New compounds for 2019 - exclusive talk with Pirelli’s Mario Isola

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Belgium, Circuit De Spa-Francorchampsbe

Pirelli has set new targets for its 2019 tyres: fewer compounds, bigger performance gaps between them and simplified compounds names. F1Technical.net’s Balázs Szabó discussed about the company’s future goals with its head of car racing Mario Isola.

F1technical spoke to Isola in 2017 summer when he revealed that Pirelli wanted to increase the number of pit stops from one to two in the following year. However, so far in 2018, teams have found ways to manage the tyre degradation in order to stick to a one-stop strategy in most of the races.

“We decided last year to homologate new compounds and to go all the range one step softer, with a target to have in most of the races two stops. This is not happening, mainly because teams are managing the race pace in order to reduce degradation, targeting one stop. With only one stop, they take less risk, they do not encounter traffic, (decreasing the chance of) making a mistake during the pit stop. That means that everybody tries to reduce the number of pit stops.”

How to force teams to two stops

Asked how the Milan-based tyre company could force teams to opt for a two-stop strategy, Isola pointed at the difference between the one- and two-stop strategy which should be big enough to take the risk for completing more than one single stop.

“Honestly it is not easy because one possible solution is that we supply tyres where a two-stop strategy is a clear advantage over a one-stop strategy. At the moment, we are in a situation when a one-stopper and a two-stopper are very close, let’s say less than five seconds in total race time difference.”

“Everybody tries to manage degradation in order to reach one stop. To try to encourage teams to go for two stops, there should (be) a clear advantage on a two-stop strategy. But, again, it is important to understand how much we can increase degradation. It is not very easy, we need to work together with the teams (to see) what we can do to have more pit stops. The question is whether a two-stop (strategy) is really improving the show or not.”

“Teams are here to compete, to win the race. If the best strategy is to stop once, they stop once. They are not here for the show.”

On a couple of occasions, Pirelli has chosen an aggressive tyre selection. In China and Germany, their three-compound tyre selection saw a jump between two adjacent compounds. Isola thinks this may not be the best way to spice the show up because the leading teams can trick that out with competing in the second qualifying session on the harder compound thanks to their pace advantage.

New constructions for 2019

Pirelli has been hard working on new compounds for the 2019 championship. Asked what targets Pirelli has set with the new products, Isola revealed that the company wants bigger delta of approximately one second between adjacent compounds. He also added that Pirelli has to follow FIA’s requirements.

“We develop a new construction that is working better. We learn every weekend something. We are developing new compounds with a bigger delta. Soft, supersoft and ultrasoft are very close and we have a bigger delta between ultra and hyper. The target for next year is to have new compounds with better delta, with different level of degradation,” concluded Isola.

Simplification of compounds
Each year, the compounds and structures change slightly, but in 2019 there’s going to be fewer of them, there will be a bigger performance gap between each compound, and they will be described in a different way: with just a soft, medium and hard compound available at every race. Of course these tyres won’t be the same for each grand prix: the hardest compound available for Silverstone will be very different to the hardest compound available for Monaco, for example.

So, for those wishing to go into a little more technical detail, each compound step will be given its own name or letter to distinguish it. Keeping the example of Silverstone and Monaco, for instance, the hard Silverstone tyre might be compound one whereas the hard Monaco compound might be compound three.