Pirelli tests to find purple cliff

A couple of years ago I felt that Pirelli, who had been charged with making a high degradation tire which prompted pit stops, got caught up in the idea of trying to outsmart the race engineers and infused themselves too deeply into the team strategy in an attempt to stump the chump. This left us with exploding tires at the British Grand Prix.

The following year, the Italian tire maker went backwards and was accused of being too conservative. You can’t win. Even this year the drivers were complaining about the tires at Spa.

As we start the first off-season test today, Pirelli are looking to sort out their new super, super soft tire for 2016. The Purple-banded tire will be a feature for some circuits and Is supposed to offer more options next year. Pirelli motor sport boss, Paul Hembery, said:

“We would have liked more pitstops this season, but that is not something we can change without quite extensive testing,”

“Whilst the ultra-soft next year will give us more options for certain races, it’s not going to dramatically change the scene. That’s something we need to look at for ’17.

“We’ve one shot for next season, and we don’t know if it will work the way we want it to, but we are trying to bring back a ‘cliff’ into it.

“While it may create more pitstops, what we don’t know is if it will create any differences in strategy, which is the ideal solution.”

It’s an interesting position and one can assume that F1’s edict to Pirelli for next year was to get the tires in a more aggressive posture prompting more artificial underpinnings to the show. It’s, quite honestly, the direct opposite of what F1 fans actually want.

Fans have been groaning about the constructs currently used in F1 to “spice up the show” and the tires are starting to become a real bugbear in the equation. It’s not more passes via pit stops and a tire that confounds team strategists for the first six races of the season, it’s the drivers racing each other and pushing as hard as possible to win. That’s what fans want, not this un-authentic notion of racing. There’s nothing authentic or genuine about a fifth compound tire intended to create more pit stops due to a “cliff” in their performance window.

Once again, Pirelli have done a terrific job of providing what was asked for but in the end, the fans never asked for HD tires and have actually had their fill of the wonky gambit to make F1 exciting again.

It takes technology to be able to create a tire that artificially degrades quickly and has a cliff-edge performance window. However, F1 is supposed to be about pushing the limit of innovation—just look at the demand for hybrid power units—and yet we want the press forward in innovative technology to be supported by dumbing down the tires? What good is all this technology if you’re going to put it on four tires that can’t handle much of it?

Perhaps I am reading too much into the situation and making tires with differing performance characteristics is actually a very high-tech thing to do. If that is the case, then I’d advocate bringing all of them and let the teams choose which tire to use and when. Then there is that demand that says a teams must use both compounds per race—is that something we should still do? In the end, I’d like to go back to asking Pirelli to focus on making a tire that works well on all the chassis’s on the grid and bring three options to each race so the teams can pick the best option for their car and the track. We used to do this and no one had any issues with it.

Then again, I’m for having more than one supplier of tires in F1 too. If the goal is to prompt pit stops in order to spice up the show, I think we’re missing the bigger picture. There was a reason refueling was advantageous because a team could run light and this made them faster. Sure, they sacrificed mileage but then the speed made up for the pit stop delta and depending on your race strategy, it could give you an advantage.

Maybe I’m missing the big picture and the HD tires are effectively doing the same thing. Maybe I am just being a stick in the mud on this issue but I’ll leave you with this: refueling’s effect on F1 meant drivers were pushing flat out in order to make their light fuel load work. HD Tires in F1 means drivers are driving to lap times and nursing tires. That’s a different scenario even though both elements prompted pit stops.

What do I know? Nothing apparently, but at this point, why not just reverse the situation and make the tire get better the more laps you complete instead of worse? Hell, if constructs are what we’re doing these days, why not make the tire turn red when the cliff is reached so fans can see it on TV? Why not put vanilla extract in the compound so there’s a pleasant smell wafting around the circuit as the drivers wear down their tires?


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Mike Martin

Can’t agree more….they HAVE done a good job delivering what’s been asked for but the problem (or root of the problem) is with those doing the asking. It seems for at least the last few years, new procedures/processes have been introduced that has only made the show less attractive for the fan. Sorry…..guess I’m saying the same thing as you.

Tom Firth

Don’t worry Todd, it will take them six years, four committees and three levels of voting to decide whether to make vanilla scented tyre smoke ;-)


Obviously the purple sidewall tires would be lavender scented.

Richard Piers

This time I agree absolutely. Altogether too much messing and too much aerodynamics.
The proposed larger wings will just result in more turbulence problems and likely more damage.


They speak of this cliff as if it is expected to happen halfway through a lap.

Paul KieferJr

Yanno, if they wanted purple cliffs, maybe they should get some purple paint and head over to Dover. :-D


I must have missed the memo where everyone agreed that more pit stops was we all wanted.

Yes, show me more of cars stopping for service. Heck I spend most weekends down at the quicklube watching oil changes any ways.

Johnpierre Rivera

Excellent post. Really getting to the points here. Todd once again your have put into words what I think most of us are feeling….