When Formula 1 decided to make wider cars and tires for 2017, they also decided to increase the amount of downforce generated by at least 20%. With those parameters in mind, sole tire supplier, Pirelli, had to create a tire for 2017 that could withstand the side-loading, wear rate and overall punishment the new cars would deliver.
With several races under its belt so far in 2017, some have argued, and perhaps not without reason, that the tire compounds for 2017 were too hard or too conservative. There may be some credence to that criticism as Pirelli will no longer be bringing its hard compound to any of the remaining races this season.
As the teams prepared for the Baku Grand Prix this weekend, Pirelli admitted that they would have left the medium compound at home had they had the opportunity to change the compound.
“There are some comments, ‘Pirelli is confused’,” said Isola.
“We are not confused. We just have a better knowledge of our product, so we can make something that is a bit more aggressive or challenging.
“We have a certain number of weeks when we have to decide the compounds in advance. That is nine weeks for European events, 15 weeks for overseas events.
“When we decided the compounds for Baku we didn’t have a lot of information.
“So the only possible choice was something reasonable, that was medium, soft and super-soft.
“If I had to decide a compound for Baku now, it is clear that I’m not going to use a medium.
“You will see some races with a compound selection that – I don’t want to say makes no sense – but there is a story behind that.
“Don’t forget that if you see some races where we are still conservative, and some races where we are a bit more aggressive, it is because we had to decide some races quite in advance, and some races with more information.”
Tires have been a critical element in 2017 with many drivers suggesting that they are too hard and do not provide enough grip as well as offer a very narrow temperature window with which to work.
That may be true but I have been enjoying the reduced artificial tire degradation as a result and in the end, it’s the same for everyone. However, Pirelli says It has a plan for 2018.
“For next year we are planning to go one step softer, because it looks like the right decision,” he said.
“When we made the plan at the beginning of the year we could rely only on information provided by simulation.
“On simulation we saw the highest loads, so in general more stress on the tyre compared with what we experienced on track.
“That’s why we were in general conservative, or it looks like we were now conservative.
“But with the data we had at the beginning of the year, it was the right decision.
“Now with a more reliable number we can move one step softer for next year, and we can have one step softer compounds for some races.”
I think it is a natural progression given actual data and a reminder that all the speculation, simulation and best guesses are perfectly fine in deducing a direction but real, measurable data can often times differ from what your best estimates can provide. It’s the same for F1 car design via CFD or wind tunnel metrics. They may be really good data sets but actual running on track in anger will produce truth, not just best calculations.
Regardless, I think Pirelli had a tall order to provide in 2017 and they’ve done a good job because this could have gone the other way with a tire too soft and de-lamination issues or worse.
Hat Tip: Autosport