Category Archives: tyres

Formula One : The Future of Pirelli in F1

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Pirelli returned to Formula One in 2011 as the sole tyre supplier and official championship partner. Pirelli, founded in Italy, recently acquired by ChemChina, joined the championship with a clear mandate from Formula One Management to ‘spice up the racing’ through the development of a range of tyre compounds with significant performance variables and accelerated levels of degradation. Initially, this new philosophy around tyre performance at the pinnacle of motorsports was well received with a positive response from fans and media around a new element of unpredictability surrounding an F1 weekend.

However, as teams and drivers adapted to the Pirelli approach to tyre compound chemistry, car set up and driving techniques evolved to minimise the challenges the tyres presented. This led to increasingly aggressive approaches to performance and degradation levels in tyre development culminating in the “challenging” 2013 British Grand Prix in which teams were supplied with tyres which were not capable of performing at the levels required. The result of which was a race which saw numerous failures throughout the field and a strategic re-evaluation from Pirelli.

In the seasons since 2013, Pirelli has maintained the vision of producing a range of compounds with varying levels of performance and high levels of degradation but with a more conservative approach. The result of this restraint has been races in which teams and drivers focus on tyre management over performance, understanding the optimal approach to a race has often been to extend the life of a tyre rather than push it to its limit. As such, in recent seasons, drivers have rarely complimented the performance of Pirelli’s efforts over a Grand Prix weekend.

Creating positive media coverage in a sole supply situation will always be a challenge. Since there is no competitor to beat, victory becomes the default leaving the only newsworthy coverage that of failure.  In such an environment it can be a challenge to understand how Pirelli quantify benefits from its sponsorship of Formula One. Over seven seasons they have developed a reputation for producing tyres with excessive degradation and minimal differentiation beyond coloured side walls. Would an F1 fan seriously consider buying Pirelli tyres for their own car based on how they perform in Formula One?

So where does this leave Pirelli?

At the end of each season, Pirelli produce an end of year summary detailing all every fact and figure imaginable around; corning speeds, top speeds, lap times, number of overtakes, number of compounds used by each driver and the figure which stood out to me the most, the number of sets of tyres produced in a season.

In 2017 Pirelli produced 38,788 sets of F1 tyres, which equates to approximately 3,258 tons of tyres. Of these, only 12,920 sets (1,085 tons of tyres) were actually used. This means two-thirds of F1 tyres produced in 2017 were never raced and simply destroyed. Whilst Pirelli makes it clear all tyres were recovered, a system in which such a vast number of tyres are produced and shipped around the globe and never used is hugely wasteful and frankly embarrassing for both the manufacturer and the sport. The strategy of an ever-increasing range of tyres being made available for a Grand Prix weekend has resulted in the requirement of an inefficient and cumbersome supply chain. Something which will only increase in 2018 with further tyre compounds and team selection freedoms being added to the Pirelli ‘menu’.

In recent years Michelin, a leading industry competitor, have repeated statements that the current philosophy of Formula One around the use of tyre degradation as a key variable in racing, is of limited strategic merit and is not in keeping with how they believe tyre technology should be presented in motorsport. Instead, Michelin has focused their efforts in Formula E and the World Endurance Championship, showcasing innovations around all-weather tyres, low profile tyres (18-inches, compared to the 13-inch profile used in Formula One), and minimal degradation allowing competitors to push the performance of a tyre throughout an event.

Increasingly Formula One and its regulations are focused on reducing unnecessary waste. limiting fuel use through a race, and limiting the number of power units available to a team through a season. This focus on efficiency appeals to existing OEM’s in the sport including Mercedes, Renault, and Honda, and again sits in contrast to the wasteful and confusing approach mandated to Pirelli. For the 2018 season there is no longer any opportunity for Pirelli to change their approach to racing, but with minimal technical regulation changes set for 2019, perhaps the management of Formula One should look to change the conversation around Pirelli’s role in F1 and encourage the manufacturer to innovate relevant style.

