By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli is confident its latest generation of Formula One tyres have the potential to make for an exciting season in 2012, after this week’s test at Jerez in Spain.
Last year the tyres were praised for shaking up the racing, but towards the end of the year the teams started to get to grips with the different compounds and tended to spend as much time as possible on the softer version, making racing more predictable.
This year, according to ESPN F1, Pirelli has closed the performance gap between the compounds in order to give the teams more strategy options and wean them off the tendency to opt for softs.
The idea is to allow for reasonably high degradation levels on the faster super-soft and soft tyres, while offering more consistent medium and hard compounds.
That should create a crossover point in performance where teams will have to decide whether to opt for a new set of soft tyres or stick it out on a slower but longer lasting mediums or hards. After four days of pre-season testing at Jerez, Hembery said the early indication is that everything is going to plan.
Paul Hembery, the motorsport boss for the Italian tyres manufacturer, said: “You will get teams making a decision whether to make one pit stop less and stay out longer on the medium or hard tyre, whereas last season everybody would have pushed the maximum performance on the soft tyre because there was no advantage [in choosing the harder tyre] and the [performance] gap was so big between tyres that they couldn’t recuperate that 1.5 seconds with the degradation.
“So that’s the theory, practice is something else.”
He said the warm afternoons at Jerez had given the best indication that the gap between compounds is on target.
“In the afternoons when we get into 20C plus like today there is a good indications, particularly between the new soft compound and the medium, that 0.6s appears to be the performance difference, which on a 4km track is about what we were hoping for. The hard is more difficult because people have used it maybe in the morning and we haven’t got so much representative data. But we know the warm-up is better on the medium and hard tyre, which is a criticism we had last year, getting the tyres up to temperature particularly if some of the cars mid-grid had less downforce – that’s another positive comment we’ve had back.”
And he said drivers were reporting that degradation of the front tyres was becoming the limiting factor rather than the rears.
“The cars themselves are using the tyres better,” he said. “The profiles have meant that the wear profile is better. Here we’re front limited whereas most of last season we were front limited, which is good because you’ve got a better chance of causing some fronts some problems at a lot of circuits. We have to be happy.”