There is an ongoing struggle to find grip in a series that features high degradation tires and now an true “Option” tire format with three compounds on offer each race weekend. This isn’t singular to Formula 1 as any racing series will search for tire grip via tire pressures and compounds but in F1, the mandated tire pressures set by Pirelli have been met with derision and the Italian company now would like the FIA to have real-time monitoring to prevent teams from playing games with the PSI rates they are running.
“The pressures we give are based on the information we have for the actual race starting pressure,” Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said.
“The last moment we can take a pressure measurement is before the regrouping [formation] lap.
“The actual pressure used at the start of the race for the majority of teams is marginally higher than last year, so the perception is the pressures have gone up substantially; the reality is they haven’t.
“What does that mean? It means some people have found a way of lowering the pressure, or maybe not having the pressure we see at the regrouping point at the start of the race.
“Some teams haven’t worked out how they’re doing it yet and the reality is we probably don’t want people spending money trying to find that advantage.
“The correct solution is we should have a live feed of tyre pressures fed through the data systems, so we can see at any one point what the minimum running pressure is, which is what we are really interested in, to avoid this grey area.
“It’s something we could introduce this year, and we believe it would be positive. It is certainly something we want to see for next year.
“Then I think it will be a little bit fairer on everybody, because some teams may not have been able to invest the money or energy into trying to find this area.
“It [live monitoring] is something that has happened in other categories of motorsport.”
It’s really nothing untoward other than the age-old quest to push the limits of the regulations and find creative ways to either interpret the regulations or outright thwart them. That’s racing.
In this case, however, the negative result of any envelope pushed too far can result in tire failure and that often times begets critical words toward Pirelli—a sole supplier keen to protect its brand while providing tires the purposefully degrade at unnatural intervals. There have been times when tire failure was caused, in Pirelli’s opinion, by too low of a PSI rate and yet the attention and words from the team were less than glowing about the reasons and Pirelli’s tire quality.
Moving forward, Pirelli are keen to reduce tire pressures for 2017 and the drivers would like that as well. The key is to create tires that respond to the conditions they are raced in and Pirelli feel the future regulations will allow for that.
Ultimately, the new three compound choice for each race has been a good addition to the 2016 season and it finally does give meaning to the old adage of a prime and option tire as NBC Sport’s Steve Matchett mentioned in qualifying broadcast of the Russian GP. I’ve not been a big fan of these HD tires and would prefer three different compounds with good quality and construction and performance to allow teams to work the options into their strategy.
With proposed wider tires in 2017 and lower PSI rates, it could be interesting to see what happens.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT