By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli motors into its second season of Formula One as exclusive tyre supplier with the entire range of tyres renewed compared to the previous year.
The changes to the tyres has been in response to new aerodynamic and technical regulations, which have had a profound impact on car design.
Blown diffusers are now forbidden, which alters the fundamental balance of the car, and also affects the tyres along with the way that they are used.
The aerodynamics now work on the car in a different way, redistributing the forces that are acting on the tyres and altering the driver’s feeling.
A greater proportion of force on the front axle means that there is better turn-in and superior driving precision in corners, as well as improved medium-speed to high-speed direction changes.
But with the forces moving more towards the front of the car, a weaker rear end means that the rear tyres have to work even harder to avoid sliding through corners, as well as combatting wheelspin under acceleration.
The driving style needed to control the rear during these periods of oversteer and wheelspin puts plenty of stress onto all the tyres, which translate into higher working temperatures on both the front and the rear.
As a result there is more rear degradation and a balance that moves towards oversteer during a race stint.
Pirelli has reacted by giving the rear tyres more grip and adopting ‘squarer’ profiles to present a greater contact patch to the track.
The new profiles, designed to distribute stresses more evenly across the entire tyre footprint, even in extreme conditions, compensate for the latest technical restrictions.
At the same time, they work perfectly with driving styles that are increasingly more complex and aggressive to deal with the reduced grip at the rear.
Another important new tyre regulation for 2012 is the fact that drivers can have all 11 sets of their weekend’s allocation available from Friday.
This is designed to avoid drivers limiting their running in order to save tyres for later, and it should give spectators the chance to see more action.
Finally, Pirelli’s colour markings are more prominent this year, and there is a new name for the wet-weather tyres: Cinturato. This is the name of the tyres with which Pirelli first entered Formula One, back in the 1950s.