Analysis: Alain Prost’s simple plan to mix up F1 tyres doesn’t play well with Pirelli
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Posted By: Editor   |  24 Apr 2017   |  1:33 pm GMT  |  121 comments

Four-time Formula 1 champion Alain Prost’s idea to allow teams to combine different tyre types on the same car has been met with scepticism by Pirelli Racing Director Mario Isola. Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Prost said, “Let the drivers put together their own tyre choices from the five different compounds and assemble 13 sets according to their wishes.

“I would also remove the rule that you have to drive two different tyre varieties. If you want to drive through a hard tire without a pit stop, please [do],” he said.

The suggestion was first floated in early April by Prost and would allow, for example, a soft tyre on the left-front, and a hard tyre on the opposite wheel. This would result in varied strategies and greater room for error, perhaps increasing the amount of overtakes in a race.

Currently the rules state that only four tyres of the same compound and in set numbers as prescribed by Pirelli may be used.

Pirelli’s Isola replied after the Bahrain Grand Prix to say that the idea would bring an element of monotony into F1, and would be too difficult to implement. “If you take the toughest tyre in a race, you could endure almost the entire distance,” he said to Auto Motor und Sport.

Hypothetically speaking, he gave a situation where Supersofts would be used on the front wheels and Softs on the back: “On the front axle you would have much more grip than behind. This inevitably leads to great oversteering and slipping.

“It would be incredibly hard for the teams to balance the two axles. What we could do would be [to have] different mixes for the front and rear of the same tyre type,” Isola continued.

Car performance order

JA reported in March that the lack of overtaking is a serious threat to F1, with just five in Melbourne this year compared to 37 the previous year. As a result, Pirelli is being asked to review its tyre selection.

A processional race is predicted for the Spanish Grand Prix in May as Soft, Medium and Hard tyres are the choices, and no team will use the Hard tyres, so strategies will be similar. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas managed 20 laps in testing on Ultra-Softs – using softer compounds than those prescribed for this year’s race would help to avoid the cars finishing in car performance order, as they would on the harder compounds. There is plenty of evidence that only the top three teams with significantly more downforce can ‘switch on’ the harder compound tyres, so this exaggerates the gap between front and back of the field even more and offers no chance for a midfield team to score a podium through bold strategies.

This season, Pirelli’s tyres degrade at a slower rate than in 2016 and there’s less of a difference between compounds in terms of wear rate. In short, tyres with the same names as last year are a couple of steps harder this year. And when cars are on different strategies, especially with the softer compounds, overtaking is far more likely, as we saw in Bahrain.

Add to that the widely reported turbulence in the wake of the cars in front, and it’s understandably difficult to swap places on track this year if the right combination of factors is not in play.

Isola said to Auto Motor und Sport, “We must reduce the delta between the individual mixtures. At the moment, the time difference between medium and soft is too great. We must increase the delta between Supersoft and Soft and Ultrasoft and Supersoft.”

He spoke after Pirelli conducted their first tyre test for the 2018 rubber in Bahrain last week, in which Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel drove 130 laps on different tyre compounds. Further tests will be conducted at Barcelona in May 16-17.

Do you think that there is a lack of overtaking in F1? Does Alain Prost have the right idea or is Pirelli on the right track? Comment below or on Facebook.  

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1

Oh yea, now there is an idea!! I’ve only been saying this for a decade, ever since they bought in this silly artificial ‘every car must use two tyre compound rule’. This sport really is ridiculously mismanaged. The powers that be seen oblivious to what is blindingly obvious to people on the outside.

They banned refuelling, in part at least, to promote racing and passing on the track rather than in the pit lane, but then immediately impose a stupid compulsory tyre change which runs counter to that very intent.

Give the teams total free reign on tyres, allow them to mix and match and you will promote unpredictability, real ok-track racing, and as Prost said, the potential for drivers to attempt to run the entire race without stopping.

Combine that with the removal of that most cynical of contraptions, DRS, and you have a recipe for a racing series that might genuinely be half interesting again.

At least it would be a start. I suspect you’d still have isssues over the lack of overtaking but that would require more fundamental aerodynic rule changes; something I have been arguing for two decades.

We need Increased mechanical grip, reduced aero grip, allowing cars to follow each other more closely through the corners. Additionally the banning of paddle shifting semi auto gearboxes in favour of a return to three pedal/ ‘H’ pattern, manual gearboxes. This will promote the mistakes by the drivers and therefore present overtaking opportunities.

