Last Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix marked the first time that Pirelli supplied a Formula 1 tyre specification that does not require the use of tyre warmers. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó reports on the introduction of Pirelli’s brand-new full wet tyres.
Continuing his impressive form and strengthening his championship lead, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the Monaco Grand Prix with Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso securing his best finish since the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix with a second-place finish. Alpine driver Esteban Ocon took third place, securing his third F1 podium finish.
With rain having been expected for Sunday, teams were well aware that they need to pay particular attention to the conditions as sudden changes could occur at any point of the grand prix. The 78-lap Monaco round started in dry conditions with teams opting for slick tyres, albeit there was a big variety in terms of compounds at the start of the race.
Mercedes, Alpine, McLaren, Alfa Romeo, and Haas all fitted their two cars with different compounds, picking the medium or the hard slick tyre. The only driver to start on the P Zero Red soft was Alfa Romeo driver Guanyu Zhou, but he also stopped after just one lap to fit the hard tyres.
When it came to the slick tyre usage, it was Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, who completed the longest stint on the C3 hard tyres with 56 laps while the fastest lap on that compounds belonged to Lewis Hamilton. On the yellow-sided mediums, Max Verstappen completed the longest run, but Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the fastest lap with a 1m15.773s.
Although Zhou Guanyu started on the red-walled soft compound, he switched to hards at the end of the first lap, leaving Williams driver Logan Sargeant to complete more than a racing lap. The Florida-born driver racked up 29 consecutive laps on the softest compound in Pirelli’s range with his best lap being a 1m17.302s.
While rain was looming all across the race, it only arrived in the final segment of the 69th Monaco Grand Prix, causing the asphalt temperatures to drop sharply from 41°C to 27°C while the ambient temperature fluctuated between 28 and 23°C.
It was Valtteri Bottas who first dived into the pits for intermediate tyres on Lap 51 before the majority of the field following suit within the next four laps.
Commenting on the Monaco Grand Prix, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola said: “The Monaco weekend was filled with emotions, both for the people watching the race in person and those following it at home on TV and online.
“When it was dry, the race was a chess game between those who started on the mediums and those who opted for the hards: actually, a bigger number of drivers than we had anticipated heading into the race. Just one person, Guanyu Zhou, went for the softs at the start. As is often the case in Monaco, it was at first a question of seeing who made the best of the traffic to find the right time to make the decisive move and pit.
“But then there was the uncertain weather, with the rain that everybody knew was coming but nobody expected to be quite so heavy. All this added up to a race that was extremely difficult to manage without making mistakes. The first stint on the medium was much longer than expected: not only did Verstappen complete 55 laps on this compound, but both AlphaTauri drivers did 53 laps, while Lando Norris did 50.
On this track in particular, tyre management, even with graining, had to be carried out according to traffic and weather conditions – as was definitely the case today.”
The sport is looking to ban the use of the tyre warmers from the start of the 2024 season, although this step seems to be not as straightforward as it may look at first. Tyre blankets have been part of the sport since 1980s.
There were already attempts to phase out the tyre warmers in 2015 for costs reasons, but the sport ultimately abanded the idea on safety grounds.
However, Pirelli has been working for a few years now to get rid of the tyre blankets. However, drivers who were able to test slick tyres which do not require pre-heating, were very critical concerning the safety aspect of the new tyres. Pirelli has not abandoned the idea and has already made a first step by reducing tyre blanket temperature to 70°C from the previous maximums of 100°C (front) and 80°C (rear) for the 2022 F1 season.
The Milan-based tyre supplier attempted to go a step further for this year by further reducing the temperatures to 50 degrees. However, after this was trialed during the second practice session of last year’s United States Grand Prix, drivers were unhappy and envisioned possible safety issues.
Pirelli therefore came up with another idea for the following round in Mexico, raising the maximum temperature back to 70 degrees, but reducing the pre-heating period to two hours instead of three. With this tests proved favourable with drivers, the Italian tyre manufacturer decided to carry through the new procedure into 2023.
At Monte Carlo, Pirelli has made another important step towards the introduction of tyres that do not require the use of tyre warmers by debuting their brand-new Cinturato Blue Full Wet tyre. The original plan was to introduce the new wet tyre at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, albeit the cancellation of the Imola race meant that its introduction was postponed by a race.
With the Monaco Grand Prix ending in rainy conditions, Pirelli was able to debut their new wet tyres following successful tests conducted earlier in 2023. Three drivers opted to use the new wet tyres at Monaco with Kevin Magnussen receiving them on Lap 56, completing a 14-lap stint.
Expecting more rain in the dying minutes of the race, Sergo Perez dived into the pits for a new set of wet weather tyres on the following lap, using them for 13 laps.
Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg started to use the new wet weather specification on Lap 59 and racked up a total of 17 laps on them. Of the three drivers, the German was fastest, clocking in a time of 1m32.994s with Perez recording his own best with a 1m35.708s and Magnussen setting an own benchmark with a time of 1m37.778.
Commenting on the debut of the new extreme wet weather tyres, Isola added: “Just like a year ago, all five types of tyre brought to Monaco were used, with the new specification of wet tyre – which doesn’t require blankets – making its debut.
“First impressions of its performance seem in line with expectations, although you obviously can’t really compare Monaco with anywhere else,” said Isola.
Interestingly, all five compounds were in action on Sunday which is a real rarity in a race. The changeable weather meant that Monaco has become the first round in 2023 to feature all three dry weather tyres and the two wet weather tyres.
In terms of number of different compounds, it was Logan Sargeant and Sergio Perez to complete the most colorful races with both of them using four different compounds across the Monaco Grand Prix. The American driver used all three dry weather compound, starting the race on the mediums before switching to the hards and the softs and ending the 78-lap race on the intermediates.
The Mexican racer started the race on the yellow-banded medium before switching to the hards at the end of the opening lap. He then switched to intermediates before opting for the full wet weather tyres, but he ended the races on the green-sided intermediates.