For 2019, perhaps Pirelli should look to consider a simplified approach to tyre compounds, produce tyres with increased variance in performance yet minimised levels of degradation, and adopt 18-inch low profile tyres, enabling the end user to better relate to the product they see racing on a Sunday.

It is understood 2019 is the final season of Pirelli’s current agreement with Formula One. Without change, will it be their last?

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Formula One: Are Sauber ahead of Mclaren?

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With the first week of pre-season testing in Barcelona drawing to a close to decipher the true pace of any team is almost impossible. All teams will be running their own development programs with differing approaches to fuel loads, tyre usage, aero set up, and engine mode settings. However after four days of testing some trends are beginning to emerge. One such trend could be concerning for Mclaren.

With the Sauber F1 team opting to run a 2016 Ferrari power unit through the 2017 season many expect the team to struggle for outright performance. When the decision was first announced the team explained this move would ensure stability in design and reliability allowing them to focus on the challenges of the changes in aerodynamic regulations for 2017. This approach appears to have paid off as through the first week of testing, only Mercedes and Ferrari have covered more KM’s in testing, 2,597KM  & 2,173KM  to Sauber’s 1,624KM. Mclaren on the other hand have struggled for reliability and not to mention outright pace. Power unit supplier Honda have new approach to the 2017 engine configuration to address inherent performance shortcomings, unfortunately this new design coupled with a new fuel and lubricant supplier, has lead to unreliability. In four days testing Mclaren have covered less than 1000KM.  As teams head into the second pre season test in which performance will should become a greater focus, Mclaren are unlikely to have collected sufficient baseline data to understand how best to extract maximum performance from the MCL32.

As stated in the first week of pre-season testing teams rarely focus on outright performance, however there will certain simulation runs in which drivers are allowed to push the car and situations in which softer compound tyres will be used.

@MsportXtra has complied a useful summary of fastest time set by each driver, total number of laps, and tyre used to set the fastest lap in tweet below:

Comparing the data between Sauber and Mclaren in this format adds further weight to the suggestion Mclaren could be set for a difficult start to the season. In every session in which Mclaren and Sauber completed their fastest laps on the same compound tyre, Sauber were able to post faster lap times. Further more in the session in which Mclaren worked with the Ultra soft compound, Sauber were faster using the super soft compound.

In reviewing the below table provided by Pirelli of the overall fastest times over the test, Mclaren again look to be in a precarious position.

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It is widely understood that Mclaren are not able to use all performance modes with the Honda power unit owing to concerns over reliability. Much of the teams issues can be attributed to this, but with such limited running the team may struggle to validate aerodynamic concepts in the design of the MCL32. After a challenging 2 seasons for the Woking based team could 2017 see the team fall further back down the grid?

The approach taken by Sauber of focusing on understanding the new aerodynamic regulations and minimising the impact of using a year old power unit appears to be paying off, with strong reliability the team should be targeting points early in the season which should also attract interest from new partners, something most teams in Formula One are actively seeking.

Formula One: Likely strategy and tyres remaining for the German GP

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Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has claimed pole position for the German Grand Prix. Conditions remained warm and dry throughout the session, with track temperatures of 38 degrees centigrade at the mid-point of qualifying. Rosberg’s pole time of 1m14.363s was more than two seconds faster than the 2014 pole (1m16.540s).

The Mercedes drivers were the only ones to get through Q1 using the soft tyre only, while all the others fitted the supersoft – reckoned to be around 1.5 seconds faster on the German track. From Q2 onwards, all the drivers utilised just the supersoft tyres in qualifying and this is the compound that the top 10 will start on tomorrow. Although yesterday 1.5 seconds separated the soft and supersoft compounds, the gap today seemed to be reduced at around 1 second.

Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It looks like we might be seeing a mixture of two and three stop strategies tomorrow, with the running up to now showing that there could be a few quite different approaches to the race. A lot will obviously depend on the weather, which still appears to be changeable. Mercedes handed themselves a potential advantage by saving themselves an additional set of supersofts, so it will be interesting to see if they can capitalise upon that tomorrow.”

