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More thoughts on Pirelli’s F1 debut
Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Nov 2010   |  7:04 pm GMT  |  73 comments

There is a general feeling of satisfaction with last weekend’s first Pirelli F1 test in Abu Dhabi, with teams reporting that the tyres are at a good level already and Pirelli themselves saying that the data and feedback from teams correlates well with the learnings from the test programme using the 2009 Toyota. It’s impressive to think that they only started testing in August this year.

Tyres are the taking point again (Darren Heath)


A common theme from teams is that the fronts are stronger relative to the rears than the last generation of Bridgestone tyres. Normally this would lead designers to look at a forward weight distribution, but as that is now controlled at 45% to the front, following a FOTA decision, teams are going to have to find other ways of balancing the cars out.

Another feature which came out of the two day test was that the tyre degradation was quite high and did not reach a point of stabilisation. We’ve got so used to everlasting tyres with Bridgstones – the tyres were just too good, too durable. Bridgestone are a more conservative company than Pirelli.

Of course this is something Pirelli may well change over the winter before the next tests in February. But if they do not for any reason, it will mean that drivers will not be able to pit on lap one and do the whole race on hard tyres as we saw many times this year, including memorably in Abu Dhabi with Petrov and Rosberg.

It is likely to lead to more stops, more variable and unpredictable racing. Of course Pirelli are not going to want their tyres to be seen to be falling apart on worldwide TV, or a repeat of Canada this year where the tyres were not suited to the conditions, but at the same time, the current development path looks like a trend to be welcomed from a racing point of view.

The one slighty shocking thing from the test was that the Red Bull car suffered two rear tyre failures, one on each day. The feedback I’m hearing is that this is not something Pirelli or the other teams are worrying about. It’s being analysed now and is possibly to do with the design of the Red Bull, either its rear suspension geometry or some rubbing somewhere.

Although they tested with 2010 specification cars they are all working towards 2011 tyres, which will need to work with the new fixed weight distribution,higher weight, KERS and different downforce levels, due to the banning of the double diffuser.

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73 Comments
  1. Jo Torrent says:

    Hopefully, they’ll need to stop more than once and if not they’ll have to nurse their tyres.

    1. Wayne says:

      Is it me or are these tyres a vastly different shape that the current Bridgestones? They seem much more rounded… Is this the case james or just a trick of the camera? If so what are the design implications for an F1 car of a different shped tyre? Seems to me that a more rounded tyre reduces the contact patch?

      1. James Allen says:

        They are different yes.

      2. malcolm.strachan says:

        The effect comes more in terms of aerodynamics, rather than mechanical grip. The different shape will affect the aero-wake and down-stream effects of the tire. I am sure many teams are trying to get assurance that the tire will remain in the same shape so they can do more accurate wind-tunnel and CFD testing over the winter.

  2. Frankie says:

    Kubica had some more cautious words on this testing, basically that it means very little.

    We know how the tyres perform in comparison to the grand prix, but how representative is that with all the rubber that was subsequently laid down and heat of the day. One certainty we do have is the wear rate is higher.

    Bearing in mind this was the 2010 cars being tested, with the 2011 cars going to have far less grip. If wear is a problem now, just wait until next season. I would go further than Kubica’s comments, I can’t see why things will not be a lot worse unless Pirelli change things. It’s one thing having less durable tyres, it’s another when they have to be replaced after a few laps.

    The RBR side wall cuts are not really an issue at present, but that is significant statistically when you can see little reason on the track for such events. Side wall failures are a definite concern for safety, especially remembering why we only had a handful of cars running in the last US grand prix.

  3. Andy Gibson says:

    I hope that Pirelli keep their tyres more marginal than Bridgestone. Sure they don’t want high profile failures but going further in that direction has to be good for racing. And it’ll have us all talking about the tyres – no publicity is bad publicity!

    On the subject of the test, I’m surprised that Pirelli did not also run it’s own test car/team at Abu Dhabi.

    This would have given them a good baseline as to where their car/driver were compared to the current teams to allow them to better understand past and future test results.

    Seems like an opportunity missed.

  4. JimmiC says:

    “Of course Pirelli are not going to want their tyres to be seen to be falling apart on worldwide TV”

    You know, this never occured to me, because I’m a bit dim. Every time we get an exciting race because of duff tyres and we praise how graining or blisters have made the race come alive, the executives are crying into their handkerchiefs..

    So, any suggestive plans to force tyre companies to make tyres that only last a certain amount of laps are a waste of time then..?

