Pirelli’s Mario Isola, talks about the compromise that the Italian company is facing ahead of the challenging 2018 Formula 1 season.
The big aerodynamic changes that F1 introduced in 2017 aimed to make the cars look better and produce a bigger amount of downforce. That resulted in a massive drop of the lap times, because the cars were the fastest they’ve been in the recent years. Wider tires were introduced too, but Pirelli chose to make them harder, which resulted in less pit-stops during races.
As a result of the new changes, overtakes saw a massive drop in numbers compared to previous seasons. Now, Isola states that the tires are one of the factors, but insists that higher degradation tires are not something that drivers want.
Overtaking is a different story, because [with] overtaking we know how difficult it is with the current aerodynamics and the effect when you follow another car. Braking is very late, so it’s also difficult because of this. Increasing speed means that the ideal line becomes narrower, so we are trying to have a bit of a better situation in terms of overtaking with more degradation of the tires. So cars on tires with a different number of laps should create a differential in performance, but we don’t want to go too much on the high side of degradation because then you make drivers unhappy because they want to push. Especially when they are attacking, when they are trying to overtake another car, if they lose performance too much it’s not good for them and it’s not good for the show.
Isola says also, that they are working in making compounds that produce a different kind of degradation, but as he states, it’s very difficult to make.
It’s a balance and a compromise that is very difficult to achieve, but we are working on compounds with a bit higher degradation, but thermal degradation, not surface overheating. Surface overheating is what the drivers hate because they push on the tire and they lose the performance. Thermal degradation is linear: as long as you use the tire, you lose the performance. So it’s something that they know and they manage. Surface overheating is a different story. You cannot increase thermal degradation and decrease surface overheating. OK, we try to, but it’s very, very, very difficult.
Pirelli chose to make the new for 2018 tires softer in an attempt to make racing better. Also, introduced two new compounds, the Hypersoft (pink) and the Superhard (orange).