How the tyres behaved today:
Medium: Not used during qualifying but might be used in the race as tactics will vary.
Soft: Used by the Mercedes drivers only to get through Q1: could be key to the race.
Supersoft: Around 1.5s faster than the soft on Friday; around 1 sec. gap seen in quali.

Possible race strategies and maximum laps*:
Pirelli recommends that the following numbers of laps are not exceeded on each compound:
Soft = 29 laps
Supersoft = 22 laps

On this basis, the optimal pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli are as follows:

QUICKEST
Three-stopper: three stints on supersoft + one stint on soft
SECOND-QUICKEST
Two-stopper: two stints on supersoft + one stint on soft (maximizing the stints on supersoft)
THIRD QUICKEST
Two-stopper: two stints on supersoft + one stint on soft (maximizing the single stint on soft)
SLOWEST
Two-stopper: one stint on supersoft + two stints on soft

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Formula One: Remaining tyre allocation for the British Grand Prix

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The 2016 British Grand Prix looks set to be a race of tyre management. Pirelli have released data on the remaining tyre allocation availble to all drivers ahead of the race and indicated the projected life of each tyre compound.

Tyre usage by the top teams in free practice and qualifying leaves them with minimal opportunity to run fresh tyres on the optimal race strategy. As such we can expect to see a certain level of compromise in strategy approach in tomorrow’s Grand Prix, should it remain dry.

Possible race strategies and maximum laps:
Pirelli recommends that the following numbers of laps are not exceeded on each compound:
Hard* = 26 laps
Medium = 28 laps
Soft = 15 laps
*The hard compound experienced some graining, which is why the useful life of this tyre is predicted to be less than that of the medium.

On this basis, the optimal pit-stop strategies predicted by Pirelli are as follows:

QUICKEST
Two-stopper: two stints on soft of 12 laps each + one 28-lap stint on medium
SECOND-QUICKEST
Three-stopper: three stints on soft of 12 laps each + one 16-lap stint on medium
THIRD-QUICKEST
Two-stopper: one 12-lap stint on soft + one 14-lap stint on new soft + one 26-lap stint on hard
SLOWEST
Two-stopper: one stint on soft of 12 laps + two 20-lap stints on medium

Different permutations of compound usage within each strategy are possible.

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Formula One: 2 punctures for Rosberg in Canada

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Sources within Pirelli have confirmed that Nico Rosberg suffered 2 punctures in the laps preceding his second pitstop on lap 51 of the Canadian Grand Prix. The cause of both punctures has been identified as debris damaging the tyre.

The first puncture is understood to have been relatively minor leading to a slow loss of pressure, the second more substantial resulting in a rapid loss of pressure thus requiring immediate serving of car number 6.

Some parties have questioned Mercedes decision to service Nico with a set of Soft tyres in his second (unplanned) stop on lap 51. With only 19 laps to go both the Super Soft and the Ultra Soft compound could have completed the race distance. However as this article indicates, going into the race Nico had no fresh Ultra Soft tyres available, it is unlikely a used set of Ultra Soft compound tyres would have completed the race distance. The decision not to run the red Super Soft tyres will have been down to the issues Nico was managing in the car around fuel consumption and brakes. A tyre with greater performance could have led to greater issues in the closing stages of the race.

Commenting on Nico’s struggles Paddy Lowe remarked:

“For Nico, a late puncture[s] forced a second stop. It looks like he also collected some debris in one of his radiators, as he had overheating throughout the race. While this may not necessarily have affected his performance, it would have been quite a big distraction to manage. A podium was a possibility for him today – but unfortunately it didn’t work out”

Adding to this Nico himself commented on his race:

“I did my best to fight back and I there was a chance of a podium – but then I got the puncture and had to pit again – dammit! I was pushing hard after that to regain the positions but it was a massive mission managing the car with brake warnings coming on and running low on fuel.”