    1. Declan says:

      I think there is a solution to appease both camps – but it’s probably too ‘radical’ a change.

      Currently, the rule states that each car needs to be on both sets of compounds during a dry race. But why can’t this be dropped for specified races (perhaps initially 2-3) so that cars can run the whole race on one set of tyres?

      Of course there are lots of simulation models that need to be run and other variables to be considered … but I could imagine Spa, Monza and Silverstone having this rule (ironically because there are more genuine spots to overtake at these ‘historic’ tracks than others on the calendar).

      Scenario #1: if the tops cars choose to hard compound with no pitstop, I could see mid/rear teams taking advantage and qualifying near the front.
      Scenario #2: if the teams are as closely matched as this year, a Rosberg/Abu Dhabi scenario could occur whereby a top team who is slightly off pace gambles on a hard tyre strategy.

      I don’t think this is considered artificial (i.e. that dreaded sprinkler idea) and I think this adds another dimension to an already long 19 race season. However I still think that the greater majority of races should have mandatory pitstops as this is a great variable and a showcase for the ‘team’ element of F1.

      1. Michael says:

        I think the rule should be changed so that IF you change tyres during a dry race, then you must use both compounds during the race. This leaves open the option for teams to run the whole race on one set of tyres. Adds an extra dimension to strategy.

      2. Ohm says:

        Yeah agree but for that to work for me, the tyres have to be struggling to get to the end unlike what we saw too often this year..Vettel at Monza springs to mind!

        James you said Pirelli doesn’t want a repeat of Canada but I sure thought it was one of the most enjoyable race of the season! :) And not for once did I think less of Bridgestone as a tyre manufacturer. If Pirelli were to make Canada-like situation tyres, I would rather even think more highly than lowly of them for being brave and going for the more ‘challenging’ route! :)

      3. James Allen says:

        To be clear I don’t think we want that every race. To have it from time to time is fascinating, but if F1 just became tyre-limited racing, then it would lose its appeal quite quickly

    2. DC says:

      This argument is interesting to me. The tyre companies want to showcase a product of course but I don’t agree with the premise that watching the tyres fall apart means we won’t buy the road going variant.

      this is a classic case of the PR men treating their customer base as stupid. personally I would like a little more credit please. I do know the difference between a race tyre and a road tyre and that it is ok for the race tyre to be a made of a compound that helps the show.

      reading this blog shows me I am not alone. Might be arrogant of me to say so but F1 is a technical sport and the fan base is very well informed. To get the most out of the sport you need to understand the formula and the tyres are a very important part of that

      Give us some credit please pirelli!

      1. monktonnik says:

        I agree.

        During the Canadian Grand Prix this year I was actually pleased that the tyres weren’t lasting. I didn’t think that this translated into Bridgestone having poor road tyres at all. In fact if anything having too conservative a tyre makes the brand seem less sporting and therefore less attractive to performance car enthusiasts.

        Pirelli need to produce tyres that are good for the racing and very good wets and inters.

  5. Nick F says:

    I guess either the Red Bull ride height system is messing with the tyres, or the flexible parts of the car are bending and cutting into them.

    …that’s not a serious comment! ;-P

    1. Phil Bishop says:

      very good

    2. Ohm says:

      Or Alonso secretly sniped Vettel’s tyres! XD

  6. Brian says:

    Why do you think teams found that the hard tyres suffered far more degradation than the softs?

  7. Alex Attard says:

    I would like to see tyres not capable of doing more than 10 to 20 laps so at least we see 2 pit stops for sure. It will give more chance of team errors hence a chance to spice up a race.

  8. Andy C says:

    Let’s hope for the sake of the racing that they don’t overdo the improvements on degradation. I’d like to see tyres that can’t do the whole race. That’s good advertising for le mans, but this is supposed to be more edgey….

    Might it be something to do with the different geometry (as I think they are the only pullrod on the grid)…

    Unless it’s something to do with the big lever ok the cockpit that lowers the car for quali :-)

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      A pull-rod doesn’t change the geometry; it is only the lengths and location points of the upper and lower control arms that affect the geometry. It doesn’t matter if you have a push-rod, pull-rod, exposed coil-over (like in the 60′s) or transverse leaf-spring… the only thing that can change the motion of the wheel relative to the chassis are the control arms.

      1. Andy C says:

        Interesting to know Malcolm. Thanks.

        Whatever rb are doing, they seem to be affecting the tyres more than others.

