We’ve heard a lot recently about the Pirelli tyres not lasting long and how this will affect race strategy this season, with three and even four stops a possibility at some races, based on current wear rates.
I’m grateful to my old friend and colleague Kaz Kawai from Japanese Fuji TV, who has patrolled the pit lane with me for over 20 years, for sending me some graphs illustrating the difference in the way the Bridgestone and Pirelli tyres function.
We had all got used to the dependability of the Bridgestones and in fact they had gone too far to the conservative side, with performance which was too perfect. Don’t forget that they developed their technology in the days when they were engaged in a tyre war with Michelin, who were very scientific in their approach and hard to beat.
But once Michelin pulled out and Bridgestone became sole supplier, with the same tyres for everyone, what we were left with was tyres which were too good.
You can see the consistency of the lap times, how little they wear, in fact the trend is upwards, showing that as the fuel burns off the laps get faster. The tyres were so good the fuel effect was significantly greater than the tyre wear.
Contrast that with the second graph (below) from Sunday’s long runs on Pirelli tyres. The trend is dramatically the other way, despite the car getting lighter as the fuel burns off and this is a graphic illustration of tyre degradation in action. It’s what the engineers and drivers are trying to find a solution to in the testing.
Look at the steep drop off in performance in the final lap or two before a stop. It’s really dramatic. As for the difference between hard and soft tyres, look at Webber’s graph, the blue one, his second set was new soft tyres and the third set was new hard tyres – there’s quite a significant difference in the rate of drop off, I’m sure you’ll agree. The softs last around 12-14 laps the hards around 20-22 laps.
I’ve picked a graph from testing last season for comparison, rather than the race because the conditions are the same. Pirelli say that their wear rates will be less severe in May at the Grand Prix because the tyres are designed for a higher working range temperature than we have at the moment.
I think it’s a fascinating picture and very easy to understand.