Pirelli awaiting the onslaught

At times Pirelli’s position within the sport could be described at best as between a rock and a hard place.

Originally given the remit, “to produce tyres for Formula One that should be changed two or three times during a race” as boss Paul Hembery has repeatedly explained, Pirelli have never been given the tools with which to do the job properly. In a vain effort to cut costs, the FIA have mandated a slash in testing over recent years and this has caused F1’s tyre manufacturer huge headaches. Even in the fairly stable regulations of the latter years of the V8 engines, Pirelli experienced difficulties with unexpected and highly unusual temperatures on race day and teams deliberately refusing to run tyres within Pirelli camber and pressure guidelines.

The result? Exploding tyres and failures due to damage frequently sent the critics finger pointing at the Italian marque.

It is fair to say that when the introduction of the 2014 Power Units came along with their then unknown torque outputs, Pirelli were forced into producing more robust rubber on safety grounds and history appears to be repeating itself for 2017.

Pirelli are now being asked to supply not only bigger, wider and grippier tyres, but rubber that degrades less harshly. “We are changing the design philosophy of the tyres,” Pirelli’s F1 chief Hembery confirmed to Russia’s Championat.

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“We will make them less sensitive to temperature, so there will be less degradation or performance drop. The drivers will be able to attack more rather than build a strategy to work with the tyres, as they do now,” he said.

“…in 2017 you will see a very different product from Pirelli. Only time will tell if the races are better or worse. Since we came into Formula One, there has been more overtaking than ever, but from next year it will depend on the drivers and the cars. Don’t blame us if the races are boring!”

It could be Hembery’s qualified comment on the potential quality of the racing, means he is already bracing himself for another round of Pirelli lambasting.

Niki Lauda revealed the new chassis and engine rules are the result of a “compromise” agreement. “Whether it fulfils expectations remains to be seen,” the Mercedes team chairman told Auto Motor und Sport. Of course compromise can be a good thing, but as legend tells us the camel was the result of a committee who set out to design a horse.

Sauber’s veteran team manager Beat Zehnder also appears somewhat nervous over the agreements on next years regulations. “Will the 2017 regulations be better for the show? I don’t know. I hope so. At the moment I have my doubts, although I hope that I’m wrong.”

3 responses to “Pirelli awaiting the onslaught

  1. It seems to me that it’s a physical impossibility to make a tyre where backing off from race pace won’t make it last longer, short of making a tyre so hard that it’ll last the whole race anyway. So if we want a range of tyres with different grip levels and laps-possible-at-race-pace, perhaps the solution is to take away the advantage of making tyres last longer by mandating a maximum number of laps for each tyre type?

    1) Make a range of tyres with different grip levels.
    2) Establish the worst case number of circuit-miles each can be run flat out safely and before losing too much grip.
    3) Establish the range of approximate lap-time differences between each tyre type
    4) Combine results from 2 and 3 to set a mandatory maximum number of laps for each tyre type such that there is no one tyre type that will give best overall race-time on all circuits and under all conditions.

    So, as today you might be choosing between Supersoft and getting 8 laps or Soft and getting 16, and trading off that extra speed against the shorter distance between stops. But what you *won’t* be doing is having to back-off from racing pace in order to make them last those 8/16 laps. And there’d be no advantage in backing-off to make the tyres last because they *will* last those 8/16 laps, regardless.

    Easier to say than do, I know, especially in a sod-all-testing world. (And you also need to set fuel limits to permit flat-out racing too!) Would also possibly need tweaks for safety-car laps or extra parade laps. Could perhaps be tweaked for track temperatures on the day. But assuming one wants to retain tyre choice and pit-stop strategies *and* have people able to race flat out, I’m not sure I’d see another way other than to limiting laps-per-tyre by rule instead of by having the grip fall away.

  2. So we have quotes from three principal F1 folks and none of them know if the changes are going to make a difference or not. Surely with all the tech and computer simulation power they have available they should have information to make an informed decision.

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