Hembery Outlines Challenges of New Pirelli Tires
Ahead of the introduction of their new wider tires, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery admits there are many challenges they will face at the start of the 2017 Formula One season.
The Italian manufacturer is bringing different tires to the sport for the season for the introduction of wider and more aggressive-looking cars, the biggest change in the tires since they became the sole supplier in 2011.
Speaking on the Autosport Stage at the Autosport International event in Birmingham, England, Hembery said he can imagine fans will not have to wait long to see an instant improvement in lap time.
Last season already produced an improvement alongside the introduction of new tire rules that gave each constructor three different compounds to use during a race weekend.
“You’ve got a 25% increase in the width of the tire so you’re going to say at least 25% because we’ve also changed a lot of the technology in the tire itself,” he said. “The objective we had as a package between ourselves and the car was a five second-a-lap improvement compared to Barcelona in 2015. You saw last year maybe two, two and a half second improvement already so I think we’re going to get very close to that very early on.”
Hembery mentioned teams may be making fewer visits to the pits during events in the coming season due to the characteristics of the new compounds.
“The tires themselves we’ve made them so there’s less thermal overheating on the surface and the idea of that is you’ll be able to push harder if you’re trying to overtake somebody. Between the two, the idea has been that that should be sufficient to give us stronger overtaking. We feel that the overheating aspects will be such that less degradation, [and] probably fewer tire changes.”
Despite the positives, things may be rough to start, as a result of the design of the tires may be too cautious.
“The problem we’ve got is that we’ve been testing with cars that are five seconds slower than we’re actually going to see in a few weeks’ time in Barcelona and that from the compounding aspects is a bit of a challenge for us because then there’s a very small [time] window that we’re working with and if the numbers aren’t what we’ve been told they’re going to be then we might have been a little bit too conservative.”
Hembery also believes pre-season testing may not produce representative lap times as they look to keep the knowledge of the true pace of their cars to themselves and grid potential may not be known until the second and third races of the season in China and Bahrain in April.
He mentioned the Australian Grand Prix could make it hard to instantly predict the pace of the grid, with the race recently producing surprising outcomes such as Haas’ Romain Grosjean’s sixth-place finish, Felipe Nasr’s fifth-place finish for Sauber and McLaren’s double podium with Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button in the last three years.
“At the moment, none of the teams know where they are relative to the others. We really won’t know as well in Barcelona where they are because that’s a period when they won’t want to share their hand really.
“There will be a lot of people trying to hide their true performance levels or maybe wondering what they have to do because they can’t get close to some of the teams that are maybe sandbagging. Australia can throw up a few strange results. I think it will really be when we get to China, and Bahrain in particular, before we see the true performance of these cars.”
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