Original Pirelli F1 2013 tyres were better than the current design


Since Pirelli entered Formula One, the subject of tyres has never been far from the mainstream topics of discussion.

Following a 20 year absence from the sport, Pirelli were appointed in 2011 as the sole tyre supplier, beating competition from both Michelin and Cooper Avon.

It was thought prior to the appointment that both Michelin and Pirelli would demand the wheel sizes be increased from 13 inches to 18 inches, though when Pirelli emerged as the victors from the bidding process – the 13 inch wheels were set to remain.

The spectacle that was the 2010 Canadian GP with its many pit stops was the source of inspiration which became Pirelli’s brief on the kind of tyres Formula One wanted. 2-3 pit stop races for tyre changes was believed would improve the spectacle of an F1 event so Pirelli’s task was to deliver tyres that forced this upon the teams.

Given the wide range of temperatures each F1 event may encounter, together with vastly differing levels of abrasion the different kind of asphalt used by the tracks deliver – add to this the impact of  aero and mechanical aspects of the car designs on tyre wear – and we see the task for Pirelli is not simple.

Yet in 2013, despite the redesign of the tyres following Silverstone there were 2.3 pit stops per driver per race. This fell to 2.02 in 2014 and for 2015 it is currently 1.67 stops per driver on average over the first nine events of the year.

Of course the complaints particularly by Red Bull in 2013 and the exploding tyres in Silverstone put Pirelli on the back foot. The with the advent of the new V6 Hybrid Turbo engines with their huge increase in torque due in 2014, Paul Hembery was candid stating Pirelli would not be the ‘F1 story’ of 2014 and the tyres would be ‘bullet proof’.

There are differing views on degrading tyres, many F1 fans believe the sport should be uber competitive and not artificially restrained in any way. However, there is the balance to be struck and excitement and entertainment are part of that consideration.

Back in the 1980’s and 90’s there was less restriction in the technical design regulations for the F1 cars and tyres were built to last. Yet as the F1 world moves onwards and upwards in its pursuit of ever improving reliability – the corresponding sacrifice is one where unpredictability diminishes more and more.

The unpredictability sport throws up is often described as better than the wildest fancies of a Hollywood script writer. The more predictable a sporting outcome becomes, the less excitement the fans have in watching the event.

This is the conundrum F1 faces with its range of current dilemmas for 2017.

Romain Grosjean has spoken out on the issue of tyres in Formula One. “It’s very different from two or three years ago where your driving style could influence the way you degrade your tyres, right now it doesn’t change much,” said the Frenchman.

“I did prefer it when we had to think about it and when we could change the way it was degrading.

“That means if you took it a little bit slowly at the beginning of the race then you had an advantage over some of the other people, and you could try to go for an overtaking manoeuvre.

“I believe it creates overtaking chances, because there’s a grip level and if the guy in front of you has a big snap it gives you an advantage.

“Right now if the guy in front of you has a snap you usually have the same one so you don’t get the advantage anymore.

“Everyone is always on the limit of them [the tyres] and when you follow another car you don’t really get that advantage anymore.”

Grosjean explains how when Pirelli were forced to change the construction of their compounds in 2013, everything changed.

“Austria was a good example. I was behind [Sergio] Perez at the beginning of the race, I was on super-softs and he was on softs, so I had an advantage over grip, but I couldn’t overtake him because every time I was trying to push to get closer I was overheating my tyres and was losing grip, so I couldn’t overtake.

“That’s probably why we can try to concentrate and focus to try and make it easier to get closer to the car in front of you.

“In 2012 and 2013 when they [the tyres] were degrading, they were getting into that bad shape of losing grip and the guy behind could take an advantage over it.

“Right now it stays quite consistent, but over the lap if you go over a certain window then you just lose the grip and when you follow another car you lose downforce, so you slide even more and lose the grip, making overtaking harder.”

TJ13 communicated our concerns to Pirelli following the Australian GP. The response implied the picture would change as the F1 circus moved to different circuits. Yet this has not happened. Such is the desperate state of Pirelli’s failure to hit their brief, they have selected tyres for Monza this year which are a step softer than anything they have taken before.

Paul Hembery now accepts the criticism. He tells SKY, “We are not where we need to be this year and it is true that the requirement is for two or three [pit-stops per race.

