Pirelli unveils F1 tyres to give strategists something to work with
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Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Jan 2012   |  7:38 pm GMT  |  42 comments

Pirelli has launched the 2012 range of F1 tyres promising that they will create more exciting racing and more variation in race strategies. Although still targeting a minimum of two stops per race, Pirelli says the tyres will be more consistent in the way they degrade and be slightly more durable than last season’s, which led to four pit stops at some races.

One of the objectives for Pirelli this year is to achieve a crossover point, where the performance of the harder tyre is close enough to the soft that it’s extra durability makes it worth using, rather than merely a few laps at the end of the race to fulfil the obligation to use it. This is done by the step between the tyres being 0.8secs, rather than the larger margins we saw last year of up to 2 seconds a lap. The harder tyre was often too slow, even being used for just a single lap at the end of the race on occasions.

This will lead to wider options for race strategies and strategies are set to assume even greater importance as a result.

“Last year we made it too easy for the teams by using soft compounds at each weekend, so they based their weekends around that. This year we want to mix it up more,” said Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery.

As predicted Pirelli have gone for slightly softer compounds than in their first season last year, which will give greater grip and ease tyre warm up issues, which is welcome news for Ferrari, who suffered badly from not being able to get the harder compounds working straight away. Both driver lost positions due to this, but Fernando Alonso lost a possible win in Germany and podiums elsewhere.

Lotus Renault evictee Vitaly Petrov has been attending the Pirelli media event in Abu Dhabi, leading to speculation that he may be poised to replace Lucas di Grassi as Pirelli’s test driver. The Italian company is keen to do more track testing to improve and evaluate new compounds and constructions for its third year in F1.

But Petrov remains a candidate for Jarno Trulli’s seat at Caterham. With testing due to get underway 12 days time, that situation is likely to be resolved soon. If he doesn’t get the seat, he may well take up the Pirelli opportunity.

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42 Comments
  1. Dominic says:

    Really hope this works although it must be difficult to consider the cross-over point at this point in the season.. good luck to them, as per i think the top teams will converge onto an optimal dry tyre strategy by race 3:(

    1. Jeff says:

      That’s true about optimal for the car but not for the driver. For instance, one of the reasons Mark Webber struggled was the lack of speed on the hard tyres. There were a few examples on 2010 where Mark was at least as fast in the race on hard rubber as others on soft. Button and Hamilton also drive differently and may like alternate strategies.

      It will also help to reduce the impact of pitstop timing, it was a shame that stopping second was such a big penalty last year.

  2. Ralph says:

    Slightly related and just out of curiosity – who is Pirelli’s test driver?

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      As the article says, Lucas Di Grassi. However, Pirelli dont even have a test car anymore, so a test driver is rather pointless.

  3. William Wilgus says:

    Good intentions, hope they work. HOWEVER, with the sport wanting to go ‘green’, I fail to understand why they have not gone back to the one set of tires per race. Further, races should be won on the track by car / driver performance, not in the pits due to strategy or pit crew performance.

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      Yeah, because its not like they havnt been doing that since the dawn of motor racing.

    2. C-M says:

      It’s time the scrap the “must use both compound rule” what’s the point other than to artificially create pit stops?

      1. William Wilgus says:

        Here’s one that someone else mentioned: It forces the teams to have a more ‘tolerant’ set-up on the car, or in other words, less ‘tweaked’ for just one compound. I seem to recall that the requirement was to help the ‘second and third tier teams’ be more competitive; but how that could do that is beyond me.

      2. Dom Jones says:

        I agree. The teams all have the same choice of tyres and their software is probably almost identical. They therefoe end up doing usually very similar strategies or ones where they ‘cover’ the competitors.

        I seem to remember years ago before this rule came in and when you could re-fuel, that you would sometimes have one guy doing one stop with hard tyres and another doing two stops with the soft tyres and the strategy would be really exciting.

