldn’t find it, will try again later.

      • “Ferrari designed their car around the medium tyre”

        @thejudge13 They may have used 2014’s data if this statement is true. It’s unlikely the the 2015’s medium tyre would be dramatically different.

      • “Interesting Ferrari designed their car around the medium tyre – seeing as it wasn’t finalised until this year.”

        Is the implication that the tire was unknown correct? Going off my poor memory here, but didn’t Pirelli preview the ’15 tires to all the teams at Abu Dhabi in the test after the GP in November ’14?

        I also thought that Pirelli telegraphed ahead of time to the teams and fans the differences between ’14 tires and ’15 tires also. The changes were simple as well, (more even heat across rear footprint thanks to structural changes under tread area was primary change if I recall correctly).

        I do agree it is interesting, and it speaks well of James Allison, and SF in general.

        • The technical knowledge and curiosity of the below-the-line postees on TJ13 remains a breath of fresh air and is one of the many things that keep me coming back again and again.
          When I think back to the days when, head bursting with all kinds of questions, I wandered, lonely, through lesser websites, comments sections awash with fanboy slanging matches, I remember wishing for a forum with more character and depth. TJ13 is an indispensable companion throughout the season, and everyone who contributes to the site, both above and below-the-line, can be rightly proud of their contributions. Keep it coming….

  2. I’d quite like to see gaps in the compounds more often, like Softs with Hards, really give the strategists something to think about.

    Granted this would only really work at certain circuits where neither tyre would normally be the number one choice, perhaps…

    • Absolutely – it does only work at certain circuits because too big a delta time between the compounds then forces everyone onto the same race strategy.

  3. Not sure that the more aggressive choice (medium, soft) would be the one that might help Ferrari the most, in that scenario we are still under a 2 stopper and we saw in China and Bahrain that a 2 stopper allows Merc to manage the tyre issue because of their engine advantage, not driving as fast as they could but prolongating the life of their tyres. If Pirelli were to go ‘conservative’ and bring the hard and medium again, then a 1 stopper might because a real option as you say, and i’m not so sure that under such scenario Merc would still be able to do the same, they will still be able to pace themselves rather than race, but with their higher tyre consumption they might not only be forced to come in earlier (undercut risk) but also become vulnerable at the end of the race when their hards are gone and the engine advantage may not be enough to keep the Ferrari’s at controlled distance? A two stopper is in fact helping Mercedes as it cuts their tyre disadvantage in two?

    • @BDP Which is why a three stop race would create more possibilities – particularly when considering the Barcelona lack of overtaking factor…

      • More possibilities for the Ferrari’s to attack the P2 Mercedes that as we have seen is more and more becoming a buffer for the leader, that is true, but with 3 stops (4 sets of tyres) the leading Merc will never face real tyre degradation issues. With medium/hard also the Merc might be forced into a 1 stopper – especially if we see a SF early on in the race (there is app. 50% SC risk with almost every SC happening in the first lap) – and then tyre deg might become a real issue for both the Merc drivers.

  4. So this season will be defined by tire usage and strategy?

    Because since Malaysia, what we’ve seen is drive as slowly as you can so as to persevere tires (Mercedes), then wait and see what the cars behind you does (Ferrari) then react accordingly.

    • Which sucks… I for one would like to see what the cars are really capable of. Maybe the fact that its hard to follow another car (tire deg) makes its more annoying

  5. “Choosing softer compounds for Barcelona would be applauded by the fans – as the races this year have bubbled along nicely, but are nowhere near being likened to Champagne.”

    Speak for yourself, you literally have the whole site to do it. I have not seen anyone claim they miss the eggshells Pirelli once served or the races dominated by slow, careful and numbing tyre nursing (which still resulted in 3 or 4 stops because nothing else was viable).

    • No one was asking for eggshells – nor 4 stops. Pirelli’s brief is 2-3 stops and they are missing it on the low side due to conservative compound selections. As pointed out earlier – this may even tempt Mercedes to drive flat out across all stints were they forced to 3 stop.

      • The sentence that i liked being “this may even tempt Mercedes to drive flat out across all stints were they forced to 3 stop”. But nobody wants to see Mercedes being forced to do an extra stop compared to Ferrari… Correction… I don’t*. I think that extra 19-24 seconds will possibly guarantee that Ferrari wins all the races.

        Ferrari fan are you @thejudge13?

          • That was nice, but it is not normal and happened entirely by accident. Pirelli is a mere supplier, not some sort of competitive supervisor in charge of manufacturing excitement. I think 2013 made it abundantly clear how wrong that can go. From the extreme of unsafe tyres which failed catastrophically all across the grid to the extreme of Red Bull’s and Vettel’s soul crushing dominance. That plus the 4 stopping races in which the tyres simply fell apart if anyone tried to push for long.

            I can’t find a single fault in the tyres that have been used this season. They are not bullet proof yet they allow drivers to push and employ different strategies (which rely on speed and/or conservation). This is exactly why it was possible for Vettel to defeat the Mercedes at Sepang, and for Raikkonen to go from 4th to 2nd at Bahrain.

            Nothing more could honestly be asked form Pirelli, they are not responsible for wings, winglets and turbulence.

        • “But nobody wants to see Mercedes being forced to do an extra stop compared to Ferrari…”

          But would they not have to run flat out to build up enough of a buffer. And are we not all curious about the top end capability of the Merc. So this might be and interesting scenario.

          • @Biondi… Lol… I hear you on that one…. If only the tires will last long enough for Mercedes to build up such a buffer… This scenario of yours is ideal for us as fans… But even if they could get their tires to last, they will simply pace themselves once again to preserve the Power Unit due to the rules of 4 (possibly 5) allowed this season.

        • But we do want to see a race, and in the last two races we’ve not really got that because Mercedes haven’t had to push.

  6. Judge – Great article! Few are writing about this subject, and none in such a thoughtful manner that I’ve seen.

    I too was mildly surprised about the Barcelona choices. I’ll with-hold judgment till we see the results from the race itself, (cowardly, yes yes, but Pirelli has more info at hand, so I’m curious to see how they do).

    You provocatively wrote, “…should the Italian tyre manufacture make an aggressive compound selection for the Spanish GP, then the politics may well kick off.”

    Would you care to elaborate on the politics that Pirelli may be navigating?

    I only ask because I’m candidly not sure… Are you referring to public tears on cheeks from teams (RB in 2013 for example), or public tears from F1 spectators (see for example Mark Webber’s “boiling” tweet this past weekend)?

    • You are on the money with those observations, but also it isn’t unheard of – that teams Lobby Pirelli to nominate favoured compounds for certain circuits

      By sticking with last year’s selection, they can’t be accused of being influenced.

      Had to laugh, Autosport describe the Pirelli selection for the next three races as “aggressive”

  7. Must be me……I’m finding an increasing lack of interest in season 2015 because of the continued emphasis on Pirelli fcuking tyres.
    Didn’t have a problem with them last season so puzzled as to why now?

    Enlightenment by postcard, please…..

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