What to know about Pirelli’s new specification of slick tyres?

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Emilia Romagna, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrariit

Formula One’s sole tyre supplier Pirelli has announced that it will introduce a new specification slick tyre from the British Grand Prix onwards after evaluating the performance gains and development rate of the current F1 cars. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó reports on the key in-season technical change.

Pirelli introduced new 18-inch tyres for the 2022 season that also saw the introduction of brand-new ground-effect cars. Although drivers were delighted with the new generation of F1 tyres last year, cars tended to produce understeer which Pirelli intended to correct for the ongoing season by implementing few changes to the front tyres.

However, following the opening races in 2023, the Milan-based tyre supplier was surprised at the increase in performance of the current cars after just one full season of development and now intends to react to the increased speed and downforce of the 2023 cars.

The reason – Pirelli is not only surprised by the current downforce levels the new generation F1 cars produce in the second year of the new technical era, but it is also anticipating greater speed and downforce later on as development continues across the season.

The Milan-based tyre manufacturer endured a difficult British Grand Prix back in 2020 when Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz all suffered unexpected tyre failures in the final four laps of the Silverstone race.

Back then, Pirelli concluded a thorough investigation that highlighted multiple reasons for the tyre blowouts. Among the causes was the increased pace of the 2020 F1 cars compared to the previous year which led to extremely challenging operating conditions for the tyres. Pirelli reacted to the issue by updating tyre usage guidance for teams and increasing the minimum tyre pressures to reduce the strain on the constructions.

How is it possible? - In normal circumstances, an in-season rule change requires a super-majority of eight teams to vote in favour. However, the FIA can force through changes on safety grounds which does not require the agreement of the competing teams.

Following the first races, Pirelli felt that immediate changes were necessary and therefore has asked the FIA’s authorisation to introduce a new specification of slick tyre from the British Grand Prix at Silverstone onwards. The request under article 10.8.3 of the Formula 1 technical regulations has been approved.

First trial – Teams will have the opportunity to test the new specification slick tyres at the Spanish Grand Prix that takes place one month prior to the race at Silverstone. Drivers will get two extra tyres during Friday’s first and second free practice sessions which will enable the engineers to assess the impact the new tyres will have on the current cars.

In fact, the procedure will not be new to teams and drivers. With Pirelli having already selected race weekends for tyre testing over the course of the last years, teams and drivers are used to handle the extra workload during the Friday practice sessions which are condensed anyway due to the reduced track time.

Pirelli revealed that the new specification will sport a sterner, tougher tyre construction with the compound types staying the same. The new specification will see the introduction of materials that have been originally planned for 2024.

Pirelli’s F1 chief Mario Isola commented: “We’ve seen how much more performance the 2023 cars have compared to last year throughout the opening races of this season, and that is thanks to the extraordinary pace of development shown by all 10 of the teams.

“In Miami, for example, the pole time was nearly two seconds faster than last year, but the same sort of progress has been seen during races as well. Pirelli’s simulation work has always been aimed at not only supplying a product that hits the performance targets specified by stakeholders, but also anticipating any potential problems and reacting to them quickly.

“The new specification contains materials that we have already developed for 2024, which will make the tyres more resistant without affecting any of the other technical parameters or their behaviour on track.

“To allow all the teams to test the new construction on a level playing field, Pirelli will supply two extra tyre sets per car to be used during FP1 and FP2 at the Spanish Grand Prix.”