F1 needs less aero, more tyre grip to aid overtaking – Pirelli boss

2018 F1 season

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Formula One needs to generate more grip ‘mechanically’ from tyres and less through aerodynamics to create better racing, according to Pirelli’s sporting director Mario Isola.

Data from Formula One’s official tyre supplier showed the number of overtaking moves last season fell by 47% year-on-year. This was blamed by some on a new generation of high-downforce cars following a rules change.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Interlagos, 2017
Pirelli data shows overtaking fell by 47% in 2017
Isola told F1 Fanatic that reversing this change would improve the racing. “My personal opinion is that we should have more mechanical grip and less aero grip,” he said.

“With more mechanical grip you encourage overtaking, it gets easier. Because when you’re following another car you lose less downforce and it’s easier to try to overtake. You can follow the other car closely. So in the future I would like to see more mechanical grip and less aero grip.”

Isola said the new generation of cars are much more sensitive to running in the disturbed air of another car, making it more difficult for them to follow each other closely. This also affects tyre performance, though this is something Pirelli has tried to address.

“You lose the tyre because obviously the temperature is going up [when following another car]. You slide and you increase the temperature, you overheat the tyre and lose performance.”

“The big step we did last year with the new family of compounds was to design compounds and use new ingredients to reduce overheating, control overheating. So even if you increase the temperature of the surface, the compound is still able to provide good grip.”

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Keith Collantine
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34 comments on “F1 needs less aero, more tyre grip to aid overtaking – Pirelli boss”

  1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    19th January 2018, 11:42

    So they only needed 10 years or more to realize it. Well, at least someone from the official F1 world (Pirelli) has addressed it. Let’s hope it becomes a reality in a following season.

    1. They were talking about this in the late 80s and early 90s. There is frequent mention of it in autocourse annuals.

      Why they ignore it for 30 years whilst coming up with other solutions is one of the worlds great mysteries

    2. I know, my thoughts exactly too! When we got the wider tyres my hopes got up, only for them to also stipulate massive front wings giving bigger Y250s, wing tip vortices outbound of the tyres and turbulent air from the cascades… the whole shebang.
      I’m not saying get rid of these innovations, just find a way to reduce their effectiveness. Reducing the complexity of the front wing would be a good start.

  2. But then, races in the rain always are more fun to watch and have lot of overtaking like Brazil 2016, and in the rain you have less mechanical grip, maybe it isn’t this simple to get a solution for more overtaking.

    1. in the rain everybody has less mechanical grip, in the dry the ones getting hurt the most are the guys already behind someone that cook their tyres trying to get closer, when they do, there aren’t any left to finished the job

      completely different situations

      1. They also all have less aero going on. They have to slow down more which means that they quickly lose downforce and the (limited) mechanical grip actually comes to the fore over the aero.

        Hence why racing is closer in the rain. Cars are travelling slower, wake decreases, dependence on mechanical grip increases, cars get closer, we all win.

    2. @t4bb3 So Bernie was right then. Sprinkers are needed to ‘improve’ the racing! ;-)

  3. Softer tires will be a step into the right direction (because they increase mechanical grip). I think the harder and more durable tires were mostly to blame for the lack of overtaking last year. The races that saw 20+ overtakes were usually the races at which one of the top drivers had to start from the back. They could pretty much pass the slower cars at will even without DRS, which suggested that overtaking wasn’t that difficult. The problem was that the speed differentials caused by the tires were very limited even during the pit windows, which vastly reduced overtaking potential.

    1. I think it is very much about the clean air dependency that is the reason for fewer overtakes. Even though I really dislike these finicky tires that are too hard to get and keep in their prime operating window, they are the same for everyone. If the tires were better, which they should be and need to be imho, it is too much dependency on clean air that is the real negative, for if the tires were better for the trailing car, so would they be for the leading car.

