F1 still slow? Blame F1 software, not Pirelli

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I have a lot of time for Pirelli and their quest to provide Formula 1 with the show-spicing high degradation tire construct. They’ve taken their lumps over the years when the tire compounds have been tweaked to either make the degradation more aggressive or less.

The refrain becomes either they are too soft and artificially impacting the racing—not to mention dangerous with de-laminating tires—or they are too durable or conservative lasting too long during a race.

This year’s cars were suggesting that the energy applied through the tire would increase in 2015 and the lap times would lower as a result. That hasn’t come to fruition as Pirelli’s Paul Hembery told AUTOSPORT.

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“If we wanted to be self-critical we are finding this year wear and degradation levels are improved over last year, and the cars are maximising the tyres for a far greater number of laps.

“Canada was a one-or-two-stop race, and we have been given the task of creating a two-to-three, so we are a few laps shy of that at the moment.

“The reason being is we did some work on the rear tyre and that has allowed the teams to balance all four corners of the car much better.

“We’re seeing no great differences between the teams this year. It’s very minor, with more laps being gained out of the tyres.

“That rear tyre has enabled them to set the car up differently and balance things out.”

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The comment was in response to Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, suggesting they had gone too conservative this year and that the tire was too good or durable as it was possible for a one-stopper in Canada.

The overall impact of the tire in comparative lap times versus last year have ranged between -0.4s to -1.5s depending on the circuit. Canada showed a -1.517s reduction in overall lap time and Hembery says that’s a bit of a surprise given the times that were being set during winter testing:

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“We’ve not seen the performance improvements anticipated at the start of the year, and which were suggested in winter testing and Melbourne.

“There has only been a marginal pace improvement over last year, which has again been a bit of a surprise”.

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In many ways, I’m the wrong person to be arguing in defense of Horner’s comments as I feel the HD tire gambit has run its course. I think it is time to move away from constructs and get back to real tires and better racing.

I am confounded for a decent analogy but it is sort of like Apple’s approach to technology. The regulatory oversight in F1 is similar to the software Apple creates around their product designs. It’s a bit draconian and it limits what you can do with the device but if they get it right, it can produce a wonderful user experience. If you get it wrong, you get the Apple newton or Apple maps which sends you off in the wrong direction…literally.

The proverbial software (regulations) of F1 has, or is, creating a bad user experience. It’s becoming more Newton than iPhone if you will—more old-school Blackberry than Galaxy S. Pirelli’s efforts can only be commended regardless of how you feel about this year’s compounds and their performance gains or lack thereof.

Pirelli have done an outstanding job of delivering what F1 wants and keeping their integrity intact while making a product that does the very thing their tires aren’t suppose to do…wear out quickly.

The reverse analogy might be like Apple making an iPhone that has a battery that only last 30 minutes. The public might think it is a nice product but what’s the point if it lasts 30 minutes? Why buy Pirelli tires if they can’t make it through a race? Surely any other company would want the opposite fan impression of their product?

I’m not concerned over the lack of faster lap times as I put much of that down to the power unit and lack of shove, not the tires. Sure, tires play a factor, no doubt, but it isn’t the leading factor in my mind. If F1 wants to find quicker lap times, don’t beat Pirelli up about it, take a look at your engines and fuel-flow rates.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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Yeti

It’s not only the engine (which, in theory, is more powerful). It is a combination of factors, incuding more conservative tyres than in 2013, heavier cars and less downforce (which makes it faster on the straights, but slower in the corners).

To blame it only on the engine is short-sighted.

John Palermo

The engines are more powerful than what? In the V10 era engines were reaching 1000hp, and F1 has been past the 1000hp mark in the past, so what are you comparing to? The author is right when he talks about the problem with the fuel-flow rates. That’s what he’s talking about. Without them, even these engines should be allowed to go faster.

Negative Camber

short-sighted? What’s with all the public humiliation around here these days? Has everyone forgotten how to have polite discourse today? :) Mate, fuel flow is an issue and the engine (ICE) is not as powerful as they used to be. the hybrid systems may be able to reach higher but they are limited. It’s a combination of things but the lump is the biggest culprit of why they aren’t faster, not the tires. the rest are complimentary to the reasons as you rightfully said but shove is always the biggest element and this is supposed to be the era of… Read more »

Yeti

Didn’t mean it disrespectful. I just think the focus is too much on the engine. Increasing fuel flow will make them faster but i doubt they will actually run faster. Maybe for some short periode of time. Not the major part of the race. Just like the short sprints they do because of the tyre wear. Fuel load also will have to be increased, which makes the cars slower because of the weight. And teams will just load enough fuel to go the distance at the slowest speed possible to win to safe fuel, Like they did with Lewis in… Read more »