  9. Richard Bell says:

    Glad to see the tyres are wearing more, races might be less predictable now. Does anyone know if all the teams are running with KERS next year?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not the new teams, but most of the rest yes. The increased minimum weight has made it more attractive

    2. Galapago555 says:

      Btw, are they using the KERS in all the tracks, or is it going to be decided depending on each track set up?

  10. BMG says:

    James, when will the teams test with the 2011 car? Can you see one team having an advantage with the new rules and tyres?

    1. Galapago555 says:

      They will start as of February 1st, aren’t they?

  11. Andras F. says:

    It will be interesting to see how much Pirelli will make their tyres fast degrading. They must find a compromise between making tyres which are spicing up the show and avoid comments like ‘these Pirelli tyres are not lasting too long’.
    The real fans who are understanding the sport will not be influenced by hearing that but an average viewer may have stereotypes about Pirelli tyres when looking for new set for a road car.

    1. Phil Bishop says:

      any road car driver, F1 fan or not, that thinks there is a direct correlation between the performance of the tyres on their family saloon and an F1 car is clearly not intelligent enough to be given a licence and should not be allowed to drive!

      1. Rich C says:

        LOL yes!
        But nonetheless, *they are out there on the roads every day, and they buy tires every day. SO guess who the target demographic is?

  12. Stephen Morris says:

    Seems to me that the single tyre manufacturer rule is a no-win.
    If the tyres are good then they last the whole race and the manufacturer is blamed for making the race boring.
    If they fail after a few laps, well then the tyres are pants because they fail after a few laps.
    How can any tyre manufacturer succeed in that environment?

  13. Umar Ali Hayat says:

    In 1991 the last time i think Pirelli was a try supplier to F1 teams. Their tyre were very good for Quali and not that good or durable in races as James wrote in another article. It would be interesting.

    Though i think being a supplier for Formula 1 Tyres says something in itself so…you get my point.

  14. JK says:

    It seems that the weaker pirelli rear tyre could throw up some interesting problems for some of the teams, especially with the extra punishment from KERS and less downforce.James, do you think the higher rates of degredation might herald a return to prominence for the great strategists like Brawn?

  15. Lindsay says:

    The second to last para enigmatically ends “I remember”

    What do you remember James?

  16. plushpile says:

    I really hope the tyres are more racey next year.
    Being able to do an entire race on so called ‘soft’ tyres is ridiculous.

  17. Nick T says:

    While I appreciate Pirelli may not want it to seem that their tyres won’t last, I must admit Canada was one of the most exciting races this past year and it all stemmed from the tyres not going to plan and lasting.

    When in race refuelling was banned, part of the excitement disappeared as a result of variability (Massa in Singapore jumps to mind) but having tyres that aren’t as durable would mean more pit stops and greater variability!!

    I say make the tyres degrade quickly and lets add a dimension of unpredictability to F1!!

  18. Loti says:

    Nit picking, I know…. but having tyres that don’t last does not help racing, it may help the show, the spectacle, call it what you like but to race a driver needs at the very least, tyres that degrade gradually.
    Everyone it talking up the last season as one of the best. Because different drivers won,it certainly gave us an exciting end, pity about Yaz, but there you go, but by and large the results were down to accidents or weather.
    Pirelli say they hope the drivers will understand and not blame the tyres, and if they seriously think that, I fear they are in for a bit of a disappointment. Negative advertising may work for people who know what they are looking at but Joe Public will say, Pirelli? their tyres don’t last 10 laps,

    1. James Allen says:

      Agreed. It’s fun once in a while but F1 needs to be about excellence

      1. monktonnik says:

        Excellence is not always about endurance though.

        The problem I have is that whilst it is a feat of manufacturing that Bridgestone can make a soft tyre that lasts the entire event at a competitive level(unlike 2005)it does make a complete mockery of the 2 compound rule.

        It is a fine line, but I thought that the major talking point of this season was going to be how the drivers managed their tyres, and that this was going to be a performance differentiator.

        To be fair, JB managed to win a race based on tactical tyre calls (and SV having technical issues) and his performance in Canada was amazing, but I feel that a bit of uncertainty with a tyres longevity would force the strategists to be a bit more creative and add to the spectacle.

        The maxim at the start of the season seemed to be “track position is everything”.

    2. Stuart says:

      I believe the biggest problem with Bridgestone tyres has been the lack of difference in pace between the compunds and in some cases the hard not only being more durable than the softs but also faster!

