Softer tires change F1 strategies
The upcoming Formula One season will put a greater emphasis on tire conservation and well-executed pit stops because of this year's less durable tires, according to the tire supplier.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said on Thursday during the final preseason testing session that shorter-lasting tires mean last season's one-stop races for some teams are long gone.
"In 2012, we saw a tendency through the season toward one pit stop, and we want to get back to two to three," Hembery said. "(But) you won't be seeing five or six pit stops or anything like that.
"We have taken the approach that the compounds are more aggressive, the structures are faster and create a much more rapid heat buildup, and in certain cases that will lead to quicker degradation. It will probably take five to six races until the teams understand the different compounds and how to get the best of them.
"It will be a challenge for teams and keep things interesting."
Several drivers voiced concern over the tires' quick degradation during preseason testing here at the Catalunya Circuit last week.
Ferrari pilot Fernando Alonso said it was tough to get through their scheduled program because the tires were degrading after just one lap.
"It's difficult under such conditions to test if you have a tire that lasts only one lap," the two-time world champion said. "Once again this year, the tires will be one of the crucial aspects to manage. They are softer and quicker, but also less consistent and they degrade rapidly with every lap."
New McLaren driver Sergio Perez, who showed his talent for protecting his tires last season with Sauber, was particularly alarmed.
"The speed of the degradation is incredible and if it keeps up like this come Melbourne we are all going to have a lot of problems," he said.
Hembery tried to assuage their fears by saying the extreme degradation seen last week was due to abnormally low temperatures and shouldn't be a problem during the 19-race season set to begin with the Australian Grand Prix on March 17. The races are mostly held in warm-weather conditions, with rain usually being a more common factor to contend with than cold temperatures.
Pirelli has six types of tires, four for dry conditions and two in the case of rain. Each one has different characteristics varying in speed, durability and grip, which teams use to try and gain an advantage for their particular car and on each given track.
F1 racing tires have very little in common with tires for normal cars. They are very lightweight, made from blends of natural and synthetic rubber compounds, and have a short, if thrilling, life of around 120 kilometers. A standard road tire lasts around 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles).
F1 moved to a single tire supplier in 2007, with Pirelli being the current supplier since 2011, to even the playing field and reduce costs.
The final preseason tests near Barcelona run from Thursday to Sunday.