Pirelli: Canada and big, fat slicks

Just as was the case for Monaco, the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft tires have been nominated for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve: a semi-permanent facility, which combines bespoke sections of track with normal park roads. But Montreal is a very different proposition to Monaco, with much higher average speeds, frequently changeable weather conditions, and a low-grip surface that often catches out even the most experienced drivers. Other important factors affecting the tires in Montreal include braking, with heat from the brakes warming up the tyros (although this year, the behavior of the brakes is different, with the new brake by wire system). There are also some notable curbs in Montreal, which force the tyre to absorb impacts as part of the car’s suspension.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director:

“We’re expecting the tyres to be worked a lot harder in Canada than they were in Monaco, with a lot more energy and greater forces going through them due to much higher speeds. This should lead to the maximum possible mechanical grip, which is certainly what’s needed in Montreal. There’s a high degree of track evolution and we frequently see a lot of sliding – especially with reduced downforce this year – which obviously puts an increased amount of stress on the tyre. But we are still expecting to have contained wear and degradation this weekend, even on the two softest tyres in the range. Canada always tends to be an unpredictable race where strategy can make a real difference, also because of the high probability of safety cars. As we saw in Monaco, taking the right strategy opportunities when they present themselves under unusual circumstances is a key element to success at any circuit that falls outside the usual mould, with Canada being a prime example. Historically, there’s a reasonable chance of rain, in which case judging the crossover points – sometimes without previous data, if each previous session has been dry – becomes crucial.”

The circuit from a tyre point of view:

Traction and braking are the two key points that affect tires in Montreal, with the increased torque and diminished downforce of the 2014 cars making the track even harder to master this year. The biggest risk is wheelspin, with the action of the tyres against the track overheating the tread. Late braking can cause flat-spotting if a wheel locks up – however, the design of the 2014 tyres have made them a lot more resistant to this phenomenon.

The cars tend to run a low downforce set-up in Montreal, to maximize a top speed of over 300kph on the straights. The trade-off for this is less aerodynamic grip through corners, meaning that the cars slide more and are more reliant on mechanical grip from the tyre compound to get round the corner.

One of the biggest challenges for the tires in Canada is the fact that the asphalt is extremely inconsistent, made up of a number of different surfaces that offer variable levels of grip. The job of the tyre compound is to smooth out these differences to offer as consistent a level of grip as possible. While Pirelli is nominating the soft rather than the medium tyre alongside the supersoft this year, all the 2014 compounds are slightly harder than their predecessors.

Big, fat slicks

Pirelli have made no bones about their position in doing what Formula 1 wants. After facing criticism over the last couple of years (including this year for their harder tires which were a compromise based upon the new regulations), Pirelli have done a really nice job of turning the Pr and brand management initiative around.

The “we’ll do whatever you want because we’re Pirelli and we can, but you chaps need to figure out what it is want and what you are trying to achieve in F1” type of statements are a pleasant departure from the forced defense of their position we’ve seen in the past.

To those ends, AUTOSPORT had an interesting article in which they asked Pirelli if they would be willing to look at a tire grip study to go back to wider tires with more grip if F1 removed serious amounts of aero. Hembery said:

“That was one of the things we discussed last year when we first saw the new regulations – having less aero and we’ll give you wider tyres,” Hembery said.

“At the time, the teams didn’t feel that was necessary and wanted us to keep the tyre sizes the same so we weren’t able to follow that.

“But we’ve always said we’ll do what the sport wants.

“If they want us to go up to the old, super-wide tyres we’ll do that; 15-inches, 20-inches – you tell us what you want and we’ll have a go at it.


“But you’ve got to decide what you’re trying to achieve.”

The elephant in the room has always been the insane amounts of aerodynamic downforce generated these days and perhaps, as the article says, Felipe Massa can add to the conversation or at least prompt a longer chat about balancing the cars a bit more toward grip than aero.

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