Analysis: What Pirelli’s mid-season changes will mean
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 May 2013   |  3:01 pm GMT  |  292 comments

The sudden announcement by Pirelli that they are to change the tyre specifications from the seventh round of the world championship onwards will inevitably raise many questions: who will it favour, what are the implications for the racing?

With no testing available – a significant part of the reason why Pirelli has struggled to get the tyres right this year – they will have to use a construction solution that has been proven to work in the past, rather than try something new.

JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan was chief operations engineer at Williams until the end of 2012 and has a deep understanding of how the tyres work and what is involved in this change.

Here, with his input, is our analysis of today’s decision.

When Pirelli says the tyres from Canada will be more like 2012 tyres what does that mean?

The 2012 tyres were more durable than this year’s tyres, which suffer from high degradation. Pirelli has indicated that it will change the construction of the tyres to be more like the 2012 products.

The 2013 tyres have a different construction from the 2012 products, with a steel belt inside the tyre in place of last year’s kevlar belt. It is likely that this decision will be reversed with the revised tyres, as Pirelli moves back to a proven solution.

The weakness of the 2012 tyres was wear; typically the inside shoulder of the tyres would wear out and teams would run the tyre until there was no rubber left on the shoulder and then make a pit stop. However the teams understood how to manage them quite well by the end of the season.

For 2013 Pirelli tried to fix the wear problem by getting the contact patch of the tyre more reasonably positioned, but it seems that in changing the construction to achieve this they have gone too far.

Although the reason given for the change is that four stops is considered too many for a race and they would like to reduce that to two or three stops, there is also the safety aspect in light of the tyre failures in Bahrain and Spain. In changing the construction, they have obviously done something to affect the tyre’s integrity.

Which teams will be most affected by these changes?
Thermal management of the tyre is the key this year and teams like Ferrari, Lotus and Force India have prioritised this in their 2013 designs. All three have good aerodynamics, but they have engineered in a way to keep the tyre in its ideal operating window by a combination of a stable aero map, a mechanical package which is in sympathy with the tyre and a good set-up.

Red Bull has very good aerodynamic package, as it has for many years now, but inferior mechanical package and thermal management of the tyres.

These weaknesses assume less importance with the changes Pirelli is making, they are likely to increase the operating window of the tyres and increase the durability and that reduces the importance of the thermal management.

What challenges does a change of tyres seven races into the season present to the teams?
The knock-on effects of a change of tyre construction are considerable and this is a major headache for teams, especially as they are about to commit more wind tunnel time and resources to their 2014 designs.

It is unlikely that a change of construction can be made without this affecting the shape of the tyre and how the contact patch with the ground forms. When part of the tyre leaves the ground this changes the shape of the airflow to the floor of the car.

The teams have spent many months modelling this in the wind tunnel and in CFD and if the shape changes even by a few millimetres, this will have an effect on the way the front wing interacts with the tyres, and with the flow down the side of the car and underneath the floor. It will impact the aerodynamic balance of the car and teams that have pushed to get on top of that will suffer.

We are getting close to the time when the teams were hoping to move the 2013 model out of the wind tunnel and start devoting more time to the 2014 model. This change of tyres will complicate this for everyone. particularly for teams with limited resources, it will make for a real headache as they try to stay competitive in 2013 and not lose ground in 2014.

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James, I am hoping that the media (yourself included) also highlight that some fans aren’t up for this tire change. I feel it is completely unfair to the teams that have worked hard and who by luck or fate have handled the tires better. I think its rubbish, and I can’t stand the fact that Red Bull continue to whine, when 2 years ago they won the Spanish GP on 4 pit stops. I view them as spoiled brats. It would be refreshing if the media would cast a spotlight on them and their lack of complaint in 2011 and their new complaints now. What a tiresome double standard. I hope you do voice for those of us that disagree with this. Gary Anderson’s take on this on the BBC website was excellent, and I’m glad to see someone calling it out like it is. The Horse Whisperer’s recent release is actually more factually explicit than some of the things I’ve read on some media outlets. Just my thoughts, but valid also I hope.


It is an emotive subject and it’s easy for the teams to blame a third party, like Pirelli.

Whatever they do, they are caught in the crossfire. The skill will be in making the tyres safe from delamination when they get cut and making them a little more durable, while maintaining the shape and profile of the tyre and its broad performance, thus not disadvantaging the teams who have found a good engineering solution on the tyres for races.


The Horse Whisperer just threw a spanner in the works: Vettel won Barcelona in 2011 with four stops! Funny how Mr. Mateschitz didn’t mind then…

Lachlan Mackinnon

What a disappointing outcome. Pirelli are in for a world of hurt. This will no doubt play into the hands of RB and certainly work against the likes of Lotus. Lotus have done tremendously well to engineer a car to the fragility of the tyres in question. Let’s now change those rule for those who haven’t done so well. With less budget they will redirect effort into maximizing the performance of this next lot of tyres instead of the 2014 car. Well funded teams will have less issue with this but those with smaller budgets……

I just can’t get away from seeing RB number 1 at the end of the season with SV holding up an index finger.

I’m not for one second saying that the situation at present is ideal (let’s not forget this is probably one of the worst track for tyres this year) but changing the rules a quarter of the way through the season is going to unfairly change the state of play.


Set vague tire parameters in the formula and let each team make their own tire arrangements just like they can select any supplier for springs or make their own if they want to. Then there will be no more “Pirelli is ruining the racing” or “are the Bridgestone or Michelin teams disadvantaged this week”.


To me this is just as ridiculous as the one off exhaust over-run ban of 2 years ago. And i thought the fact that it only lasted one race meant that we had moved on from mid season Formula changes, but apparently we have just moved from Formula changes supported and primarily lobbied for by Ferrari to those supported and primarily lobbied for by Red Bull. Money speaks the loudest and RB sponsor the most teams drivers and events at all levels of motorsport these days.

You can’t change the Formula in the middle of the season just because some teams haven’t paid attention and designed their cars properly. They all had the same rules and opportunities with the tires. They all had the same time to make a car.

How is the double diffuser not banned mid season because 3 teams came up with it and the other 7 didn’t, but the tires have to change spec mid season because 3 teams made their cars correctly and the other 8 didn’t?

This is a ridiculous and terrible decision.


+ the teams who did well designing for this year’s tires now have their development work trashed, while Red Bull can just revert to last year’s aero that was the winning design for the construction they’re reverting to? Talk about ruining the sport, this is totally unsporting. What they really need to do is get rid of wings, then we won’t need gimmicks like DRS and degrading tires or push-to-pass to have overtaking.


Forgot to include Merc in the first paragraph, they;ve definitely been lobbying just as hard as RB and want some return for their massive investments.


Well what ever the dicision is going to be in Ferraris favour


Oh more thing…. bring back Goodyear who served faithfully in F1 for 30 years…. tyre problems only become an issue since they left way back in 1997. SInce then every tyre company looking to make a quick buck out of F1 seems to be jumping into the ring for a go at making F1 tyres… remember Indianapolis in 2005 – the whole Michelin fiasco… now another low point with Pirelli making unsafe / short-life tyres all becuase Bernie asked for a new ‘wildcard’ tyre compound to make racing more interesting… as I said bring back Goodyear – the longest running tyre manufacturer in F1!


Ok Tyres have been reset to 2012 settings… can we super glue close the DRS flaps now??? 😀



Is there any chance that you could let us mere mortals have the details of the new tyre construction? On a few occasions, Bridgestone did release their full data package to the outside world. I rather liked the idea of the steel belt, and it’s purpose was well proven when the punctures happened. Wouldn’t changing from steel to Kevlar, but retaining the same compound, change the thermal window of the tyre?


Lotus are probably going to miss James Allison quicker than they thought…



Comparison for the last three years of the Spanish GP (not my work..stolen form a forum I frequent).

The difference in total race time between 2011 and 2013 is pretty much insignificant. So where is the tyre issue?

2011 Spanish GP:


#1 Mark Webber – 1:20.981

#2 Sebastian Vettel – 1:21.181

#3 Lewis Hamilton – 1:21.961


Lewis Hamilton – 1:26.727

Winner Race Time

Sebastian Vettel – 1:39:03.301

2012 Spanish GP:


#1 Lewis Hamilton – 1:21.707

#2 Pastor Maldonado – 1:22.285

#3 Fernando Alonso – 1:22.302


Romain Grosjean – 1:26.250

Winner Race Time

Pastor Maldonado: 1:39:09.145

2013 Spanish GP:


#1 Nico Rosberg – 1:20.718

#2 Lewis Hamilton – 1:20.972

#3 Sebastian Vettel – 1:21.054


Esteban Gutierrez – 1:26.217

Winner Race Time:

Fernando Alonso – 1:39:16.596


I wonder whether Pirelli had to change the tyre due to safety reasons. They cannot develop the structure of the tyre quick enough so they go back to 2012 while keeping 2013 rubber, more or less, the same. This will obviously help some of the teams and disadvantage others, as the tyre deforms in different way. However, I would expect all the teams to agree to the new tyres, regardless of what the rules say. Pirelli hasn’t mentioned safety as the reasons behind the tyre change, but I wonder whether it is so because they don’t like the idea that they have created an unsafe tyre.


Twitter Manuel Muñoz. Pirelli Spanish engineer working on Lotus

“Maybe in winter, when some teams proved exhausts, maps and systems of heights, others focused on optimizing the use of the tires”

Quizas en invierno, cuando algunos probaban escapes, mapas y sistemas de alturas, otros se centraron en optimizar el uso de los neumaticos.

All revved-up

I get the sense Pirelli are at the point of no return, or just past it.

