F1’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli will face a big challenge next year when brand-new, wider tyres celebrate their debut. The Italians are looking forward to the 2017 campaign, however they would welcome more teams involved in their 2017 in-season testing programme.
Pirelli rejoined F1 in 2011 after an absence of 20 years. Its approach to racing, its fast-degrading tyres, wet weather tyres have been criticised since then while Pirelli has complained about the lack of testing which allegedly made it very hard to develop their products, especially its intermediate and wet weather tyres.
Despite to the criticism and clash of views, Pirelli extended its contract last May. The company was tasked with a huge demand for 2017. It had to develop much wider tyres to enhance mechanical grip. Next year’s tyres will be around 25 per cent wider which means the width of the front tyres will increase by 60 mm while the width of the rears will grow by 80 mm.
The manufacturer’s racing manager Mario Isola revealed that the change of the tyre’s width is not the only modification for 2017 because the whole structure and the compounds had to been redesigned. The wet weather tyres were also refined after constant criticism regarding aquaplaning.
To collect real on-track data about the all-new products, Pirelli demanded excessive testing in the second half of 2016. The manufacturer was given green light from the FIA and informed the teams about its intention. Three teams – Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes- expressed their wish to help Pirelli in its development. As 2017 brings an excessively rethought technical regulation as well, only the three top teams with the biggest financial resources were able to take part in the programme as teams had to modify their 2015 cars to simulate the downforce levels expected for the upcoming season.
Pirelli conducted 24 testing days altogether on different circuits: Fiorano, Mugello, Barcelona, Paul Ricard, Abu Dhabi served as testing venues. 11 drivers were involved in the programme, 2607 laps were completed altogether. This lap tally is equivalent to approximately 12000 kms. Wet weather tyres were tested on six days.
From the current drivers, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Gutierrez and Pascal Wehrlein tried out the new tyres. The Ferrari duo completed the most kms from the top drivers while Lewis Hamilton ran only a couple of laps. The Briton was scheduled for testing in Barcelona in mid-October, but he cancelled that because he had ankle problems. He was then scheduled for the morning testing of the last Abu Dhabi outing, but he climbed out of his car after a few laps reasoning he did not feel good.
The last testing took place right after the season finale in Abu Dhabi on November 29. During that last outing, approximately 96 different compounds were tried out with all the teams running a variety of specifications. 331 laps were completed which is equivalent to around 1839 kms.
Pirelli was content with the work it managed to complete during its tyre testing for 2017.
“Now the hard work begins as we collate and analyze the results of our 24 days and approximately 12,000 kilometers of testing in order to define the tires with which we will go racing next year,” Pirelli’s motorsport chief Paul Hembery started his analyses.
“These will then be run on the actual 2017 cars for the first time during the official group tests next February. Our latest test in Abu Dhabi went according to plan and we were able to collect the data we needed thanks to the three mule cars from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari; without whom it would have been impossible to carry out this intense development program.”
Pirelli will be in action with its final products when the winter testing kicks off on February 27. The company will not enjoy a long testing opportunity as the 2017 winter testing consists of only two outings with each of the two lasts four days. If there is no rain on the first three days, then the Circuit of Catalunya will be artificially soaked to test the much-debated wet weather tyres. Aquaplaning can be even more of a problem with the increased width of the tyres.
Despite to the excessive testing, the Milan-based tyre manufacturer wants more in-season testing in 2017 as it thinks the ‘mule’ cars of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes could not completely simulate the downforce levels which will be reached in 2017 so that means the tyres should be modified, refined for 2018.
Isola said Pirelli has been already working on a testing schedule which should cover some post-race test outings. The Italian manufacturer also wants to lure more teams for its development because the high costs of ‘mule’ cars will not be a problem anymore with the real racing cars.
"If I have to look at the results with our mule cars, we are optimistic.”
"I feel that the direction is good and we probably need to continue the development and to have a new product in 2018. But because next year we will have the real race cars testing, we have another step towards the right product," concluded Isola.