JA on F1 technical adviser and former Williams chief engineer Mark Gillan thinks that Mercedes will be hurt by Pirelli’s decision to make a small tweak to the hard tyre compound.
Last week the Italian tyre manufacturer said it will change the hard tyre, rather than the soft as expected, 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, and Gillan adds that the move will help every other team on the grid except for Mercedes.
“Pirelli specified at beginning of season that the working range for the hard tyre is 110-135 degrees,” said Gillan in the latest edition of the JA on F1 podcast. “Mercedes are able to get into that range very quickly which is part of the problem. In qualifying, they can get a very good lap but they then go out of the working range and overheat the tyre too quickly so they will want to provide further cooling to the tyres.
“Other teams struggle to get into the working range quickly enough for qualifying, so by reducing the lower temperature from 110 to maybe 100 degrees, it brings the hard more in line with the medium which starts at 90 degrees. That will certainly benefit all the other teams bar maybe Mercedes.”
Speaking in the May edition of the JA on F1 podcast, Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery added that he believed the new hard tyre “should work better in cooler temperatures” while stressing that teams have been putting Pirelli “under pressure not to change” the compounds.
Looking ahead to 2014, when the sport will see a fundamental change to the engine regulations with 1.6 lire V6s replacing the current V8s, Hembery said he is little concerned about the specification of next year’s tyres because Pirelli don’t have a 2014 chassis to develop the new rubber. Instead, the manufacturer must rely on simulations from the teams.
“It will be quite a challenge,” he said. “Simulations we’ve had from a few of the teams who have been able to share some of the data with us suggests that in terms of power delivery, we are going to see some differences.”
One of those differences will be more torque, which as Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff told the JA on F1 podcast, will be exacerbate the German team’s current problem of overheating the tyres even more.
“We are overheating the rear tyres a bit more than our competitors – and that has been in the DNA of the car over the last few years,” said Wolff. “We’re working very hard to find out why that is the case.
“In 2014, we’re going to have much more torque with our turbo engine which might bite us even more next year so we need to get on top of these things.”
Hembery added: “The new power train will have more torque than the current V8 and that will create potential for more wheel-spin and traction issues coming out of the corners. That, from our point of view, can lead to overheating issues.
“Also there is some comment that the balance of the new cars will be hard to find a suitable set up for with the current tyre size dimensions. You might want a narrower front tyre or preferably a wider rear tyre.
“There is a lot of discussion going on but if we’re talking size changes, it’s a bit late in day unfortunately to do it. So overall, it’s not going to be too straightforward for the teams or ourselves next year.”
Gillan says: “Pirelli face a big task for 2014. It’s an incredibly difficult balancing act as they need to develop a tyre for a car that doesn’t exist and a power unit which only exists as a dyno at the moment.
“The vehicle dynamics will be very different to what we have in 2013. Because they don’t have a test platform for next year, they are relying on feedback from the teams but that will continuously change. Plus the performance between the big teams and small teams won’t be two second gap like we’re seeing at moment but rather five or six seconds.”
To listen to the full interview with Paul Hembery and Toto Wolff, plus more from Mark Gillan, make sure you listen to the May edition of the JA on F1 podcast available to download via the iTunes store or directly here.