Pirelli went on to confirm that of the drivers that did manage to successfully complete the race on a single stop strategy; Hamilton, Bottas and Alonso. Did so well within the life of the soft compound tyre. Whilst confirmation of the number of laps it could be expected the tyres would have completed beyond race distance remains confidential Pirelli confirm no driver was near the limit of the life of the tyre.

 

Formula One: Stats & Facts from the Barcelona Test

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The first in season test of the 2016 Formula One Season came to a close earlier today. With limited information on fuel loads and strategy from the teams it is hard to draw too many conclusions, other than to comment that both Renault and Red Bull Racing have given positive feedback on the B-Spec Power Unit. The unit seemingly ran trouble free and may now be introduced in Monaco, one race earlier than planned.

Kevin Magnussen – Renault Sport F1
“That was a full day for me and a productive one. It’s definitely been a positive test. The power unit feels stronger and has better driveability and there are some other good improvements too.”

Nick Chester, Technical Director – Renault Sport F1
“Today has been a highly positive day of testing following on from Esteban’s good work yesterday. Kevin gave us everything we needed over a wide range of simulations and assessments. We’ve now run for two long days with the latest specification power unit with no major issues or concerns.”

TOP TIMES FULL SESSION

Vettel Ferrari SOFT 1:23.200 DAY 1
Verstappen Red Bull SOFT 1:23.267 DAY 2
Rosberg Mercedes SOFT 1:23.337 DAY 1
Button McLaren SUPERSOFT 1:23.753 DAY 1
Grosjean Haas ULTRASOFT 1:23.882 DAY 1
Vandoorne McLaren SUPERSOFT 1:24.006 DAY 2
Wehrlein Mercedes SOFT 1:24.145 DAY 2
Wehrlein Manor SUPERSOFT 1:24.297 DAY 1
Ricciardo Red Bull SOFT 1:24.307 DAY 1
Gutierrez Haas SUPERSOFT 1:24.592 DAY 2
Fuoco Ferrari SOFT 1:24.720 DAY 2
Kvyat Toro Rosso SOFT 1:24.737 DAY 2
Gasly Toro Rosso SOFT 1:24.821 DAY 1
Celis Force India SUPERSOFT 1:25.016 DAY 2
Magnussen Renault SOFT 1:25.133 DAY 2
Lynn Williams MEDIUM 1:26.100 DAY 1
Ocon Renault MEDIUM 1:26.530 DAY 1
Massa Williams MEDIUM 1:27.167 DAY 2
King Manor SOFT 1:27.615 DAY 2

BEST TIMES BY COMPOUND

SOFT Vettel Ferrari 1:23.200 DAY 1
ULTRASOFT Grosjean Haas 1:23.882 DAY 1
HARD Gasly Toro Rosso 1:27.795 DAY 1
MEDIUM Rosberg Mercedes 1:24.384 DAY 1
SUPERSOFT Button McLaren 1:23.753 DAY 1

LONGEST STINT BY COMPOUND

MEDIUM Verstappen Red Bull 18laps DAY 2
SOFT Button McLaren 10 DAY 1
SOFT Ricciardo Red Bull 10 DAY 1
SOFT Ricciardo Red Bull 10 DAY 1
SOFT Magnussen Renault 10 DAY 2
SOFT Magnussen Renault 10 DAY 2
SUPERSOFT Gutierrez Haas 10 DAY 2
ULTRASOFT Grosjean Haas 8 DAY 1
HARD Gasly Toro Rosso 8 DAY 1

TOP TIMES DAY 1

Vettel Ferrari SOFT 1:23.200
Rosberg Mercedes SOFT 1:23.337
Button McLaren SUPERSOFT 1:23.753
Grosjean Haas ULTRASOFT 1:23.882
Wehrlein Manor SUPERSOFT 1:24.297
Ricciardo Red Bull SOFT 1:24.307
Gasly Toro Rosso SOFT 1:24.821
Celis Force India SUPERSOFT 1:25.467
Lynn Williams MEDIUM 1:26.100
Ocon Renault MEDIUM 1:26.530