      If Pirelli can make the compounds vary by 3-4 secs then this would certainly help without detracting from their quality or image in the media.

      1. JF says:

        That was my understanding about Bridgestone as well. When two tire types are involved, big performance differences may help the racing if teams then try different race and set-up strategies to gain an upper hand depending on how their cars use tires, but what will more likely happen is that teams will adopt more or less the same approach based on ideal race times from simulation work so tire compounds won’t make a huge difference in the end. Might be better if Pirelli only brought one type per race, maybe even randomly with respect to compound, and let the teams deal with making it work or not.

  19. Emile says:

    James,

    Slightly off-topic, but do you think there is any fact in the suggestions that Massa is to leave Ferrari before the start of 2011?

    E

    1. James Allen says:

      I think that it is possible but that does not mean it is likely. There is bound to be great unhappiness at the outcome of the championships, he played his part in helping the drivers’ title quest, but played little part in the constructors and they have to ask themselves if he will next year. Will he again be expected to move over when needed? The faultlines are there. It’s also a question of whether they could get Kubica or maybe Webber and on what terms. I wouldn’t be surprised if he left, but nor would I be surprised if he stayed.

      1. Stuart says:

        If Massa were to leave I think that every F1 fan would have all their Christmas’s at once if Kubica landed that seat, but would Fernando really allow or agree to such a strong team mate? The same would be for Webber joining surely? Fernando will be behind the scenes doing everything he can to talk up Massa and to ensure he keeps his seat or that a young No 2 replaces him that knows he is a No 2.

      2. Nico says:

        Do you still believe in the Webber possibility James? You pondered it here earlier in the year, which Mark Hughes then referred to as ‘whispers in the paddock’ in that week’s Autosport mag, but then a few weeks later both drivers made statements about renewing contract.

      3. James Allen says:

        Not really. Kubica is their 1st choice, I believe.

  20. iceman says:

    I guess if more load on the fronts is required to make the most of these tyres, and you can’t do that with weight distribution, then it’ll make front downforce enhancements like flexible wings and tea-trays even more important. Something McLaren and Mercedes will need to get to grips with over the winter.

  21. Luca says:

    I welcome the idea of the tires suffering higher degradation, if it leads to racing like we saw in Canada – about the only race that was really thrilling without the input of weather conditions.

    However, if the tires are falling off too quickly, it will be interesting to see how the teams manage the friday/saturday practise sessions. They need to run the cars to test components and dial into the track, but if the tires won’t last then they will be eating into the allocations for the race…. will lead to interesting tactics, esp where a team has a defined number 2 driver, or when a team needs the fresh tyre advantage for the race etc….

  22. Jonathan Vogt says:

    I hadn’t heard about the change to a set weight distribution. What’s the rationale behind that? Surely that will make the cars a great deal harder to set up.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s explained in the LG Tech Report I did in Brazil

      1. Jonathan Vogt says:

        Ah! Cheers, I clearly missed that one :)

    2. malcolm.strachan says:

      It’s to make KERS more attractive. In 2009, many teams preferred adjustable ballast over KERS; now that option is gone. By eliminating the possibility of using ballast as a set-up tool, then teams will be more likely to allow KERS to eat up that weight.

  23. Michael says:

    I’d like to see tyres that could just about manage the whole race (which is what we’ve had this year). Too many pit stops makes overtaking for position a poor strategy decision. That’s the last thing we need.

    What makes for good racing is changing conditions. This year the championship was decided in the last race by some teams/drivers understanding the evolution of the tyres better than others. That’s the sort of thing I want to see more of.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      Exactly. The tires should last about 80% of the race distance. Then it’s a choice: do you struggle to keep your tires on your car for the last 10 laps, or do you dive into the pits with 15 laps remaining and throw on some softs that’ll give you 3 seconds a lap in the hopes that you can catch up to and pass a few cars?

      THAT is the strategy that would make races interesting, not “will he opt for softs and then hards, or hards and then softs?”.

      Then again, I argued this about a year ago… and still the FIA hasn’t listened to me! ;-)

      1. james says:

        i think the complete oppisite. if you were looking at 4 to 5 pitstops a race then it would completly mix up the pack!

  24. Warren says:

    During the refueling days, tires lasted around 20 laps. Nobody complained then about tires going off to early because the cars needed to pit for fuel anyway.

    A consistant rate of degradation over 20 laps or so, with smoother drivers able to eek out an extra few laps, can only be a good thing.

