McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says he’s not expecting Pirelli’s softer 2012 tyres to be too “radical”.
Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in Neale down-played the scale of the change for 2012: “I don’t think there’s a radical shift in either compound or construction, looking to move dramatically away from where we are, I think it’s more of a trend and evolution in that respect.”
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said the new soft tyre being used in Brazil this weekend is likely to serve as the medium compound in 2011.
Discussing the 2012 tyres Hembery said: “Everyone is going to have to forget everything they’ve learned about the compounds this year. While the names are going to stay the same they’re going to be very different products.”
Neale admitted the soft tyres had been too soft for them on occasion in 2011: “On one or two of the circuits this year the soft tyre has been perhaps a little bit on the edge of where we’d ideally like it.”
However Neale added “we’ve had some terrific racing this year” and credited the tyres for improving the contest in F1:
“Like you guys I suspect we’ve all really enjoyed the racing this year where we’ve had tyres that drivers have had to be quite [careful with] at times, or at least trade outright pace for long-term performance. That’s added a dynamic to the challenge for the drivers.”
He also praised Pirelli’s handling of the teams’ occasionally conflicting tyre requirements: “Pirelli also have been very good at managing all of the teams’ expectations.
“So there isn’t division among one team or another and we’re not able to influence them any more than any other team and I think it’s important, from a governance point of view, they hold that mid-ground.”
Jenson Button has often been able to make the softer tyres last longer in 2011 but Neale expects him and team mate Lewis Hamilton to remain evenly-matched in 2012:
“In terms of Lewis and Jenson I think broadly the nature of the racing will be the same in that we’ll still see drivers pushing to get the tyre warmed up and making sure they can get a hot lap out of it in qualifying, which means that, depending on the nature of the car, some will be able to do one lap, some are going to take three of four laps to do it.
“And yes, if you’re really aggressive and flashing all over somebody’s rear view mirrors as you swing around behind them, trying to overtake them, you are definitely going to damage the tyre. And I’m sure if Martin [Whitmarsh] was here the answer to that would be ‘make the car faster, get out in front’, and I’m sure he’d be right.
“But I think it’s pretty much the same for both drivers.”
Neale also took the opportunity to dismiss speculation over a future link-up with former engine supplier Honda, saying: “That’s all wide of the mark.
“We are wedded to, very happy with and enjoying out partnership with Mercedes-Benz. We’re not quite sure how or where that broke from, in truth. No, I can scotch the rumour and say that we are entirely focused on our Mercedes-Benz relationship.”
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