All simple stuff, but do we think the F1 rule makers will think if it…of course not……sigh….

2

I still too often see this erroneous opinion that overtaking must somehow be enhanced.
When in actual fact formula one was so much more credible a sport before this false over taking comcept was born.
The procession was F1.End of
Little errors were what we waited for,the stuck wheel nut,the sticky refuel nozzle.
The ptb’s keep compounding their previous errors with yet more layers of cock up.
The more input they have (FIA/FOM) the crappier the show has become.
Only an idiot cannot notice that the cars were so much more 15 years ago than they are now.Forget track lap times..
Im talking about presence..
Woeful

3

The current tyre rules were designed with the idea that with two different compounds mandatory you would have conflicting tyre strategies and more overtaking

The exact opposite happens. Teams qualify and start on the softer tyre then finish on a harder tyre. Give the teams more freedom and different strategies will prevail.

But since they couldn’t figure out how to make qualifying less predictable – have shorter sessions, I don’t think they will figure this out 😀

4

You guys need to stop this “V10 Blues” , V10/12 are not going back sadly, F1 is the pinnacle of motor industry and there are not too many people looking to develop a V12 this days, its more likely the industry will get in to the FE approach.

Anyhow, about the tires, I’m with Prost on this one, I think regulations needs to be simple, let them do what they want to get what they need… And please bring more brands to the competition.

And about the handicaps, that is SO LAME, why Mercedes, Ferrari, Redbull or any other dominant team needs to be penalized for their good work? it is what it is and that the way has been all the time in F1, there is a team who dominate because has done their homework and has done a good job and research and development to be at the top on that moment, so, they earn the privilege to be the dominant top team for the moment.

5

I’d like to know when F1 will move up onto at least 15″ wheels instead of those small 13″ things. Surely it’s time now to move with the times in that department. Indycars have 15″ why can’t F1 cars have them? Why are they so against increasing the size?

6

Only F1 could design aero rules that everyone knew would make following and passing much more difficult …… then blame the tires for lack of passing.

7

I’d be happy to see the bogus rule about running different compounds go away. That was a publicity stunt cooked up by Bridgestone and Indycar in the strange belief that it was required to make the morons with mics talk about tires during a race. Then Bridgestone and crooked Bernie foisted the rule onto F1. its also been a fake and phony element thrown into race strategy, and it should go away.

And, my guess if you let the teams run combinations of tires, they’d find a way to make it work to their advantage. And its quite obvious that Pirelli can’t really come up with a real reason why it wouldn’t work. The guy just seems to sputter along without making a point, at least in the quotes used.

Pirelli just wants to maintain bogus rules that don’t reallly have a place in racing. And getting rid of them wouldn’t hurt Pirelli. Give the teams these freedoms with tires, and they’ll come up with interesting uses and the morons with mics won’t ignore the tires as they’ll be an interesting part of the racing.

Of course, the idea I’d love to throw into the mix would be multiple tire suppliers. Pirelli won’t like that having successfully paid off Bernie last year.

8
Racing driver 1

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Add another variable – refuelling. It was always exciting to see refuelling, before they sanitised the sport.

9
The other Bernd

Huh, I didn’t expect this site to double down on their bogus post-Melbourne article after the other races in the season have proven that there isn’t actually a problem with tires, only potentially with bad racetracks.

10

Just wondering of these idea and feedback . Does anyone really understand how F1 works? Why we just stick to what we know on personal knowledge. Be quiet and let the real professionals do their work

Alan Prost better to get his team perform or just keep put. Talk is cheap

11

It is kind of interesting to read all of the views of the ‘racing pundits’ below, It is quite hard to find two people who agree on anything (there are one or two!). You can understand why teams and organisers do not seriously ask for public opinion! They (the teams) probably have the same diversity of ideas and issues when they are looking at changes following 2020. Ten teams with hundreds of differing solutions and ideas, most of them self centred. Its akin to getting turkeys to agree that Christmas (or Thanksgiving) is a good idea!

12

“…using softer compounds than those prescribed for this year’s race would help to avoid the cars finishing in car performance order”.

Isn’t that the point of F1, that the best cars finish first. Anything else is artificial racing – no thank you.