    The Bridgestones were far to durable this year and completing almost an entire race distance on a soft tire shouldn’t be possible.

  25. azac21 says:

    James,
    do you know Pirelli would manage to keep the tyre temperature during the race at its optimal range?

    Is there a chance they can use Phase Change Material (PCM) technology, micro-encapsulated in the tyre? They could probably adjust operating temperatures this way?

  26. tom says:

    personally i think the mandatory tyre stop is compromising the tyre manufactures, they basically can’t win as has been said before.

    i would personally prefer it if they reintroduced refueling but kept the fuel restrictions. i think the best way would be to say you have an allocation of 120litre (for example) of fuel for the race but your tank is limited to 80litre capacity. it would add another variable to the stratagies and mean that tyres could be engineered with broader margins: full wets, inters, soft, medium and hard.
    if anything it would mean they run a consistantly lower fuel load but also produce fewer tyres rather than the 7 varieties we have had recently.
    i also think that rather than just starting on the same tyre from Q3 drivers should have to start on the tyres from Q2, but that’s just me.

  27. jonrob says:

    James please can you make some space in your mailbox. I am getting Quota exceeded messages when I reply to your email re book. rpa@ etc

  28. simon fehr says:

    Hi James,

    as usual, infomative and well written, but please, PLEASE…stop using the word ‘learnings’. It’s horrible, it doesn’t exist and the word you’re looking for is lessons. It made me cringe when I read it. I have enough of these social studies Americanisms at work, so I beg of you, not here too!!??

    Regards,

    Simon.

  29. John says:

    James,
    My understanding is that the “mandatory” weight distribution was only for qualifying?

    1. Robert says:

      John,

      The cars go into Parc Ferme (excuse the spelling) after quali so the weight distribution can not be greatly changed after this.

    2. Graeme says:

      But cars go into Parc Ferme and cannot be changed. So it will have to carry through.

    3. Rich C says:

      DOes all the ballast *have to be fixed in place?
      COuld some be made to be shifted on the grid, or during the race, or even be removed during pit stops?
      Suppose the driver could bring his lunch and just leave it in a nose compartment?

      1. james says:

        why not ask redbull

  30. Matt Wil. says:

    It’s funny to think that teams invest millions in making the “perfect” car and now we require Pirelli to make the worst tyres.

    How to invest millions in the car and afford with tyres. The next thing would be an aleatorius damage on each car, previous to the race, in order to see more variability in the result. I’m sure you know what “race” means and its differences with “probability experiment”:

    1. Rich C says:

      Theres an idea!
      Just give Vettel a spanner and have him run thru the grid giving each car a whack before the start!
      Get it out of his system before the race and he’d probably be an even better driver!

  31. Legend2 says:

    Hi James,
    Can you please tell us the minimum weight for this year, and will it be the same next year (I think it is around 620kg or something like that). With KERS coming in next year, surely this will be a disadvantage to larger drivers such as Bobby K, Mark Webber and Jenson Button. Surely we can campaign to make driving more equitable and lift the minimum weight. F1 should be about driving talent, not about being a jockey and dieting.
    Thanks.
    L.

  32. KM. Gondo says:

    My view is as follows:

    1) Assuming a 60 lap race, the softer tyre should be able to do 14 to 18 laps, the harder tire should be able to do 25 to 35 laps. This way every driver is forced to do at least two pitsops or more depending on how the manage their tires. This should create different tyre strategies and may be overtaking opporunities towards the end of the life of each tire.

    In choosing the tire compound allocation for each race, it would be nice if Pirelli could be guided by something like this. If they are not sure what the conditions will be like then, as a rule they should bring the hard and super soft componds.

    2) Scrap the rule that the top 10 drivers have to start the race on the same tires they set their fastest time in Q3. Same tyre compound maybe but not the exact same tyre.

  33. chris green says:

    Cuts in the sidewalls of tyres is often related to drivers putting the the tyres so far over the curbing that the inside edge of the tyre is cut by the rough outside edge of the curbing. See it all the time in ozzie v8 supercars.
    Adds to my suspicion that Vettel is hard on a car.

  34. Bruno says:

    So the Redbull generates so much rear downforce it explodes tyres! ;)

  35. James Allen says:

    No. Our records show that you are among the top ten commenters.

  36. Andy C says:

    Hi James, having problems emailing you. Says your quota exceeded. Just trying to respond to you email from a couple of days ago, but can’t get through. Thanks

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