TOP TIMES DAY 2

Verstappen Red Bull SOFT 1:23.267
Vandoorne McLaren SUPERSOFT 1:24.006
Wehrlein Mercedes SOFT 1:24.145
Gutierrez Haas SUPERSOFT 1:24.592
Fuoco Ferrari SOFT 1:24.720
Kvyat Toro Rosso SOFT 1:24.737
Celis Force India SUPERSOFT 1:25.016
Magnussen Renault SOFT 1:25.133
Massa Williams MEDIUM 1:27.167
King Manor SOFT 1:27.615

 

Formula One: Purple Reign around the Principality

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Pirelli have released driver tyre selection data for the Monaco Grand Prix later this month. Unsurprisingly drivers have weighted selection heavily towards the new for 2016 Ultra Soft compound. This despite in the case of Mercedes AMG Petronas having had no running on the tyre up until now.

As is becoming the norm, there is almost no disparity between team-mates in tyre selection with the exception of the Renault Sport F1 team duo.

Mercedes and Red Bull Racing have taken the most extreme approach to tyre selection with 10 of the 14 sets available being the Ultrasoft. Suggesting a 3 stop strategy for both teams. Scuderia Ferrari have allowed allocated a additional set of Soft tyres into driver selection, suggesting the team may look to increase Friday running for the Scuderia.

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Formula One: Pirelli support running tyre pressure monitor

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Amidst rumours through the F1 paddock of a number of teams having found a loophole in technical regulations allowing them to reduce running tyre pressures below the Pirelli and FIA mandated levels, Pirelli have commented they will work together with the FIA and teams towards a shared system to monitor and eliminate any such activity.
Pirelli went on to confirm that they are not formally aware of any team actively involved in such a practice.  Other sources have reported that Mclaren initially contacted the FIA for clarification on the topic believing two other teams on the grid are experimenting in this area. Whilst Mercedes have categorically denied they are working in this area, it is thought Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso are the teams more likely to have taken the lead in this area.
It is understood that by lowering the operating temperatures of the tyre whilst running it would be possible to reduce the overall tyre pressure. It is possible to implement a process to achieve this and it would not contravene current technical regulations.
Pirelli initially sought to increase tyre pressures for 2016 on the grounds of safety. The FIA could elect to introduce further checks to assure safety requirements.

Formula One: Vergne trials 2017 F1 tyre compounds with Scuderia Ferrari in Fiorano

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Scuderia Ferrari development driver Jean Eric Vergne is testing 2017 F1 tyre compounds in Fiorano today, Pirelli have confirmed.

Contrary to reports in other news outlets testing from Fiorano today is the first time 2017 Pirelli F1 design concepts have taken to the track. Pastor Maldonardo is yet to participate in any testing for the tyre manufacturer.

Jean Eric Vergne will be completing the test in the 2014 Ferrari F14-T, the first Ferrari of the hybrid era. The test will be used to assess tyre compound and construction only. Modified tyre dimensions set to be introduced under 2017 regulations will not be trialled. At this time Pirelli will not be releasing images from the test.

Formula One: Red Bull Racing go agressive in Sochi

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Pirelli have published driver tyre selection compounds for the Russian Grand Prix revealing an that both Red Bull Racing and Haas F1 team duo have allocated 10 of the 13 sets availble to the super soft compound. In electing to take only one set of medium and two sets of the soft compound both teams are anticipating a race strategy with a high number of pit stops.

2016 sees the Russian Grand Prix move from October to May, with the move warmer temperatures are expected for the race weekend. This will likely impact the operating window of each tyre compound with the warmer temperatures lending themseleves towards a softer compound selection.

Conversely to Red Bull Racing, Ferrari have split their allocation evenly between the soft and super soft, Mercedes too have opted for a more conservative strategy approach leaving options open ahead of the weekend.

You can view driver tyre selection for the Russian GP in full here:

RUS Tyres. The 2015 Russian Grand Prix demonstrated overtaking is a possible around the circuit, but with