[Updated] The chorus of disapproval from affected teams, as well as calls from media and fans to do something about the high degradation tyres has led Pirelli to announce today that it is to make construction changes to its tyres from the Canadian Grand Prix in June onwards.
The Italian company blamed the lack of adequate winter testing in suitable climates for producing products this year that have fallen short of the standard required. They admitted in a statement this afternoon that they underestimated the demands of the current F1 cars on the tyres. Pirelli is conducting meetings at its Milan base to establish whether any compound changes are required as well.
The news will come as a blow to Ferrari and Lotus, which mastered the delicate Pirelli rubber in Spain last weekend to take the podium slots, as well as Force India, but will be welcomed by the powerful lobby led by Red Bull and Mercedes calling for more durable tyres.
Pirelli boss Paul Hembery said, “Our aim is to provide the teams with a new range which mixes the stability of the 2012 tyres and the performance of the current ones. As a company, we have always moved quickly to make improvements where we see them to be necessary.
“After evaluating data from the first few races this year, we’ve decided to introduce a further evolution as it became clear at the Spanish Grand Prix that the number of pit stops was too high. The Spanish Grand Prix was won with four pit stops, which has only happened once before in our history. These changes will also mean that the tyres are not worked quite as hard, reducing the number of pit stops.”
Also spurred on by the recent spate of high-profile tyre failures, Pirelli has decided to return to the kevlar belt construction of the 2012 tyres rather than the steel belt used this year, according to Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport.
It was telling that the TV coverage in the last two Grands Prix, produced by FOM, has broadcast numerous messages from drivers like Lewis Hamiton saying, “I can’t drive any slower” and engineers urging drivers to take it easy and protect the tyres. This has increased pressure on Pirelli and provoked a backlash in the media and among fans.
Having opted to be more aggressive in the 2013 tyre range, Pirelli is having to row back on that, citing the increased levels of downforce the teams have generated over the winter overstressing the tyres. Pirelli also blames the lack of a suitable test car for them to track test the products before introducing them. The 2013 range was developed by Jaime Alguersuari and Lucas di Grassi using a 2010 Renault.
“It was a combination of factors that have come together, “Hembery added. “We didn’t want to make too many dramatic changes, and we do not want to penalise those teams that have taken a design direction to look after the tyres.
“Equally, we had to do something to improve the situation.”
Ideally what Pirelli should aim to do is recalibrate the tyre to maintain the current pace but with slightly less degradation and less wear, to trim it back to 2/3 stop races.
The development tyre tested out in Spain at the weekend was very slow, almost 2.5 seconds off the pace and with very poor warm up, so that is not the answer.
But it is never desirable to change fundamentals part way through a season and inevitably some teams will gain and others lose from this, which could cast a shadow over the outcome of the championship.
Ferrari, Lotus and Force India are entitled to feel aggrieved as they have engineered their car around the tyres that were handed out to all teams in testing and at the start of the season, but there are warning signs that fans are starting to turn away from the current style of racing.
In making the change Pirelli acknowledged the link between perceptions of its F1 tyres and its road tyres and now participation in F1 might affect that,
“We’d like to thank all the teams for their continued and extremely valued support as we worked with them to identify the correct compromise between the pure speed that makes us the world leader in the Ultra High Performance sector and a global spectacle that is easy for Formula One fans to follow,” said a statement.