        Nowadays, whatever they do, the boffins and the software will all likely come up with the same solutions (strategy) to the same problems (get car to end of race as quick as possible). Allow more flexibility by withdrawing rules and the strategies will become more creative.

    3. Martin says:

      Hi William,

      I suspect a large part of it is that Pirelli (and Bridgestone before it) wants the tryes to be talked about. With one compound and/or no stops, the tyres become a non-entity.

      Cheers,

      Martin

      1. William Wilgus says:

        Hadn’t thought of it in that way. No doubt you’re right. Thanks!

  4. goferet says:

    Pirelli says the tyres will be more consistent in the way they degrade and be slightly more durable than last season
    ————————————————

    No, No, No, No, No, No, Noooooooooo!

    And there goes any hope of exciting races as a result of tyres, I mean have Pirelli already forgotten Brazil 2011?

    Why don’t Pirelli realize this cross over hogwash talk just won’t do, all we need is the old Pirelli back ASAP i.e. The ones that degrade super fast.

    Look even Whitmarsh was begging Pirelli for the old Pirellis but Noooooooooo those pompous monkeys at Pirelli think they know it all or maybe they have a Bridgestone mole within their ranks that’s hell bent on throwing a spanner in the works.

    And oh Pirelli, we most certainly DO NOT want or desire two pit stop kind of races —> No Sir!

    We want lots of pit stops, lots of unpredictable, unplanned for pit stops = Excitement for the fans!

    But seeing as Pirelli have decided to remain as stubborn as donkeys, this means DRS & KERS will be our only saviours in 2012, for we can no longer count on Pirelli to deliver.

    As for the point of keeping the silver & white tyre markings, last I checked, those two colours look strikingly the same especially from a distance.

    Seriously which people run these companies *explodes in anger*

    Now I hope Petrov gets the Caterham seat for it will be a mistake if he became a Pirelli test driver, for that’s one sure way to get forgotten by the F1 team principles.

    Better for him to become a test driver for an F1 team with the possibility of driving Friday practice.

    Good luck to him.

    1. anil says:

      There is so much wrong with your post that i don’t know where to start!!

    2. AB says:

      “we most certainly DO NOT want”…””We want lots of pit stops”
      Of course you meant to say you…

      “this means DRS & KERS will be our only saviours in 2012″

      Has testing started already? Without having seen a car turn a wheel, don’t know how you can say this?

    3. Arnie S says:

      You have a very delicate way to give JA a comment on his article :)

      I think it can be good. Face it, aside from JB, nobody could make good use of the har´der compounds in 2011.

      A closer style, but also a steep downgrading when you are “over the hill” will make races even more interesting

      1. Glennb says:

        I think it can be good. Face it, aside from JB, nobody could make good use of the har´der compounds in 2011.

        Gee, I thought Webber did OK on the harder tyre… My bad…

    4. ChrisS says:

      Hi goferet – when you say “we want” you’re speaking for some F1 fans but by no means all – I for one want the exact opposite of most of what you say “we” want :)

      Tyres that degrade super-fast and require umpteen pit stops are not what motor racing should be about – they are a means to disguise the fact that there is little or no on-track racing. I.e. they are an attempt to hide the problem, not to solve it.

      You criticise the Pirelli management – but they are in F1 to sell tyres, and last year their marketing message was “believe us, we *are* capable of making tyres that don’t fall apart instantly if we wanted to – we made the F1 tyres like this on purpose”. You can imagine a marketing man’s despair at trying to gain business from that.

  5. Bones says:

    They should havee reduced the durability of the supersoft and soft tyres so you got a fast tyre which would last a max 12 laps but still be 2 seconds quicker than the medium and hard which would last, say, 28 laps. The time in the pitlane for a tyre change would still leave us with close racing.

  6. [MISTER] says:

    I’m not sure about this. Even if they brought the compounds closer together, the teams will still base their strategy on the faster tyre.

    I, for one, am not counting on the tyres more than last year to help in putting a good show.
    I did liked last year the unknown and the tension that someone could “fall of the cliff” with its tyres, but the teams are too smart to let that happen.
    Now that they know what they’re playing with, they will be even more prepared.

