Pirelli tyre, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017

Pirelli “very unlikely” to use backup 2016-style tyres

2017 F1 season

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Pirelli says its new tyres are degrading at a much lower rate and it is “very unlikely” to resort to using its backup 2016-style compounds.

Following tests of the wider new tyres plus last year’s compounds in the new 2017 dimensions, Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery told F1 Fanatic “we know we’re in the right direction”.

“A couple of teams have run the [backup tyres] and it’s a very dramatic difference,” he said.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
F1 testing day two in pictures
“I think we’ve seen enough already here to suggest we’re in the right direction. It’s very unlikely that those will be utilised.”

Hembery revealed the 2017 tyres are demonstrating much lower levels of degradation, which was one aspect of Pirelli’s brief for its 2017 rubber.

“We’re well beyond the levels that we were asked to provide so there’s much less degradation,” he said.

However Hembery believes most of the teams haven’t shown their true performance yet which may have an effect on degradation levels.

“When we looked at data yesterday it’s hard to believe some of it because we were having a few tenths of a second (degradation) over 18 or 19 laps,” he said. “But you really don’t know what they’re doing, what programmes they’re running. So it’s very early days.”

“We need to get the cars with the correct performance because if we’re talking three or four seconds quicker then we’re running today that’s like going from GP2 to Formula One. So these are massive differences yet we are going to see, that could change absolutely everything.”

“It may be that we’re being too conservative, that’s one aspect, then some say you’re being too aggressive. You could only tell that when we’ve got the true performance of the cars.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
Reduced degradation is a “colossal change”
“We can look at the data, we’ve got an idea of the cornering data, which you can imagine people in testing maybe aren’t running the power train to the maximum of its ability, which is normal. But we’ll probably get some cornering speed data which will tell us where we’re at.”

“Even having said that we don’t believe that there’s many cars running with their definitive aero packages, if at all. It would be very strange if they were because it’s such a big change. They’ll all be wanting to keep hold of any details right to the end.”

With track conditions in testing lower in grip and temperature than in the race, Hembery believes there’s further scope for degradation to rise, but not to 2016 levels.

“Yeah because performance levels increase, temperatures will be higher and that could force us to have a little bit more degradation.”

“But if we’re comparing what we know would have been the case, even here, with the previous generation compound, it’s a colossal change.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 11 comments on “Pirelli “very unlikely” to use backup 2016-style tyres”

    1. I know they haven’t raced on these tires yet, but I’ve had no doubt all along that these tires would be much better. All I had to hear was that they would no longer be having to make the gadgety thermal kind to know Pirelli themselves would probably be relieved to be able to make proper tires for a change, like they’ve known how to make for decades.

      1. @robbie it’ll be interesting to see if any teams try following a car as part of their testing to see how the tyres perform behind another car. I really hope that (ignoring how aero is affected) that the tyres don’t drop off when following

        1. @3dom Yeah I think it’s pretty safe to say the tires will certainly behave completely differently in dirty air than the last 3 season’s tires, and almost guaranteed better. Aside from the added mechanical grip they won’t have a sensitive temp window that the tires can easily be taken out of by following a car. When these tires do get brought out of their optimum window they will be able to be brought back into said window more quickly.

          1. @robbie. That alone makes me feel better about the prospect of “racing” occurring, not necessarily overtaking, but I’ll certainly be happier if we see more racing and less backing off to preserve tyres, that would be a decent step closer to the ideal

    2. Hopefully the lower deg rate will mean more racing and less tire preservation, but I fear fuel saving will still be an issue keeping drivers from pushing throughout the race as they would like.

      1. You could be right. It is my hope that due to the higher drag from the wider cars and tires, the teams will have to watch how much downforce they use ie. keep it to a minimum, and after all, they’ll have good mechanical grip to rely on if their wings are ‘turned down’. Let’s face it, teams don’t nearly always need all the downforce available to them otherwise we’d have been seeing all along Monaco setups at Monza.

        It is my hope that in order to achieve fuel economy and respectable top speeds on straights they will not use nearly all this extra downforce that has been so dire in people’s predictions for 2017. High downforce also equals slow top speeds, more fuel consumption, and more tire deg, so it’s as always going to be a compromise that will change by the track.

        1. They dont keep the downforce to a minimum. With the aero they always try to get as much downforce with as little drag as they can and the ratio between the downforce and drag changes with the track layout. A track with more straights favor less drag at the cost of less downforce and a curvy track favors more downforce at the cost of higher drag.

          In no situation would they turn down the wings and deem the mechanical grip good enough, as long as the downforce to drag ratio on this track is favorable for more downforce they will add more downforce. This year we will see higher downforce levels on both Monza and Monaco than last year.

    3. As much as I think I understood the old tyres, there’s still I lot that was confusing for me. Am I right in thinking with the old spec, if they weren’t getting thermal degradation it’s because they couldn’t get up to temperature, yes?

      I hope this issue has been properly resolved along with less degradation, I feel like Pirelli are treading on thin ice (literally)

      1. @strontium I’m certainly no expert. my summary of the thermal deg tyres (which, with your F1 knowledge, you probably already know) has been that there was a fairly narrow operating window, below which you got graining, and above which, the tyre’s structure changed to the extent that performance was lost and couldn’t be fully recovered. The latter happened easily when following another car coz the turbulent air resulted in more lateral sliding.

        I’m looking forward to tyres that don’t melt when a car follows another.

        1. Sorry if you were after a more scientific explanation

    Comments are closed.