As we get ready to re-start the 2016 Formula 1 season with the return to Belgium on the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit, the teams will be doing so with the Medium, Soft and Super-Soft tire compounds.
The Pirelli tires will take a drubbing on this venerable but arguably best circuit on the calendar. Loads through the tires are among the biggest of the year due to the long and fast corners.
Elevation changes also create vertical forces for tires through compressions like Eau Rouge.
There are plenty of overtaking opportunities, which means that strategy options are quite open.
Also in Pirelli tire news, the 2017 tire tests with modified mule cars got underway at the beginning of the month, with Ferrari at Fiorano (driven by Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Gutierrez on wets) and Red Bull at Mugello (driven by Sebastien Buemi on slicks).
Some teams, such as Williams, have stated that it is a bit unfair that the big three teams get to test the 2017 tires and they’ve asked that the first few races, tire selection should be mandated to eliminate the big three from using insider information to make the best choice and have a tire advantage right out of the box.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery feels differently:
“On this occasion what we test on one car might be one small part of the jigsaw that hasn’t been matched with another bit we’re testing on another car.
“So you’ll be grasping at straws to understand what the final product is, and in terms of getting an advantage, it’ll be marginal.
“In subsequent years we can test with all the teams because we’ll be able to test on the actual car.
“Because the aero is changing for next year, that’s been the issue this year. If they’d only changed the tires we could have tested with a lot more teams.
“As it is we have to be thankful – and the other teams have to be thankful – because the top teams have taken on this responsibility.
“Whilst we are making a financial investment ourselves, the teams have had to do that as well.
“So I think the other teams in F1 ought to be thankful the changes have come about thanks to the support of the three larger teams.”
So Williams and the like should be grateful for the big teams who have spent the cash to test the 2017 tires by expensing a mule car for the session. At first blush I thought that may come across as a bit heavy handed but reading the AUTOSPORT article further revealed what I believe is actually the reality of this initial advantage fear:
“Any negligible advantage could be eliminated quite quickly if we go winter testing at a location that has representative conditions because then your learning curve would be rapid,” he said.
“Going to Barcelona when there’s still ice on the ground in the morning isn’t going to help you, so if the teams think about it the logical place to go would be somewhere warm – Bahrain or Abu Dhabi.”
I do think this initial winter tests will reveal to all teams the kinds of performances they can expect and to Hembery’s point, if they can test at circuits where the track and air temps are moderate, that would be a big help.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT