Analysis: Pirelli’s new Formula 1 deal: more variety, more testing – better racing?
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  15 Oct 2015   |  11:51 am GMT  |  146 comments

Pirelli has agreed a new three year Formula 1 tyre supply deal from 2017 to 2019 inclusive, but a new approach to F1 tyres will come into force as soon as next season.

While the company is working with F1 stakeholders on the ‘sexing up’ of F1 from 2017 onwards with faster, more aggressive cars, plans are also taking shape for a rethink of 2016.

Bernie Ecclestone Paul Hembery

The latest plan is for Pirelli to bring a default prime tyre, for example the soft last weekend in Sochi, and teams will be able to pick two other tyres from the range.

So you might select three sets of super soft plus three sets of the new “ultra soft”, about which not much is known as yet. It will give teams enough tyres to have some strategy options.

The idea is to increase variability – as with the changes to race start procedures this year – as some teams will choose the ultra soft compound to boost their grid slot, even if it means a slight compromise on the length of the first stint of the race.

As a general rule the races where the pit loss time is shorter will see more strategic variation. Sochi, for example, with its long and slow pit lane will likely remain a one stop, as would Monza.


Both would need a higher pit lane mandatory speed to get the stop time down by around 4 seconds, to make it strategically interesting, but the FIA isn’t willing to budge on that, apparently, for safety reasons.

If more venues can be made to encourage N +1 stops, where N = the default strategy, then this will improve the racing and it doesn’t benefit the fast teams. It makes the race more interesting.

One side effect of this 2016 tyre proposal is that it will make it very hard for teams to evaluate their development during the season, as there are so many variables. From one race to another, when introducing a new front wing or floor, it will be difficult to evaluate the precise gain.

During pre-season testing it will be extremely hard to judge what level a team is at relative to the opposition, as there will be greater variety of tyres as well as fuel loads in testing.


The new 2017 deal

The Italian firm had been in competition with Michelin for the new contract after the French company submitted a rival bid earlier this year. But after Bernie Ecclestone met with Pirelli chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera in Sochi, the news filtered through that F1’s existing tyre supply would be extended.

While Pirelli has reached a commercial agreement with Ecclestone, the new contract still has to be formally ratified by the FIA, which the company’s motorsport boss, Paul Hembery expects to be confirmed.

He said: “There is still a formal process to go through with the FIA and it has to go to the WMSC for approval. That is the closure of the loop, but it should really be a formality in that they have already given technical approval for us to supply.”

One of the sticking points of any new deal for Pirelli was the return of tyre development testing ahead of the changes to the F1 regulations in 2017 that will include wider tyres and new aerodynamic concepts.


Hembrey explained that Pirelli needed a guarantee it could test its new tyres before committing to a new contract, although the exact technical regulations for 2017 are still be finalised.

He said: “There were some areas where we needed some assurances like testing, that we would be put in a condition where we could do our job. We have been given those assurances, even though we don’t have the final solution, as the rules are not set for 2017.

“So we don’t know if we can test the new wider tyres on a modified actual car, or if it needs a hybrid car. So there are a lot of question marks still to cover there.


“But the concept of testing has passed and the need to have race drivers doing the testing and giving us clear input is also something that has been well understood.”

Hembery also revealed that his company has again been asked to produce tyres that degrade to such an extent that multiple pitstops are necessary, as Pirelli did when it first re-entered F1 in 2011.

Those tyres produced races with different strategies and more overtaking, but as drivers became more vocal about not driving at full speed to preserve tyre life and teams complained that the 2013 tyres were too fragile, Pirelli introduced more conservative tyres for the last two seasons.

 Lewis Hamilton

Hembery said: “We are still being asked to do two or three stops, that is the idea. They want us to try to come up with a degradation that is probably similar to what we have seen in the past.

“It is a strange situation because, if you talk to the fans, they all loved that initial racing, and the monumental increase in overtaking manoeuvres, and from a spectacle it was interesting, but for the drivers it was such a big change that it was something they found difficult to deal with.

“Now we are somewhere in the middle. We are not happy this season doing one-stop races; it is not in reality what we have been asked to do. It is something we recognise and it is something we need to change in the future.”

What do you think of Pirelli’s new F1 contract? Will its plans make F1 more interesting to fans? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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I really dislike one-stop races. The races at Monaco, Canada and Monza are ruined by long stints where nothing changes. One stop at Monaco ensures a boring race.

I would have much preferred a mandatory 2-stop race primarily to ensure that the pole car can lose track position. The 2017 cars are supposed to be going to be better at passing, so the situation needs to brought about where drivers have to race for track position. Pole to flag races tend to be tedious without a safety car.

If the F1 fraternity were serious about saving money while spicing up the show they might also go for allowing only 10 personnel in the pitlane working on the car and a minimum 10 second stop – again just to ensure loss of track position and the need to race.


Listen forget the tyres, forget the rule…

The racing is incredible, fantastic, my heart is pumping like crazy and i am on the edge of my seat…

And the GP has not even started… it’s tomorrow, Phillip Island…

Of course I am talking about MOTOGP!!!

more excitement and adrenalin there in ONE LAP than in F1 in ONE SEASON

Do they have tyre stops/DRS/electric Pus/radio Comm/ etc etc ???


they have racing !

and racers with B****

not tyre/engine/IT management experts like the F1 drivers are forced to be today.


@ alex…i have been a most avid follower of moto GP for a very very long time and the philip island race was simply the best i think that i have ever seen. the comperes were almost speechless with excitement. 27 laps of all out cojones to the wall racing. the top four were never outside of one sec and i lost count of the number of passes but it must’ve been well into 20’s!!! or even more. as for the last lap….phew, i never expected that. that was the race of all time.


Yes It was really incredible, 4 top riders battling it out for every single one of the 27 laps.

Kinda underlines what I wrote in my post above.

Over the last 40 years F1 has gone wrong on so many levels, it’s like it went the wrong way at every possible Y junction. I have no idea if there is a way back really. I think it’s beyond saving maybe.


Pirelli or Michelin won’t make any difference as they will manufacture tyres dictated by FIA for a better show. Tyres manufacturers can develop tyres to last two entire race if they wanted too. But I like how different teams are able to keep the tyres alive or get them shot which helps to keep the races interesting.


Who does Hembrey think he’s kidding! Are people likely to fall for that soap opera again, and drivers will absolutely hate it. When is conserving been proper racing? If Ecclestone had given Michelin the contract they could have produced the multi stops without the degradation. So let’s get this right; They are introducing cars 5-6 seconds a lap faster with the silly high degradation tyres. It will be an utter catastrophe with tyres failing producing a highly dangerous safety issue. I think Ecclestone is a senile old fart that should have been pensioned off years ago.


So it’s back to crap tyres where drivers can hardly push at all is it. That’s absolutely pathetic, and any overtaking it creates will be for the wrong reasons as it was before. If Pirelli can produce a tyre that has a finite life without the drop off due to high degradation I could support that, but the spectacle of cars being overtaken as the tyres degrade is beyond the pale.


Some random thoughts on tyres:

Why not just scrap the rule that the top-10 must start the race on their fastest Q2 set? It would seem to me that if you want to increase variability in strategy then allowing them to use whatever sets they want at whatever stage of the race their want from their overall allocation would best facilitate this.

As I think is generally agreed now, fast degrading tyres are not necessarily the best way to an interesting race strategically. What is needed is multiple different paths that give similar outcomes. If everyone agrees that 3 stops is the fastest strategy, then everyone will do 3 stops – they may be a lot of overtaking around the start/end of stints, but it’s not really racing. Conversely, a race where a 1-stop strategy is 3 seconds faster than a 2-stop strategy which is another 3 seconds faster than the 1-stop strategy makes could make for a very interesting race.


F1 is mad. They want pitstops?…then demand at least 2 stops per race, whether teams need them or not.

And let Pirelli produce good tyres that have grip and can be pushed hard for long periods.

Easier solution to their “problem” of stage managing races, and when the cars are on track they are going flat out. Everyone’s happy.


Has anybody analysed a scenario where tyre marbles didn’t exist – and how would that affect the racing? Would there be more overtaking opportunities then?


Theres no way on gods green earth I would have signed Pirelli again & the fact they are tells you that FOM want to manipulate the show– its just not sporting.

Michelin could provide any combination of performance tyres that would last a race or only 20 laps and could be driven flat out all the time- we see this in WEC- but perhaps Michelin will not compromise their brand the way Pirelli do.


@ elie….finally you have posted something that i fully agree with. well said. join the club.


Not criticising the proposed changes but I think in general the focus needs to be more on changes that affect the influence the drivers have on the outcome of the races. This change will certainly challenge the nerds running the numbers on the fly,

And just to throw a cat amongst the rats with wings – how about a ruling that cars within teams HAVE to run different tyre strategies?


The teams will all run their simulations and come to much the same conclusions about which tyres to take for the weekend. It might start off as a bit of a lottery (yay, that again), with the teams having relatively little data on the new tyres, but as the season goes on and they all gather more data and learn, they’ll all converge on the same solutions. And then F1 will have to find another new way to “spice things up”.


Ultra will last 4 laps only. It is designed for Q3 then pitting after 1 race lap.

Therefore, it will be for everyone [de rigeur] THE quali tyre. Every race will begin with a mass charge to the pits.

Could be very exciting.



totally artificial, more like

another nail in the coffin…


sorry to harp on about it but…

“Every race will begin with a mass charge to the pits”

is such a terrible and pathetic image in my mind, the very negation of what a car race should be.

Absolutely loudicrous. And a perfect way to describe the non-future of a dead and buried (alas much loved, once) formula.


How about tyres that don’t drop shedloads of marbles on the track, effectively narrowing the racing line and making overtaking more risky?


F1 missed a trick, just read today’s paper and THE biggest tyre manufacturer in the world is LEGO !

It makes 320 million tyres a year. They are a bit smaller of course and have to be filled with air/gas but imagine the lego logo on the sidewalls !

Maybe something for red bull Formula X1?


How are they under loads like at Copse corner?


Testing required, james but if you buy, say, a box with a batmobile in it and push it round copse im sure they ‘ll cope !


It’s so easy to sit behind a keyboard and criticize. Tires and brakes have always been sensitive to temperature and have failed when drivers pushed them too hard. New tires have always been faster than old tires and some drivers have always tried to nurse a set of tires to keep track position.

I wish that the media, the BBC for example, would stop talking as though this is a new thing and show new fans some of the history of the sport and how knowing your tires has always been a key to winning. Show how Senna stayed out on old rubber and won Monaco while Nigel who was much faster on new tires, caught up but couldn’t get past. Show how Mansell gambled on staying out on old tires while others stopped and lost a title from a tire failure.

Tires have always been a major factor and most drivers have always opted to make them last as long as possible to make the least amount of stops possible. There is a reason why we still talk about the Braun / Schumacher 3-stop strategy that won him the Hungarian Grand Prix. Think about that – 3 stops was so unusual that we still talk about it 15+ years later.


One word. Bridgestone. They could be driven flat out for an entire stint.



Your first paragraph (in particular) is spot on. Well said.


@ J…the fact is that the options you talk about aren’t still available as the R & R stipulate mandatory changes of compound during a race. listen to the drivers or better still read the radio transcripts and see for yourself where the dissatisfaction lies. if a driver wants to race on a certain compound as it suits his style and the cars performance why make him change to an alternate compound just so the fans can watch 16 guys change the wheels in 3 secs. i mean really…is this what F1 is all about?.


It is a new thing. And they were designed to be fragile. The Senna/Mansell example isn’t relevant. Degradation is natural and if you push your tires harder you may end up getting past by the guy that treated them more gently later in the race. What has never been a part of F1 is tires that if you push for one lap are completely ruined. That makes no sense at all.


They should design such tracks and tyres that the more you pit the faster you finish. How about that….


Nobody enjoys watching the drivers drive well within themselves and the car because the tyres can’t handle being driven flat out. Unfortunately, we’re going to get that for another 3 years at least.


Why can’t they produce tyres which degrade but you can still drive flat out? Michelin would have been able to.


@ doogdeb…probably because michelin have the IP and pirelli don’t plus the fact that michelin weren’t likely to sponsor entire races….$$$$ which flow directly and legally into BE’s realm.


If they’re not capable then they shouldn’t have won the contract. Bernie only cares about money so is the wrong person to run the sport.


Have to say I am extremely disappointed that Pirelli get another 3 years of tyres that drivers can’t RACE on.

Watching cars be 2-3 seconds a lap than they could be just because the tyres are not been designed for performance & watching drivers having to nurse the tyres so much through a race is flat out pathetic.

