Pirelli say their new 2017-spec tyres will have much lower degradation than they’ve had in previous years, according to early analysis.
When Pirelli became the sole tyre supplier in 2011 they were asked to make tyres that degraded quickly in order to make the racing more interesting. It kinda worked at first but recently teams and drivers worked out how to get the best from them, basically by driving slowly – not exactly exciting.
Therefore they’ve aimed to make the 2017-spec tyres (which are 25 per cent wider than last year) last longer, and according to their initial tests they say they’re on target.
“They are completely new compounds. We have encountered very low degradation, but these simulations are one thing.” Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola told Motorsport.com.
He also confirmed that the drivers had specifically asked for longer-lasting rubber because the previous compounds overheated so easily that it made it difficult to race closely without destroying the tyres.
That isn’t the case with the new compounds, however: “Our goal is for the tyre to return to a normal condition in a very short time, which will help improve grip. In testing we have seen that this target has been reached – but it needs to be verified on the actual cars, so we will wait for the first few races.”
The only on-track testing Pirelli have been able to do is with ‘mules’ – no, that’s not Maldonado’s nickname, but 2015 cars running with big wings and under-body aero which attempt to simulate 2017 levels of downforce.
According to some engineers however the new cars are already producing more downforce than expected, with that figure only expected to increase as the season progresses.
Whether the tyres are equipped to handle that remains to be seen: “We have seen from the simulations that we have been sent by teams, based on patterns with the new cars, that the performance will be better than those we saw from the mule cars. This leads us to still have some question marks on the feedback that will come from the track in the first tests and the first few races of the world championship.”
So, the teams aren’t sure how the Pirellis will perform on their cars, Pirelli aren’t sure what cars they’re trying to design tyres for, and there are only 10 weeks until the first race in Melbourne. Classic F1.