2011 F1 testing
Pirelli say any decision to change tyre compounds during the season will be made in conjunction with the FIA to avoid accusations of favouritism.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said changes might be necessary during the season: “We’re humble enough to say that we can’t possibly know everything after six months of testing on our own.
“If there is a case we will decide with the FIA – and it would be with the FIA, it won’t be with the teams, because you risk then giving favouritism.
“You can imagine if one team’s managing the situation very well and others are struggling then if we make a change it’s more likely going to help the ones that are struggling – we’re certainly not going to assist the ones that are managing the tyres very well.
“So if we do make a change it has to be done in an impartial way, and that can only be done really by sitting down with the FIA and saying ‘in our belief, as tyre supplier, we’d like to make this change’.”
Hembery said a new version of the super-soft tyre would be introduced in the next test at Barcelona:
“There’s no changes based on this test. There is a super-soft that’s going to Barcelona that we have updated, but that was already planned before Jerez.
“So there’s nothing new happening from now until the start of the season. It’s all things that were already in the pipeline.”
Some drivers have suggested they could need four pit stops for tyres in some races. Hembery doesn’t agree: “Not from the data we’ve seen, no. I’d question why they would be doing four.
“There might be three. You’ve got to bear in mind there’s differences between teams, so I’ve got to be very careful what I say.
“But I still envisage two, in the worse case maybe some will have to do three, but four doesn’t really match the data that we’re seeing.”
The number of tyres each team can use at a race weekend remains the same as last year. Hembery doesn’t see a need for it to be increased:
“I don’t think you need to. There’s always been more tyres than you’ve needed for a weekend, so you’ve always had extra tyres. You just need to manage it better.
“I don’t understand why we’d end up with four changes, because the data doesn’t back that up.
“But if the teams wanted extra tyres then instead of returning tyres on the Friday night, you could maybe leave those tyres with them, something like that. But I don’t just see that you need to increase tyre numbers.”
As several drivers have pointed out, the variation between the performance of the four different types of tyre is greater than it was with Bridgestone:
“Overall we’re looking here at about three seconds between the four compounds, from super-soft through to the hard.
“Which is what we were trying to do, because then it plays into the strategy game – you’re going to have to make a decision between absolute performance and longevity.”
He said tyre durability is “in line with what we were expecting” to produce more strategic variations:
“It’s actually a very complex thing to do as I hope you can imagine because if you did something that lasted too long the teams you do one tyre change, which is what they’ve done in the past. They’ll qualify on something, change it as soon as possible, then go on to one choice of tyre for the whole race.
“To get away from that you’ve got to almost force them to a point where – most races are 300-320km, so you’re aiming for about 100km on your main choice.”
He described himself as “very pleased” with the dry tyres’ performance so far but was hoping to see how the wet weather rubber would perform:
“We’d rather hoped we’d see some rain to try the rain tyres, it looks like it’s going to arrive too late in the day now.
“We did manage to do some good work on the hard, the medium and the soft compound. The super soft was really just used in the morning, some people wanted to do a fast time I guess.”
He said Jerez was a useful test of how the tyres performed on an abrasive circuit:
“That is certainly one of the question marks we have – because we’ve tested in hot temperatures, in Barcelona and here, with ten degrees more track temperature, and found results not too different to what we’ve had here, so we don’t expect deterioration with higher temperatures.
“It’s more related to the abrasiveness of the circuit, as opposed to temperature. It’s not hugely temperature-related.”
He also described how some drivers have been able to prolong tyre life by altering their driving style:
“One thing we have noticed is that drivers, particularly in the first four or five laps, if they look after their tyres, will have quite a significant impact on the longevity of the product. Certainly in the initial laps they really need to look after their tyres.
“Not everybody has been running KERS here and that’s something that we do have to learn about yet – at what point are they using the KERS as they come out of the corner.
Obviously it’s a big boost so most of them are going to try to use it in a straight line but I guess the really talented drivers will be trying to get it down as soon as they feel they can hold the car. And they’re obviously going to be at the limit of grip. So that might be another area where drivers need to be careful.”
He added: “We’re taking quite an aggressive approach. From that point of view, on these cars it’s always going to be the rear tyres that takes the punishment, so we’re stressing the rear tyres a lot.”
Pirelli are also running a car in Monza, provided by HRT, but Hembery described that as “50kph filming for an advert. It’s not testing.”
Asked about drivers who struggled with tyre warm-up problems last year Hembery laughed and said, “They won’t have that problem this year! The tyres warms up very quickly.”
Image © Pirelli