      1. @robbie True, these tires disadvantage the trailing cars even further as they tend to overheat in dirty air. However, low levels of tire wear affected racing in several ways. First of all, overtaking during the pit window was limited as fresh tires were not that much of an advantage and the drivers were usually pushing hard before their mandatory tire change. Second, the strategic options were limited. A second tire change usually wasn’t an option and everyone was pretty much using the same compounds. Higher tire wear, as in the early Pirelli era (2011-2013) give teams more options with strategy. They can decide to either go slowly and make fewer pitstops, or go fast and make more pitstops. I think Monaco 2011 and Canada 2012 are quite nice examples of this. Last year we were lucky that for the first time in many years two drivers from different teams were battling each other, yet the durable tires forced them to run similar strategies in most races. Only in Spain and Belgium they were running different compounds and those races saw the most interesting battles between them. Conclusion: less durable tires produce more interesting races.

  4. Reducing aero reliance & relying more on mechanical grip is all well & good as long as they can do so & maintain current levels of performance.

    If in doing so they significantly reduce overall performance then I don’t see that as a good step regardless of how good the racing may well end up been.

    The performance of the cars is a part of the allure of F1 to me, That & things like the technology & complexity of things is a big part of why I prefer F1 over many other categories. If they end up slowing them down, Making it a bit more spec & removing some of the interest in terms of the complexity then why should I bother watching F1 over something like Indycar?

    The obsession with overtaking & some sort of closing of performance has done/is doing far more harm than good. So many circuits/corners ruined, Rubbish looking cars (2009 rule changes) & nonsense artificial gimmicks like DRS & high-deg tyres….. Not a single positive has come from it IMO.

    1. Reducing aero could help increase straight line speeds due to less drag from the car being pushed down onto the track as much, while adding mechanical grip can help keep up cornering speeds if aero isn’t as much of an aid in the turns. It also depends on what they might do with ground effects. The cars are much heavier now too and they could do something to take some weight back off the cars. So I can’t see why reducing aero and adding more mechanical grip from tires would have to equate to less performance. It could even be the opposite. It’s up to them and the direction they decide to go.

  5. I think Isola is saying the right things, and he is stating what I think is the direction F1 needs to go, but yet he doesn’t control what F1 does with aero, and he is mandated to make tires very much (way too much) the focus, with their finicky, hard to find and keep, optimum performance temp window. It’s all well and good he claims they worked toward dealing with overheating of tires while they’re in someone’s dirty air, but I sure didn’t have the impression last year that drivers were less frustrated and could indeed follow closer for longer periods. Right now we have a double whammy of too much clean air dependency, and too finicky tires. Perhaps this season the tires will be slightly better with their extra softness here and there, but will they still be frustratingly finicky? Whatever they will be, they will be the same for everyone, so clean air dependency will still be the most harmful thing to higher quality action on the track. The tires Isola speaks of are needed badly imho, but until they reduce aero dependency there will still be processions. We’ve had rock solid racing tires in the past with which drivers could really push themselves and their cars to some limits, and there were also processions at the same time.

  6. Yes, more mechanical grip, less aero. Front wing is key, let’s simplify it. My full list for Liberty:
    1. No DRS but drag (front wing simplicity icw more mechanical grip)
    2. Budget cap
    3. No fuel or tyre saving (full out racing)
    4. Reduced penalty system
    5. More cars
    6. Best drivers only (earned)

    1. @mayrton Regarding points 3: Fuel saving has always existed in F1 to some extent, i.e., F1 has never really been about racing flat-out all the time.
      Point 5: The current number of cars is fine, so there isn’t an absolute need for more. Furthermore, it’d just mean more ‘moving chicanes’ to lap for the front-runners, so basically the extra say 4-6 cars would just be nothing more than grid-fillers.

      1. Regarding 3. How much fuel do you expect them to carry, would double what they carry now be out of the question if your suggestion was taken to the limit.
        If engines are changed, I am going to suggest they will be less efficient and therefore need to carry more.
        Also what would full out racing do for engine life, and the implications for budget cap.