Negative Camber

I agree with you there and I think many of the folks in this thread are also in agreement that an increase in fuel flow and running the dog poop out of that ICE would make a huge difference. Supplement the turbo lag with MGU’s and that’s a super cool package. :) Not sure if it would be faster than before as weight and reduced aero are in play here but it would be much better than we have now. I’m pretty sure of that. ;)

Shane Phillips

The Mercedes and Ferrari engines are considered to be about 30hp more powerful than they were, and the fuel flow regulations haven’t changed, if someone thinks that more powerful engines = slower lap times I’d suggest they re-learn maths. The weight limit has been increased, amounting to a loss of about a second a lap. If you account that with the fact that Mercedes are about half a second up on where they were last year, that puts their actual performance gain at about 1.5 seconds. Pretty respectable I’d say. Blaming Pirelli is unfair, but so is blaming the engines.… Read more »

Negative Camber

The weight increase is certainly a factor as well. That’s a good add to the equation. I’m still not quite convinced the engine (power unit) is a lot more powerful than historic iterations. Torque certainly is. I can’t recall what they said the total HP of the complete power unit is these days. If memory serves, the ICE is around 650bhp and the hyrbid is 120kwh but I know at full throttle the system goes as fast as possible with the available energy it has on hand including all components. Somehow, I am still struggling to believe these are as… Read more »

Shane Phillips

Sorry, I meant in comparison with Last year’s lap times not any time in history. Should have made that more clearly, my apologies.

Though I realise they only get (29.7s IIRC?) to use it per lap, if the MGU-K is capable of delivering ~160 bhp, wouldn’t that extra boost put these current power units pretty much around the same hp output as the naturally aspirated V10s?

Mike

Blame Pirelli. Rock hard, gripless tyres which inspire 0 confidence. Bring back high performance tyres which are super grippy, give the drivers joy and confidence, and lets them drive 60 quali laps. Stop detracting from the issue. Pirelli have even banned camber adjustments because their tyres are so questionable. Its a joke.

Negative Camber

Hmmm.I know they sent out some directives last year regarding the camber and other details due to the teams using them beyond the recommended tolerances. That was a knock-on from the de-laminating issues of a couple years ago. I have not read about directives this year but it seems they would have the same concerns for sure. They provided a tire F1 asked for and I can’t blame them, after the lashing they got two years ago, for making a more durable tire. We’ll disagree on that point. :) However, I’m with you on getting back to super good tires… Read more »

rambaldi

Pretty sure the camber directive was due to Red Bull running the tires backwards and the wrong sides of the cars with them tilting them in completely the wrong direction so that the one wall was hopelessly overstressed versus the other. Well beyond what was expected, planned for and safe. Or was that all further back?

Negative Camber

That rings a bell. I think you’re right on the one mate. I knew someone was running them way out of recommended use. :)

rambaldi

The issue I think is the aero. It isn’t what we want to see because it stops them racing close but a big part in the loss of race time is down the reduction in downforce. We didn’t like the off-throtle blown floors and diffusers and the double diffusers etc. but they made the cars faster. Bring those things back and Adrian Newey won’t run away and I think we will get much faster lap times again. The engines have the power to push it all through the air but the cars can’t stick to the road as well as… Read more »

Coji

I get the point of the aero – if you can’t carry speed through the turns, the tires won’t wear as quickly, and speeds will ultimately decrease as well.

However, for me, the bigger part is the fuel flow. No matter what aero, the fuel restriction and the lift-and-coast of now doesn’t even afford them the chance to carry what speed they have through the corner. Anyway, carrying as much speed as the car allows would result in wear if they were able to slide and grip to the chassis’ extent.

rambaldi

Lift and coast is just another method of slowing down for the corner that is more fuel efficient than blasting the accelerator till you are closer and then jamming on the breaks. It isn’t as fast at getting rid of the speed but the strategists have decided that it is faster over a race distance than carrying the extra fuel. See the Mercs under-fuelling their cars regularly and not just in Canada, although track position plays a big part of that as well. It isn’t as fast and exciting as extracting the most out of the breaks and tyres but… Read more »

John The Race Fan

Whether or not you want to lay blame on Pirelli, they are part of the cause, but at the direction of the FiA. So are the PU manufacturers. And the aero designers. And the regs that limit fuel flow rates. The yutz that came up with DRS to allow aero-assisted passing And… The tire compounds Pirelli present each week are one piece of the FiA’s “Safety Theater”, is it not? Just like the VSC, neutered circuits, and helmet design restrictions, the FiA wants to create the illusion of safety with cars traveling at speed. Part of that is slowing the… Read more »