13

@ Kenneth: Thanks! The penny dropped for me reading the November issue of Racecar Engineering. There’s an excellent article in that issue discussing engine design and fuel characteristics from the V10 era up to now; reading that was a real eye opener.

14

so needlessly complicated, just make softer compounds next season, a step change if you will

couple that with not needing to run two compounds in the race to allow drivers to go the full distance without stopping if they’re feeling a bit like perez on roids

15

I agree with Prost. I have always said that the obligatory use of both compounds is a stupid and fake rule, it was introduced during the Bridgestone years where the tyres were so good that you didn’t really need to stop for tyres.

I have always said, if you want to stick on a set of hards and go from lights to flag without stopping then great, if you think you can pull off a 4 stop ultra soft strategy then go for it. Not sure if there’s a need to be able to mix the tyres but it would certainly add another element. None of this giving sets back after practice / quali etc. You get your allocation for the weekend and use them however you see fit.

16

Yesterday was the anniversary of the titanic battle between Schumacher and Alonso at Imola in 2005 I believe. Schumacher couldn’t overtake, but it was one of the most exciting, genuine, climaxes to a race of all time. You had one driver who was supremely fast and a very capable overtaker, and one who was obviously in the slower car was absolutely supreme on defence. The same thing happened the following year with the roles reversed and it was nail biting, truly enthralling.

Compare that to today, and overtaking is cheap and meaningless. If a car is 2-3 secs a lap faster at any point, overtaking is almost guaranteed. F1 has clearly had the balance wrong this last decade. So for me, cutting the Australian GP down from 37 last year to 5 this year, is a step in the right direction to addressing the balance, even if it is a step too far. But Pirelli really need to be praised for achieving the goal of producing tyres that drivers say they can push hard on for much longer.

Addressing the wear issues to produce overtaking is a tweak from this point out, F1 does not need to do any more leaps in direction such as the one suggested by Prost. What it needs is a very slight and gradual adjustment to the tyre formula until we get overtaking to an acceptable level (I’d suggest a target should be 10-15 per race).

F1 should hold fire on any major changes, and keep an eye on the US when Indycar brings back ground effects next season. They should follow that closely and look at the impact on the racing and the ability of cars to follow closely, safety considerations etc, and look to make changes over a much longer period to gradually phase out artificial overtaking driver aids such as DRS and KERS.

17

Heres an even better idea, coax Bridgestone to come back and ditch Pirelli.

Bridgestone manufactured without doubt the best ever intermediate tyre in the history of F1. Those things could operate in nearly dry to almost monsoon conditions.

Its now 2017 and Pirelli’s inters and wets are not a path on the Bridgestones from the mid 2000s

18

I think we need to go back to two compounds per event and make them two steps apart e.g. Super soft and medium or soft and hard

19

Agree with Prost!

I’m a long time ex-fan of F1. The compulsory tyre pit stop rule was the first rule as modern F1 that really really bugged me. It’s anti-racing and anti-strategy as almost every driver does the exact same thing.

20

The voices for F1 which includes previous champions, senior journalists and the racing teams should focus on what is good about the pinnacle of motor racing. If a potential newcomer to F1 searches for articles they will find most of the news is all about knocking our sport. When did it become trendy to disrespect this great sport?

21

@ GuyM….when the plusses exceed the minuses is when it will turn around.

22

I know that it used to be the way in his days (mixed set of tires.), but i not sure if it would help the races to be more exciting.
I feel that so far this year the racing has not been too bad. High number of overpass does not translate into better racing if you ask me. Leave it as it is for a few more race then make a more learnt decision.
Organise a special test where team can play with the all range of tires as they wish, mixed sets and so on, and see what can be learned from that.
Stop wanting to change everything too quickly. Marc

23

Let them chose, if it goes wrong, they wil, pay themselves.

24

I am not sure how drivers doing their own thing with tires is somehow supposed to be a part of a racing formula. Just the production and logistics of it would seem prohibitive. Oh, and do think the teams are going to gamble with their millions of dollars in the cars by letting the driver decide the tire selection? Not!

25

Leave F1 alone, it’s fine apart from the dull engine sound! Overtakes should be hard!

26

As far as tire solutions are concerned, I like JPM’s idea of simply removing all the sensors related to monitoring tires with the exception of the pressure sensor (safety).

I hope Pirelli don’t plan to change the compounds mid-season like they did in 2013 (although 2013 was due to “safety reasons”)

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