    I am counting on the driver’s skills, the intuition, the strategies, the bold calls and the nature to provide us with a good show.

    James, you put a smile on my face by saying “With testing due to get underway 12 days time…”. Didn’t realized how fast the time passed. I’m so looking forward for all this to kick off.

  7. Moog says:

    Will the teams be using the same rubber in testing as they will at the first race weekend?

  8. Adam T says:

    I wish Pirelli would stop putting different colours on their tyres, its too confusing for the avid fan, let alone the new fans. Simple solution… one colour for the softer tyre, and another for the harder tyre. I do not see the benefit in having each individual tyre in a different colour.

  9. Nadeem says:

    Towards the end of the season the tyres never “fell off the cliff” hope we see that again. Congrats to Pirelli on working on improving the show

  10. Ade says:

    would be nice to see top teams being able to change strategies, but I guess it’s a difficult balancing act. Go Jenson!

  11. Richard says:

    Teams will obviously go for the faster tyre where conditions allow. Unfortunately there is not enough latitude in high degradation tyres to allow true spirited driving. It requires a smooth fast drive dependant on the cars intrinsic ability as there is no way cars can be pushed without inducing a rapid wear rate which will ultimately make drivers go backwards. High degradation tyres reward for the wrong reasons, and GP’s become a tyre strategy and consevation exercise which is not what true racing should be about.

    1. j powell says:

      Spot on! but how on earth can we get the majority that seem to think this is exciting racing to see the light. I have nearly given up on the 2012 season after two races.

  12. Hendo says:

    The FIA need to stop the practice of drivers sitting out Q3 to save a set of tyres.
    This became regular practice for Merc & Force India when they just scrapped into Q3.
    Its not fair for fans who pay hundreds of $$$ for a GP weekend ticket – or even sitting up in the middle of the night – for these teams to deprive them of seeing the cars in action.
    If you dont run in a qualifying session there should be a 10 grid spot penalty.
    That’s aside from the ‘give-up’, defeatest mentality of these teams – no wonder they drift along mid-field.

    1. C-M says:

      The problem is, the teams that previously wouldn’t go out, will just go out on old rubber.

      The rule would have to say that they need to be within say 103% of there Q2 time for example.

    2. themoonrat says:

      The only way to stop this is to give them an extra set of tyres.

      Force them to run in final qualifying or face a penalty? The teams will just trot around as slow as they can get away with then come in again.

      Force them to run at a certain % of their Q2 time? They’ll come out, do 1 lap to just about qualify within that region, and come in again.

      It’s not a defeatist mentality of those teams, it’s just, unfortunately, the best way to maximise their race weekend given the current regulations. And that’s their job!

    3. Nigel (USA) says:

      So make it mandatory and then some of the cars will slowly roll around 1 lap saving tires or, even better, using an old set and just getting in the way….Is that really going to add to your entertainment?

      It’s not “defeatist”, it’s using strategy to try and give yourself the best chance in the race.

  13. Jordan says:

    Hoping this all means a better season for Webber…

    1. Arnie S says:

      At least FA will be happy. Ferrari had hell with no warm up of the tyres

  14. K says:

    This is plain stupid. Hembery, FOTA and majority of FIA thinks having so many compounds and degrading tyres will help improve spectacle when it doesn’t!!

    There were links provided by readers here previously (on another topic) about how racing about 20-30 years ago was all-out fighting, not thinking about nursing tyres and saving fuel, plain fight. How did they manage that? Good tyres, no need to worry about degrading, coz the tyres could withstand the fights and wheel banging, they last through the entire race so all drivers had to do was fight for wins / positions.

    Just give them ultra durable tyres and let drivers do the rest for Pete’s sake!! The way Pirelli think they are doing a good job when they actually aren’t just gets more and more annoying.

    1. tom in adelaide says:

      James,

      This post needs to be immortalised within the banner of your website for time immemorial.

