After weeks of speculation, Pirelli has today announced that it is changing one of the F1 tyres in its range from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards.
The hard tyre will be changed to be closer in specification to the 2012 tyre, which would make it more durable. It will likely have a larger working range, so will be more versatile. It was the preferred race tyre in Bahrain at the weekend for most teams.
This is a surprise change in some ways, as there was speculation that the soft tyre would be the one to face changes. It proved troublesome in China as it lasted only a handful of laps in the race and the performance difference between it and the next tyre in the range was too great, leading to a lobsided Grand Prix.
The Italian company has come in for criticism from some teams and fans for providing tyres which degrade too quickly and changing the nature of F1 racing as a result. Pirelli says that it is fulfilling a brief given to it by the FIA and by F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone to challenge the teams and to provide entertaining racing.
Pirelli has always maintained that of the 11 F1 teams, eight support their 2013 products and do not want anything to be changed, but lobbying from the two Red Bull teams as well as from Mercedes’ Niki Lauda (even if it is not clear that others in the Mercedes management agree with his position) has been strong from Malaysia onwards. They were looking for bigger changes than the ones announced today and will be disappointed. But as Red Bull has won half the races and taken half the pole positions this season so far and comfortably lead the championship, they are in a strong position.
There will also have been discussions in the post race debrief at Pirelli’s Milan Headquarters of the failures of the tyres on Lewis Hamilton’s car and Felipe Massa’s car in Bahrain. Hamilton’s tyre was a medium compound, whereas Massa’s were both hard compound and although debris was blamed for the failures, no doubt the tyres will be reviewed in light of what was learned from the Massa experiences.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said of the change, “After evaluating tyre performance over the balance of the first four races, we took the decision – in consultation with all of the teams – to change the hard compound from Spain onwards, as we did in Barcelona two years ago when we also introduced a new hard tyre for the rest of the season. This latest version of the hard compound is much closer to the 2012 tyre, with the aim of giving the teams more opportunity to run a wider range of strategies in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged.”
For Spain, the hard and medium tyres will be used, the same as in Bahrain, but with the new spec hard tyres.
Pirelli also announced the compounds for the next three races; For Monaco, the soft and supersoft tyres have been selected. This is the same choice for Monaco as the last two seasons, to cope with the low grip street track surface.
In Canada the teams will use the medium tyre and the supersoft; the idea being that these two compounds have a low working range and as the Montreal race is quite often cold, they should cope. Graining can be a problem when the temperatures are low.
Teams will also have an extra set of tyres for Friday morning drivers to use, which will help with development of the drivers but also of any small changes in the tyres.
* Pirelli’s Paul Hembery will appear on the new JA on F1 podcast #4 which will be released after this weekend.