Pirelli to change its approach for 2018 – Mario Isola

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In an exclusive talk with f1technical.net’s Balazs Szabo, Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isola revealed Pirelli intends to introduce softer compounds as of the 2018 F1 Championship season in a bid to make strategies more exciting.

The Milan-based tyre company which has supplied the pinnacle of motorsport since 2011 has been tasked with an enormous challenge when it had to design new, 25 per cent wider tyres for an era of a totally rethought technical regulation.

Three teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – helped Pirelli in its pursuit for the best compounds and tyre constructions. These squads prepared mule cars which were aimed to simulate the increase in downforce.

“We had quite a big challenge. We had to develop a completely new tyre in a very short period of time. We had six to seven months. Track testing was even less than six-seventh months. New cars, new regulation. It was the first time that the new regulations were aiming to improve the performance of the cars, not to reduce it.”

“We had to make all the job with a mule car. We are thankful for the teams which prepared the mule cars, but obviously they were not fully representative of the performance of the cars. We are happy because we had some clear targets. One was to reduce overheating and give the drivers the possibility to push. We have reduced the overheating a lot.

F1’s sole tyre manufacturer Pirelli revealed it has not been completely content with the behaviour of this year’s compounds and therefore wants to rethink its approach before the next season.

“We also reduced the thermal degradation, probably a bit too much compared to the target. So for next year the plan is to go in general one step softer. The level of grip is there, we see it from the lap time. The cars are performing well. We have to slightly modify to achieve the right delta lap time between the compounds. Between for example medium and soft, it is a bit too big, between supersoft, soft and ultrasoft small. The medium will be the new hard. That means next year you will see all the compounds.”

Isola revealed that Pirelli won’t use its actual hardest compound from its range as it proved to be too hard for the new generation cars even if they produce staggeringly high levels of downforce.

“We announced the choices for the last two races two days ago. We are not planning to take the hard.”

The managing director of Pirelli said the company would welcome more in-season testing because the virtual work cannot give answers for all its questions. However, the actual 2017 testing system seems to be a good compromise for the teams and the tyre manufacturer.

“The problem is that we know the teams are very busy with the season. So it is difficult to find room for tyre testing, but it is very important because we can simulate the performance of the tyres, different constructions, but it is still difficult to simulate the thermal properties or the behaviour of the wet and intermediates. We need also some testing for the wet and intermediate. To do our job properly, we need some testing. 25 days of testing is a good compromise. They were probably not enough, because we had the big change last year.”

Pirelli conducts testing for its 2018 tyre constructions and compounds with some teams throughout the 2017 season. In this tests, teams can only work for tyre testing, are not allowed to try out new parts which have not been raced before and cannot even make setup changes throughout the whole day.

“It is a blind test. We provide all the records, data (to the other teams). This is not to give an advantage to anybody.”

“At the beginning, just to be sure that the car is working in a proper way. We make the plan, we give them the tyres they have to fit for a number of laps,” concluded Isola.