      It needs to be printed 1 million times and dropped from aircraft onto the homes of all Pirelli, FIA, CVC, and FOTA executives.

      I ask you, why with all the collective money and “intelligence” found within these organisations, can they not reach the simple and obvious conclusions that earth’s newest deity “K” has so succinctly provided for us above?

    2. Spinodontosaurus says:

      Provided the tires are durable enough so we dont just get an extended race long run on todays hard tires.
      2005 allowed only one set of tires per race, but had the least amount of overtaking in recent years or perhaps ever come to think of it, though it did yield the brilliant Japanese GP that year.

      1. K says:

        DRS and KERS (which will become ERS in 2012) will provide sufficient overtaking / dogfighting without this stupid idea of fast-degrading tyres. 2005 had none of that, hence boring races.

        If Bridgestone can make a tyre that can last through the entire race (recall Sauber in 2011), then Pirelli should be able to.

        In fact, what I reckon is Pirelli is incapable of producing a durable yet reliable tyre, hence they turned to the teams for an excuse of the need to make better racing by creating tyres that last for no more than twenty odd laps at most, which the teams agrees in helping them with. IF what I think is true, then Pirelli may well just leave the sport and bring back Bridgestone or bring in someone else who can do the job well.

        This tyre fast degrading thing just gets more and more and EVEN MORE irritating!!

  15. Stuart Harrison says:

    I’m not sure Petrov is such a good idea for Pirelli test driver, given that they will only get valid data if he has all four tyres on the ground…

  16. Red5 says:

    I’m more interested in teams having enough tyres to run each practice session plus qualifying.

  17. Glennb says:

    I vote for 1 tyre compound only at each event. Forget this mandatory use of 2 compounds. I also vote for the return of refuelling. I want to see the cars go as fast as they possibly can for the duration of the event. I love the different strategies and mind games this produces.
    If you want everyone to try in Q3, give them a set to use exclusively for Q3 and return them at the conclusion of qualifying. Everyone starts the race on new tyres and as much fuel as they choose.

    1. Baker1617 says:

      Well said! Formula One is about the fastest cars setting the fastest qualifying and race times that they can, however at the moment it seems to ME that it is all about conserving the car, fuel and tyres as much as possible, then when the car following pits, you pit as soon as possible to stop the ‘undercut’. I believe the cars race flat out for a period of time whilst they try to establish a gap and then ‘turn down’ the engines to conserve fuel and increase the reliability.

      It is very wishful thinking, but I would love to see re-fueling again. In my opinion, different fuel strategies gave the mid-field teams a chance to run on a lower fuel load, which help them move further up the grid and be in the action at the start of the Grand Prix if they are fast enough to get in the top spots. I personally would love to see a Mercedes in front of the faster cars (Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.) To me, that would be amazing to see; imagine Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton trying to pass, no, BATTLING it out with Michael Schumacher on track (who based on last year, the majority of times the Mercedes would have to be on a lower level of fuel for this to happen) wouldn’t that be a great challenge for the drivers and thus providing wonderful entertainment for the crowd.

      I am nothing more than a passionate Formula One fan that watches races and goes to the Australian Grand Prix but it seems to me that the answer to having an action filled race doesn’t seem to be the tyre strategy, it certainly contributes but is more the tip of the ice berg in my opinion.

      1. Spinodontosaurus says:

        More repeats of Monza 2011 can only be a god thing; bring refueling back.

  18. Richard says:

    Unfortunately the powers that be in F1 racing have liked to tinker with the character of F1 racing for a good many years and todays fiasco is just the lastest incarnation. There’s no doubt that Pirelli could produce any sort of tyre the sport asked for, and so Pirelli are actually blameless in this. Because the cars are so aero dependant they have to try and tinker in other ways to redress the balance instead of getting at the core issue of being overly aero dependant. Personally I would like to see proper plain racing with a lot more emphasis on driver skill rather than car aero efficiency.

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