Relentless development work on two different venues in vastly different conditions: Pirelli completed in-season testing with Red Bull and Alpine at Monza and with Ferrari at Fiorano. F1Technical's senior writer Balázs Szabó reports on Pirelli's double test activities in Monza and Fiorano.
Following last Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, Formula One’s tyre supplier Pirelli stayed at Monza to perform tyre development work with Red Bull and Alpine on the 5.7km high-speed track.
The work revolved around Pirelli's blanket-free slick tyres. These were set to make their debut next year with Pirelli having conducted several test sessions throughout the year to tweak their construction.
However, the sport decided at the end of July that their introduction will be postponed at least by a year. With Pirelli currently only having contract with Formula One until the end of next year, it is not even sure that their blanket-free tyres will be introduced in the future even if the sport decides to pursue that way.
In spite of the unsure future of the sport’s tyre supplier, Pirelli decided to go ahead with the development of their brand-new tyres that do not require pre-heating, completing another two-day test session in Monza.
On Tuesday, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon got behind the wheel of the Red Bull and Alpine. After finishing second at Monza, the Mexican racked up a total of 119 laps of which his best was a 1m23.585. The Frenchman completed a similar mileage with 118 laps, setting a best lap time of 1m25.508s.
The next day saw Pierre Gasly take over the car from Ocon. The Frenchman, who moved to Milan to years ago, notched up a total of 122 laps, clocking a best of 1m24.971s.
Pirelli pursued a totally different schedule and to-do list at Ferrari's own test track in Fiorano: the programme mainly included tests for the development of extreme and intermediate wet tyres on artificially wet asphalt. Following the tiring Italian Grand Prix that involved high density of media activities, but turned out to be Ferrari's best race weekend so far in 2023, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz travelled north to Ferrari's headquarters to help Pirelli develop their tyres that are used on wet surface.
The Milan-based manufacturer hinted earlier that it has been developing a “super-intermediate” construction that would be used as a single specification of wet-weather rubber in Formula 1 following recent criticism from drivers.
Drivers have raised concerns about the performance of Pirelli’s wet weather tyres that have proved useless in recent wet conditions. The issue did not revolve around the tyre construction, but the visibility that has made running in extreme wet conditions very much impossible.
FIA has developed a spray guard that was tested by Mercedes at Silverstone earlier this year. However, the test showed that the device that should help improve visibility in wet conditions did not perform as the simulations promised.
It is believed that Pirelli would stick to the duo of wet-weather tyres and intermediates if the sport does not introduce the spray guard. However, it would introduce their super intermediate should the spray guard get the green lights.
Sainz got behind the wheel of the Ferari SF23 on Tuesday. The Spaniard, who took a sensational pole position in Monza last Saturday on Ferrari’s home turf, completed 153 laps on the short Fiorano circuit. His best time was a 59.430s. His team-mate Leclerc took over the scarlet red car on Wednesday, racking up a total of 130 laps en route to set a best time of 59.220s.
Commenting on the test, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Mario Isola said: “Two tight days of testing on two tracks with very different characteristics and with different objectives: at Monza we concentrated on slick tires while at Fiorano we worked mainly on wet and intermediate tires.
"In these two days we had the objective of finalizing some choices in view of next year but also of working for the longer-term future, even if we still don’t know if, starting from 2025, we will remain the tire supplier of the Formula 1 World Championship”.
“After all, there aren’t many opportunities to carry out tests on the track and we have to try to optimize every opportunity. The work done has allowed us to collect a large amount of data, which will now have to be analyzed with great scrupulousness. With almost three thousand kilometers traveled (2,922 the overall calculation) we were able to try various solutions and I would like to thank the teams and riders involved, who have proved to be very cooperative and helpful”.