Pirelli promises a "revolution" in F1 tires
Pirelli is hosting a press conference at its base in Milan this morning, laying out plans for the 2013 season and it is claiming a half second a lap improvement in performance over 2012.
And the company president said that Pirelli intends to renew the contract with F1 after it expires in December and that he is “confident” it will happen.
In Formula 1 it promises “a revolution” with tires featuring new softer compounds and constructions which will suffer more thermal degradation than last years’, forcing the teams to make two stops as a minimum and “increasing the overtaking opportunities and so helping to provide an even better show”.
Pirelli claims that the softer compounds will mean that performance is improved by 0.5s per lap, while from a strategy point of view the gap between the two compounds selected for each round will be at least half a second, in order to widen the race strategy options and speed differentials at various stages of the race.
When Pirelli brought 2013 development tires to Brazil last November, the track temperature was exceptionally hot so teams were not able to learn much other than the fact that these new tires will clearly warm up more quickly for a single qualifying lap, which is good news for the more stylized drivers like Jenson Button. The development tires featured the 2013 construction, but not the softer compounds, so the Jerez test will be the first occasion for teams to learn about the tires.
F1 team engineers have suggested that the 2013 tires might not be all that different from the 2012 ones, but the proof will come when the new cars start testing in two weeks time.
The tires are two kilos per set heavier than last year’s, due to a change in the carcass in order to increase the footprint of the tire. Extra support material is needed to avoid sidewall buckling. The larger footprint will increase braking stability.
The focus of the engineers has been on traction; more grip on the exit of the corner and the construction has been changed to mean that the wear is more spread out across the contact patch.
The hard and soft tires are designed for a higher working temperature range, while the medium and supersoft are designed for use in lower temperatures.
But managing the thermal degradation in the early races will again be a first order consideration as it was in the early stages of 2012, before teams learned more about those tires.
A small but crucial note is that the turn in for the 2013 tires will be much sharper, which some drivers will have to adapt to. Also mid-corner there is more stability, so the drivers can get onto the power earlier.
On the question of whether the season would be more about conserving tires rather than drivers being able to push to the limit, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said that there would be an element of that but that the lessons of 2012 had shown that the best drivers adapt to the tires and are able to push, “It’s something the drivers are in control of, so it’s in their hands,” he said.
He also said that Pirelli is likely to retain its existing test drivers, Jaime Alguersuari and Lucas di Grassi.
And it was announced that the winner of the GP2 series will get a day of F1 tire testing as part of his prize, to encourage the development of young drivers. He also noted that the teams are not asking for low-profile 18 inch tires from 2014 onwards and was cautious on the idea.
To help out the audiences who struggled to tell the difference on TV between the hard and medium tires, Pirelli has now color coded the hard tire with an orange sidewall.
Marco Tronchetti Provera, Pirelli president said, “Many things have changed but one thing that has not changed is passion and competition.
“The effort that has been made has improved the grip, so better performance. Also the effort has been made to make the sets closer in terms of performance to make it harder for the teams to choose the tires. We’ve been asked to introduce more uncertainty. Last season by the end the drivers were able to keep the same tires for most of the race.”
Provera said that Pirelli wishes to continue in F1 beyond the end of the current contract which expires in December. “We are confident,” he said.
He brushed off suggestions that producing tires which last only 20 laps sends out the wrong signals about Pirelli’s road tires, saying that making tires which will last for 70 laps is easy, but to make tires which challenge the teams is a much more complex technical exercise in the service of the show.
Former Ferrari F1 driver Jean Alesi was announced as a Pirelli brand ambassador, “To be back in such a company is a dream of a sportsman,” said Alesi, who raced in Pirellis with Tyrrell in his spectacular 1990 season. “I’m happy to be part of the team and I’m happy to follow what Pirelli will do.” James Allen on F1