As to all this talk that its what the fans want, What fans are they asking because 80% of the fan comments I see around the web complain about the way the tyres have been since 2011 & both the recent fan surveys showed the vast majority of fans were calling for more durable tyres that allowed the drivers to push harder. In the GPDA survey 80% of fans called for a tyre war to help achieve this as that would force the suppliers to bring proper racing tyres.

For what is supposed to be the pinnacle of the SPORT which the best engineering & fastest cars…. The Pirelli tyres have been the complete opposite, There the worst tyres in all of Motorsport if not the worst tyres in the history of MotorSport!

Guess F1’s loss will be WEC’s gain, Thats where all the flat out RACING is nowadays!

In the words of Mark Webber, Michelin make tyres for racing while Pirelli make tyres for show.


@ linda green….well said. i watched the all out flat out racing in fuji between marc fassler and mark webber and it was some of the most thrilling i have seen for a very very long time. the track was wet/damp and obviously the tyres were up to it for 5 laps. would you see something like this in F1…..never. LMP1 racing is just so good. top teams, top cars and top drivers fighting tooth and nail and at the same threading the needle between all the lower classes. hats off to them…..



World Tyre Management Championship coming up again. Make tyre stops mandatory, but make the tyres withstand drivers pushing without dropping out of the operational window, and mandate pit stop windows of 4 pre-defined laps twice a race.

Let the bl**dy drivers race! At the moment some distinctly average drivers are flattered due to being able to drive to tyre limits.


(Apologies if this has been repeated but i can’t see my comment on here)

Tbh I don’t understand why there has to be degradation for pit-stops to be mandatory. Why not just state it in the rules. They did this in 2010 by saying that everyone had to use both sets of tyres, so surely just increase the number the teams have to make. This could be expanded so that if you can use 3 different compounds during a race weekend, the hardest tyre available (medium for example) means you need to make 1 stop, whereas if you use the medium tyre (soft) you have to make 2 stops and if you use the softest tyre available (super-soft) at any point during the race weekend you need to make at least 3 stops. Then all Pirelli have to do is engineer a tyre so that the hardest is 0.4-0.5s a lap slower than the medium selection and 0.8s slower than the softest option so that all the strategies converge by the end of the race, making all the options a possibility for the teams. I also think F1 should follow MotoGP by giving non-manufacturer teams/teams that haven’t won a race in the last 2-3 years, softer options for tyres e.g. if Mercedes can choose from hard, medium and soft compounds during a race weekend, Force India, for example, can use the medium,soft and super soft. This would make things closer while making the idea of customer/Haas style cars more appealing because the ‘satellite’ team will have an inherent advantage with its faster tyres.

Tom Haythornthwaite

There are exactly two tire formulas that don’t make me gag:

1) The old tire wars – unlimited testing and development, with simple “tires must fit in this box” specifications. Pitstop strategy would be up to the engineers. Drivers would have to start the race on the tires they used at on their best qualifying lap.

2) One hard control tire that will last a race (or perhaps even a weekend).

Option 1) is certainly too expensive. I’d be perfectly happy with option 2). But everything else that has happened to F1 tires in about the last decade has turned me off.


Get the tyres to were we were in Russia and I don’t think many would complain. Tyres that actually let the drivers push almost flat out the hole race and lasted being hit hard for the stints but still not a easy one stop if u stop early.


Will we see 7 different drivers in the first seven races?


James, does this tyre choice apply to qualifying.

If so I’d have concerns about the pole position shoot out. I want the best driver on the best tyres getting pole….what I really enjoy about the current format.

Imagine Ferrari now giving kimi the ultra soft tyre on a track it is not suitable for in the race. The goal being to snatch pole and then back the field up over the early stint to give vettel, who has brought different compounds, a strategic advantage.

1. The pole position stats are ruined and the genuine excitement lost in qualifying In my opinion with teams going for glory runs.

2. How will fans be able to follow all these strategy variations watching a live race to work out who is where when the pit stops play out.

3. Imagine how your going to explain the post race analysis in an article. Wow.


How would Kimi back the pack up with tires that have given up on him? Might work in Monaco or Singapore, I guess. But anywhere else the pack will just sail straight past.


I’m wondering if the new low profile tires will mean a different team will shine above the rest with its reworked chassis and suspension?

Currently the tires provide a lot of the suspension but with a lower profile the suspension will become much more important, who would like to guess at which team will get it right and who will get it spectacularly wrong?…..

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