Their image from F1 fans is so negative, unless they stem the public relations disaster soon, it seems like the return on their investment is negative.

Yes, they did what they were briefed, to avoid a procession and bring back racing with overtaking.

Yes, they have delivered on “no procession” but they have stumbled on “racing”. To be fair, testing using the 2010 car probably gave them inaccurate feedback. But as any child born in an underdeveloped country knows, life is not always fair.


The picture of Horner, Wolff, Hembrey and Ecclestone says it all; Red Bull and Mercedes cannot win the championship this year with their designs and they know it. The only way for them to compete is to get Ecclestone to have the tires changed to their liking.

This isn’t a case where teams are complaining about others designs; this is a conspiracy by major players to have an impartial supplier alter, midseason, a product used by all, to the advantage of a few.

So now, if they alter the tires and the Red Bull and Mercedes teams gain advantage to the determent of Lotus and Ferrari; how is that not stacking the deck. Sounds like grounds for a competition lawsuit.


F-duct, against regulation spirit, 1year valid

Double diffusers, against regulation spirit, 1year valid

Blown diffusers, against regulation spirit, 1year valid

Pirelli wheels changes on 2012 on start (1) and middle (2nd) of season!!!!

This year 2013, changes after 5 races!!!! AND 2013 car designers EFFOR????

Absolutely like Political or Mafia issues.

Mattestich: “this is not races”

And blow diffusers is races? Or aerodinamicals influence is F1? And simulations vs. real test are trully F1?

boooooohhhh. Dont cry and RACE!!!!


I think that last year Pirelli saw that the teams adapted to its tyres by the end of the year. So it decided to expect this adaptation from the teams. And logically Pirelli should expect a double adaptation or so (teams would adapt to the new tyre over the winter and then again they would adapt over the course of the season like last year). Only 3 teams adapted over the winter. And I do not understand why the rest of the teams did not and I am sure Pirelli does not understand it either. Had all teams adapted like Lotus as it made sense, everyone would be congratulating Pirelli at the moment. Then at the end of the year, after the teams would have adapted further, races would be boring again and the media would be contemplating whether Pirelli is doing a good enough job or not. Most teams acted with stupidity by not spending time and money to adapt to the tyres and now they try to make it look like Pirelli was stupid and not them.

The whole concept might not be the easiest thing to explain to the public and what makes it more difficult is the tyre failures that many drivers had. But Pirelli should accept their fault about the failures and defend itself properly about the degradation. At the moment, it looks like Pirelli did everything wrong.


James, I think the commercial aspect is over looked here. TV companies pay millions to broadcast racing. Sponsor pay millions to see there logos raced. Has this has an effect?

Heinzman (Fan of: ALO)

James, get Paul Hembery back on the podcast. He is as refreshingly curt as Mark Webber in his dialogue; he will tell us the real story.


He was on last month…


I’ve been watching F1 since 1993, and only in 5 seasons the guy I cheered for had the best or equal-best car. And I don’t remember it ever even crossing my mind that the the rules should be changed in all those other seasons just because my fav driver was in a less competitive car. This complaining is the product of the new “fans” that F1 is so desperate to attract and Red Bull’s ethos which are the worst I have ever witnessed from a top running team. Jean Todt’s Ferrari was highly political and unfair at times, but it was never like this.

This whole season is starting to look like a farce. There’s no Concord. There’s no consistency. There seem to be too many people in the media who are giving opinions instead of information and trying to serve an attitude instead of giving you information to make up your own.

The amount of people who are using “real racing” and “driving to delta” and similar stuff as some make-believe argument has reached the point of no return.

When they banned refueling again in 2010, there was outcry to change the rules immediately back to what they were after just one race. I don’t care the rules whatever they are, as long as there’s a new challenge for the teams as often as possible and there’s the least possible amount of interference with the competition during the season.

I just hope Alonso finally wins the title again this year so that I can finally stop watching F1. I’m honestly fed up with what this has become. And I can’t identify myself with the growing amount of people who seem to be the new target audience for F1. They are loud and without a hint of appreciation for behind the scenes work that goes with F1 racing. If they don’t see clashing wheels all the time, they don’t seem to think it’s racing.


I know its unrealistic to expect drivers to drive flat out for the entire race, but as a fan and a spectator I would like to see a reasonable percentage of the race where the drivers are driving to the limits. As opposed to having a very significant percentage of the race filled with conservative driving.



Means like an awefully lot of spending for adjusting to the new tyres…


there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ set of free tyres. ’nuff said.


OK, how about this, hard yres that last a race, don’t degrade but have singificantly less lateral grip. Make them rear limited as well to avoid understeer.


It can’t be that F1 cars are racing just a few seconds faster than GP2 and GP3 all because of tire management. Ironically Red Bull and Vettel are still leading the pack, so a change is not helping an underperforming team, but simply puts back F1 where it should be – the pinnacle of Motorsport and not a time delta tyre nursing exercise.

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