    2. @mayrton

      1. I agree with no DRS but the front wings need to be simpler and not ‘stock’. Many want stock but that ruins, personally, the ‘core’ of what F1 is.
      2. Budget caps won’t work in F1. If you give teams say 50m (random figure) then teams will spend that but will find ways of gaining more money via sponsorship or having wings and bits ‘gifted’ to them by suppliers. If there is a budget cap then it still won’t solve many issues facing F1. If you give Red Bull 50m they will use their expertise and their equipment better than, say, Sauber may do. It would reduce costs for the big teams but won’t impact the lower teams.
      3. So bring back refuelling? Dangerous and predictable. At least in the current formula we have its a ‘guess’ whether or not cars have a certain amount of fuel. Tyre saving is tricky to argue also. If you have tyres that can last the full race then they are going to be hard as concrete and will be slow to watch and difficult to drive.
      4. Reduced penalty system will only encourage teams to use more PU elements and drive costs upwards. If dropping 5 places for an entire engine change them teams will be throwing new engines in all the time.
      5. F1 needs it but difficult to encourage teams to join when F1 changes rules every other year seemingly.
      6. Best drivers is just sweeping. As we have seen with the WIlliams debate, Sirotkin was the better driver but everyone clamoured for Kubica. Schumacher was originally a pay driver, so was Alonso, whilst the entirety of the Red Bull roaster have had funding their driving career.

  7. If the overtaking car has more grip then the car being overtaken has more grip too. If everyone gets an advantage, no one gets an advantage. How is that going to change anything?

    1. Slipstream

    2. @mayrton Slipstream efficiency actually increases with increased aero use, this is because the more air is being displaced by the vehicle in front the bigger the hole behind it for the following driver to exploit

      Cristi, They will have more mechanical grip, the reduced reliance on aero means that the car behind doesn’t LOSE grip in comparison with the car in front. Currently if you are tucked up behind another car going into a corner, the disturbed and heated air removes efficiency from your wings robbing you of downforce and increasing your reliance on pure mechanical grip giving the car in front, in clean air, a massive advantage. This is why you get lots of cars steaming up behind another car and then struggling once they get within around a second to a second and a half.

      If both cars have reduced aero, the differential of aero efficiency the rear car experiences is greatly reduced and he can follow much more closely giving him more opportunities to hang on to the car in front out of corners and set themselves up for an overtake either at the end of a straight into the next corner or even through a series of corners. This increases the reliance on the driver to extract the mechanical grip from the car and use his skills to manipulate the chassis. Currently, skills are less important as, for the most part, aero cars are mainly a case of, go fast enough to maximise the aero and hang on for dear life.

  8. In other news, grass is green, water is wet…

  9. The tyre guy says tyres should play a bigger role in F1… Shocking ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  10. I understand the new indy cars have revised Aero so following cars are not
    disturbed or very little.

  11. The drivers know it, (most of) the fans know it, now even Pirelli know it, so why can’t it happen ?

  12. Some of the downforce that is lost with less aero (from wings) can be regained with the use of ground effect.

    So more mechanical grip (tyres) and almost the same amount of downforce will lead to better with more or kess the same performance, imho.

  13. FINALLY SOMEONE ACTUALLY IMPORTANT SAYS SOMETHING ABOUT HAVING LESS AERO!! I’ve been waiting for someone to talk about ground effects and the like for years!

    If there’s one thing i want in F1, it’s ground effect aero.

    1. the sporting director of the tyre supplier is not actually important though is he. He is just a guy that works for the company that supplies parts for the cars.

      It is the same as a guy who works for Brembo saying that what they really need is better brakes so that they can outbrake each other more often.

      Less aero dependence would be a good thing, everybody knows it so the real question is, why does F1 in general not want to reduce aero performance in favour of mechanical grip?

  14. I will try this in my Sim. Run F1 race with 1/2 downforce and extra 20% tire grip.

  15. I mean, how may times do we hear this? going around in circles

  16. Sounds like IndyCar.

  17. 1, Everybody know more mechanical grip from tyres and less aero would be the good direction except F1 decision makers.
    2, An other important thing would be less differences between cars in lap times. Because it is not too interesting when a 2 second faster car “overtakes” a slower car (Mercedes “overtakes” Sauber).
    3, One more important thing is the role of the drivers (in strategy, mentally and phisically)

  18. Anthony Yeung
    22nd March 2019, 23:52

    Is it technical possible to make tyres perform better, but without losing too much durability, when they get hotter(especially when they are closely following a car)? This way drivers can gain a improved grip advantage by following a car closely.

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