“So we are not quite hitting the mark, but then we have no testing ability. We have zero testing ability so it is okay to sometimes ask us to do things, but we also need the ability to do our job”.

A significant problem in Formula One is the lack of joined up thinking. Reducing testing time has been a mantra over recent years in an attempt to control the amount of money spent. Yet, for a tyre manufacturer like Pirelli, this makes their task nigh on impossible.

“We are looking to make changes next year to get back to two or three stops”, Hembery promises. “but we also need to have an agreement in place to allow us to do the testing to give us better information so we can ensure that happens.”

Whether a section of the fans like it or not, the excitement of the F1 spectacle will now forever be a concern to those running the sport. The reason is simple, technical boring races are not so marketable.

The purity of the days when open car designs allowed smaller teams to win, where unreliability caused the favourite to DNF in spectacular flames and when the races were flat out sprints from start to finish appear to be gone for ever.

And this is why Pirelli will most likely win out in their battle with Michelin for another three years contract to supply F1 with tyres.

21 responses to “Original Pirelli F1 2013 tyres were better than the current design

  1. I’ve been quite critical of Pirelli, and the fact their tyres seem to be quite primitive and a useless race tyres, there have been enough comments made by drivers past and present to back this up, but they need to be allowed to test, how can you develop anything without testing. How can Pirelli come up with anything else, when all they can do is make a best guess at it.

    Testing restrictions hurt everybody, name any other sport where you cannot practice. I always thought Schumacher’s return was remarkable given that he had 3½ days testing to get ready after a 3 year layoff, in no other sport would that happen. it’d be Like Roger retiring now, not picking up a racket for three years, then coming back to try and win Wimbledon with only a couple of days warm up. And its the same for youngsters trying to break into the sport, testing is where a lot of them got a chance to impress, or they could spend a year as a test driver, that route is closed now. And as fan i miss testing, I can’t justify the cost of a family holiday to watch some cars go round and round, but testing was a great way for me to go watch the cars, even if they weren’t racing.

    I say bring back unlimited testing, just cap the team budgets, the rest will take care of itself.

    Slightly off topic, but why would any company want to partner Redbull, when they just get hung out to dry, Pirelli and Renault have both been of the receiving end of this, not to mention the drivers.

    • OR even more simply, just open up Fridays outside of FP1 and FP2 to test drivers and let Pirelli bring the tyres. Cars will be on non Championship tyres and Pirelli will get to keep data plus test/reserve drivers will be able to accumulate mileage, making it worth their while.

      • Great idea, matt! Simple, uncomplicated, though more work for the mechanics, and more fuel to be shipped.

      • Sam,
        It wouldn’t be every weekend. I would limit it to non-flyaway races, because the teams would require extra PUs and gearboxes.

        • But won’t they still require extra PUs anyway even if it was limited to none flyaways?

          Since the teams won’t be benefiting from the test data, I’m not so sure they’d want to put unnecessary mileage on either PUs or gearboxes that they’ll need to complete the season.

        • If anything it would likely only be the flyaways at the start and end of the season (except Canada), as the European rounds have all of the feeder series filling non-F1 time, GP2, GP3, Porsche Supercup.

          Start of season would be tyre development for that year, end of season would be starting on next year.

    • Schumi and Massa had some extra test days in 2010 to get ready for their comebacks, I think from Ferrari at the Italian test tracks, see gpupdate.net.

  2. Great article!

    One thing that caught my eye is “(in 2012)… 2.3 pit stops per driver per race. This fell to 2.02 in 2014 and for 2015 it is currently 1.67…”.

    I decided to take my own measurements of tire changes. My criteria is:
    * Only drivers officially classified (completed the race), per the FIA
    * Only tire changes (eliminates stop & go penalties), per Pirelli post-race release
    * Only dry races

    Using this method, I found 2014 avg tire change per classified driver per dry race = 2.1.

    For 2015, Pirelli is at 1.9.

    A copy of the spreadsheet is here… https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1QwL6UF0KPvd1EZ3zQk35nLv1n3tkhy5Y0GzUV0QLcSM/edit?usp=sharing

    It’s a work in progress, so let me know if you spot errors…

    Btw, I’m still surprised that Pirelli didn’t bring soft / mediums to Silverstone. If not for the rain, we saw many 1 stop strategies in play.

