Pirelli explain tyre testing, prototypes and 2014 challenges

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Canada, Circuit Gilles Villeneuveca

Pirelli have reacted to the criticism and questions of the media about the current tyre situation in a lengthy online conference, hoping to clarify some issues that arose after the private Mercedes F1 team tyre test at Barcelona.

The company first stated that it did not favour any teams by doing a 1000 km tyre test with Mercedes following the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya.

"The tyres used at the test were not from the current championship but belonged to a range of products still being developed in view of an eventual renewal of the supply contract. Further, none of the tests were carried for the purpose of enhancing specific cars, but only to test tyre solutions for future championships. The use of the car utilized by Mercedes, in particular, was the result of direct communication between FIA and the team itself. Pirelli did not ask in any way that a 2013 car be used: not of Mercedes nor Fia nor the teams which, during the year, were offered the opportunity of participating in tests for the development of tyres for 2014. The tyres that will be tested by the teams in the free practice at the Montreal Grand Prix have never been used by the teams before."

Paul Hembery specifically noted that Pirelli asked for a "relevant f1 car" to test the tyres with, rather than a 2013 car. The company realises its own 2010 Renault used previously for tyre testing is not adequate anymore as it's more than 4s off the pace of current Formula One cars. Moreover, the company simply didn't have its car available at the time of the test as it was being used for demo runs elsewhere.

The company stressed that it has always respected the contractual limits which bind it to the FIA, teams and championship’s organizers, and has always respected the principles of sporting loyalty. There is however the "indisputable need to carry out tests for the development of tyres which are adequate and regulated by rules which are clear and shared by all the interested parties. The company confirms its availability, as communicated to the teams many times in the past, to organize tests for the development of tyres for 2014 with all the teams in the championship."

Pirelli also states it has quickly provided answers to all questions from the FIA, clarifying what happened at the test.

It was also mentioned that "since 2010 [Pirelli] made it clear that it is neither possible nor useful to carry out this type of test with all the teams simultaneously. In fact, this type of testing aimed at technological development and researching new solutions, involves many tyres of different types which must be tested with a single car at a time."

Even more so, Paul Hembery said testing with 11 teams would be a waste of time and money as it does not bring 11 times the information as testing with 1 car does. He feels it would be unreasonable in a climate of cost control to have all teams test at the same time, as they would involve more shipping, the production of more tyres and an increased number of personnel at the tests.

"Already in March 2012, Pirelli sent an email to all the teams, Fia and Fom, inviting the teams to indicate their availability for testing for the development of tyres for 2013. Further, the company explained that it was necessary to conduct the tests with the teams’ cars because it did not have a suitable one of its own (Pirelli has the use of an adapted 2010 Renault and, before that, a 2009 Toyota).

The invitation was subsequently repeated in various official contexts and repeated to some teams last March for the development of tyres for 2014. Mercedes was the first team to show interest in such a test, hence Pirelli chose to do the test with them.

Mercedes test was aimed at the development of 2014 tyres

The Barcelona test was conducted in cooperation with Mercedes between May 15 and May 17, 2013. The teams made available one car and two first tier drivers, who alternated at the wheel on different days.

"This test, as always, carried out with a single compound never used in a championship, regarded structures not in use in the current season and not destined to be used later during the 2013 season. The tyre tests were conducted “in the dark”, which means that the teams had no information on which specifications were being tested or about the goal of the testing; nor did they receive any type of information afterwards.

"The trials were done with a base compound, not in use this year, and 12 different structures which had never been used in 2013, only one of which with kevlar. The team did not obtain any advantage with regard to knowledge of the behaviour of the tyres in use in the current championship."

"The type of car used during the tests was the subject of direct discussions between Mercedes and FIA, as shown in the exchange of emails between the team and Pirelli. In particular, Mercedes informed Pirelli that its 2011 car could not be used and that it had already contacted Fia regarding the use of the 2013 car. There is no doubt that the questions relating to the vehicle were the exclusive domain of the team and that Pirelli was excluded from these questions (notwithstanding Pirelli’s need, from a technical point of view, to have a representative car in terms of impact on the performance of the tyres).

"To confirm that this was an ordinary development test and not aimed at specific interventions, Pirelli made no specific requests about the drivers or about the tyre of Mercedes staff that would be present during the tests and had fielded its normal team for development testing."

2014 a completely different tyre challenge

Knowing that the regulations will be quite different as of 2014, the demands to the tyres will also change considerably, as Pirelli is eager to prevent it being caught out by the different demands on its products. While the FIA is asking to still maintain tyres that will ensure 2 to 3 stops a race, Paul Hembery said Pirelli now looks for a strategy to make sure that next year is not about the tyres, but rather about the new car developments.

The challenges are particularly important as Pirelli, if it is to be in the sport next year, needs to provide tyre data to the teams in 3 months time. In that time, engineers need to come up with tyres that can handle the new cars, which could go up to 30km/h faster in straight lines and may spin rear tyres at 4th or even 5th gear due to the increased amount of torque from the turbo engines. Pirelli is even still in the dark about what will be exact weight distributions or even the cornering forces that will go through the tyres.

Prototype tyres at Canada designed to resolve delamination

"With regard to the new tyres, the problem of delamination has been solved by Pirelli’s technicians exclusively through laboratory testing. Delamination, which only occurred on four occasions and always because of on-track detritus, has never put the drivers’ safety at risk, but does risk harming Pirelli’s image. This is why the company decided to intervene.

"The tyres with the new structures in kevlar which will be given to the teams during the free practice at the Montreal Grand Prix will for the first time be track tested, following laboratory development. The new tyres have overcome the problem of delamination. This phenomenon in no manner compromises the drivers’ safety but risks damaging the company’s image. At the Canada tests, the teams will have the opportunity to express their opinions and make observations."

The company stressed that it does not seek unanimous agreement of teams over the new tyres, but instead only aims to verify if they are working properly. Pirelli believes however that agreement will be easy, as teams themselves asked for a solution to the delamination problem, an issue that is seen as a potential safety risk.

It was finally noted that even though Pirelli is ready to make any changes deemed necessary, the Canadian prototype tyres will use the same compounds, only on a different structure: "Pirelli has made no modifications that affect the duration of the tyres and, consequently, on the number of pit stops during the race because of a lack of unanimity of the part of the teams."