    • Not too surprised actually, given that their last debacle occurred here very likely they wish to take no chances. They’ve been most hung out to dry by the fact that predicted increase hp and torques have not really been delivered for whatever reason, engine life management or developmental incompetence irrelevant. They were told to prepare for the apocalypse and then the power just went out for 30 minutes. Whole season bound to wind up like this. FYI it is a nice preview of bulletproof tyres and their effect on racing tho.

      • Being gunshy due to 2013 might make emotional sense, but it doesn’t make sense in a more objective view.

        There were known reasons for what happened in 2013. If I recall, there was an unusually sharpness on an apex curb on one corner. In addition the teams were running tires outside of Pirelli’s recommended racing pressures, and installing the tires backwards. All of those issues were identified and resolved.

        When Pirelli announced compound choices for this series of races, (Silverstone, Hungaroring, Spa, & Monza), they only changed the choice for Monza.

        Monza was an easy decision, as last year was dry and the avg was 1.2 tire changes per classified finisher on medium / hard.

        But that begs the question, how many other 2014 races were primarily one stop races, besides Monza? The answers are:
        * Sochi -> 1.2 on soft / medium
        * Silverstone -> 1.3 on medium / hard
        * I don’t have 2014 data on 2 other races, Hungaroring & Suzuka, as both were wet.

        For Hungaroring, Pirelli is sitting on the same compounds as ’14 (soft / medium). Suzuka in ’14 was medium hard. I’d have to go back to the teams’ & Pirelli’s Suzuka Friday notes to see if there were any estimates of # of stops if Suzuka were to be a dry race.

        But if we look at the medium / hard 2014 races, we had the following:
        *Sepang -> 2.9 avg tire changes
        * Catalunya -> 2.3 avg tire changes
        * Silverstone -> 1.3 avg tire changes
        * Monza -> 1.1 avg tire changes
        * Suzuka -> (wet)
        * Interlagos -> 2.9 avg tire changes

        Interlagos had new asphalt which was surprisingly grippy, and put much more energy through the tires, if I recall correctly.
        Sepang will always eat tires due temp, asphalt abrasion and circuit design.
        Catalunya to a lesser degree provides similar challenges as Sepang.

        So Silverstone, and Monza jump out. And this is why I was surprised about the Silverstone choice by Pirelli.

        It causes one to imagine that the staff engineers would’ve presented this data to the management, and someone in management made the emotional gun-shy choice and then justified the lack of courage by citing PR reasons (blame marketing! LOL).

        What this all means is for the remainder of the season, the only opportunity to meet their 2 to 3 changes per race goal is change on Sochi, and perhaps on Suzuka. The other remaining 2014 races were all 2.2 changes or more per classified finisher.

  3. Maybe I am being obtuse. But, they made a rule that the cars had to change tyres at least once during the race. Why cannot they make the rule that they have to change tyres twice, or even three times instead. Or is that too simple? 🙂

  4. Agree to disagree. Their current tyres are fine, or an improvement over the their horrible and fragile tyres served in 2013. The main culprits for the current numbing and sterile racing are fuel management, excessive driver coaching and crippling effects of turbulence.

    That being said, I remain unconvinced Pirelli can actually supply tyres up to Bridgestone’s and Michelin’s standards.

  5. It is unfair that Pirelli is such an easy target for poor racing when there are errors in nearly all components of F1’s formula. I admit I am too harsh on them occasionally.

  6. Tire testing on a broad scale won’t happen because that would ultimately require more Power Units and associated systems to be used. The restriction of PUs is absurd. The concept and complexity of the V6 hybrid engines is absurd. I’m quite disappointed in the current view of Formula One. Too many restrictions on everything. And nobody wants to contradict Bernie. Have I gone far enough off-topic?

  7. TJ13, haven’t you posted more or less the same article weeks ago? Anyways, the original 2013 tires were absurdly bad. This wasn’t racing. Half of the early races were conducted with radio transmissions that sounded “we’re not racing this car, let it through”, “drop back”, “are we racing this car?”. In one race, Hamilton telephoned to the garage “I can’t drive any slower.” while barely defending from… a Caterham. So, everyone was going in circles, managing tires, and afraid to attack.

    I am sorry TJ13, but the original 2013 Pirelli tire was horrible. This was not racing. I enjoyed seeing Vettel win nine races in row in the second half of 2013 far more than seeing the racing on those original tires in the first half of season. Despite the Red Bull dominance, at least all cars were actually racing in the second half of 2013.

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