Tyre blisters on a Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Pirelli was asked to make wrong kind of tyres – Wolff

2018 F1 season

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Formula 1 should give official tyre supplier Pirelli a new brief to produce rubber which allows drivers to race each other more closely, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes.

Wolff said drivers shouldn’t have to reduce their pace by as much as seven seconds during races to preserve their tyres and achieve the optimum strategy.

Drivers met with Pirelli in Brazil to discuss their concerns about the high levels of tyre management they had to perform in races such as Mexico and Russia.

“I think Pirelli had a good meeting with the drivers,” said Wolff. “We have expressed our support for Pirelli because we know that it is a difficult task to manage.

“But I think in the past years we have simply asked the wrong things from Pirelli by making the compounds softer and softer, trying to trigger degradation and therefore more pit stops. The clever strategists have [realised] the fastest race time is about managing those tyres and still try to achieve a one-stop, or a two-stop sometimes. So completely the wrong direction.”

F1 sets down the requirements for its tyres in a ‘target letter’ which is given to Pirelli. Wolff believes that brief needs to be changed in response to the drivers’ concerns.

“We need robust tyres, which Pirelli is perfectly able to produce,” he said. “They just need to be given the right tasks or the right objectives.

“And then the drivers can push the tyre harder, they can stay in the wake of the car driving in front and we are not seeing blistering or deg that causes these seven seconds [pace reductions].”

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Wolff complained some teams has been “opportunistic” in their efforts to persuade Pirelli to make certain decisions regarding their tyres.

“People who have no clue meddle in the discussion on how to how the tyres should look like and how they should behave,” he said. “They should keep out of it.

“They should listen to the drivers and to the teams, and the teams shouldn’t be opportunistic as they’ve been in the past, thinking that somebody has an advantage or disadvantage and then lobbying for a certain direction.”

Earlier in the season Sebastian Vettel claimed Pirelli had changed its tyre specification for three races in response to problems Mercedes and Red Bull experienced in testing.

“This is what the story of this thing was when you remember back six months ago the discussion about the thinner tread. I mean it’s unbelievable that people say Mercedes wants them because they’re blistering and that the next race another team was blistering and they couldn’t even finish their stint properly. So it’s just… pathetic how opportunism drives various stakeholders in this business to push for a direction that is detrimental for the sport.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Pirelli was asked to make wrong kind of tyres – Wolff”

  1. Tyres shouldn’t degrade more when using them harder; if anything they should only degrade over time.
    Maybe they should talk to the Mission Impossible guys ;)

  2. These tyres are causing us some headaches. It’s unbelievable. That there have been several races this season where Lewis has not been the winner.

  3. At last ! It took 7 years for Pirelli to realize.

    Question: is it too late for 2019 ?
    Will FIA let Pirelli produce better tyres ? And does Pirelli have time to do so ?

    1. It’s not really fair to blame Pirelli. They’re making the tires they were asked to make.

        1. No I believe @gt-racer when he has told us a few times that Pirelli may be making tires high deg as they have been asked, but they were not asked to make them degrade and behave this way. They need to make the tires tread wear deg, like they said they were going to do when the tires were regulated to be larger, not thermal deg as they have continued to make.

      1. @lancer033 @jerejj @robbie True. Pirelli were only ever given the brief of coming up with tyres to try & ensure 2-3 pit stops, They were not & have not ever been told how to achieve that target.

        The compounds, Construction, narrow operating range, thermal degredation profile & overall characteristics of the tyres were all down to decisions made by Pirelli based on what they felt was the best way to hit the 2-3 stop target at that time.

        The initial thermal degredation model was decided upon based on cost & time. It was the cheapest & easiest way to guarantee the tyres would degrade at a very high rate. They were actually adding in an additional chemical to the compound that would begin to break down the compound of the tyre at a certain temperature & which would then create a chain reaction that would lead to the cliff that was talked about so much in the first few years. This is why you often heard drivers talking about how once the tyres started to go there was no getting them back.

        They did start to move away from that thermal degredation concept after 2013 as it was felt that was causing additional problems although they have still tried to keep the narrow operating range in order to try & create the possibility of an early 2012 type scenario with different teams hitting the ground running at different circuits, Although it hasn’t worked & has instead created a number of additional problems.

  4. I can’t comment until @hohum tyres of this rubber made debate.

    1. Not many of us get a dedicated article on racefans.net ;)

      1. This blistering Pirelli issue is wearing on all of us, @coldfly, no matter how thinly we tread it.

        1. @jimmi-cynic I’m certainly feeling somewhat deflated by the whole thing. I’m not sure Pirelli has really got grip of the underlying issue. F1 is literally lowering their profile.

    2. @jimmi-cynic, Sorry to keep you waiting Jimmi, I’ve been sleeping, the tyranny of distance (or time) here in the antipodes. It seems that forces are massing on the side of righteousness and one of Bernsiebubs dark angels may finally be banished, like Bernsiebub himself.
      I find it hard to believe how long it takes F1 to correct errors, in this case we have suffered nearly a decade of non-racing all due to 1 race in mixed (understatement) conditions where Jenson B. beat Seb V. due to better judgement of which tyre to be on when.
      PS. It is my opinion that Mark Webber would have been WDC if he had mirrored JB’s tyre choices.

      1. Thanks, @hohum. Good to know you will sleep off the ends of the earth to keep F1 well rubbered-in.

        Appreciate your optimism about the brief (almost decade) span it’s taking F1 to get traction on a quick fix. However, feel it’s too soon to say they’re on track to adhering a solution to this gripping issue.

        1. @jimmi-cynic, Arrgh, yes, I’m hoping for better tyres in 2020, god knows what they’ll cock-up to ruin the improvement that better tyres will make to the racing. In the meantime I suggest getting a grip and pulling yourself together.

          1. @hohum: Thanks. Lost my grip on reality long ago. That’s how I can follow F1 closely without the excessive downforce dragging me into an unravel trap. ;-)

  5. This is a shame – what’s the purpose of building the best car with unbelievable technologies only to put worsest tyres on it? Then to limit fuel comsumption to 100 kgs only to trash 666 kgs of tyres (2 X 8.5 kgs front and 2 X 10 kgs rear tyres, 9 sets per weekend) for just one car… They constantly say that F1 tech is to migrate to road cars – will anyone sane buy tyres that blister after 10 km?

    1. They constantly say that F1 tech is to migrate to road cars – will anyone sane buy tyres that blister after 10 km?

      As much as is said about road relevance of F1, the tyres are easily the least relevant part of an F1 car. They’re constructed differently, and of different materials, with very different goals. Pirelli and other tyre manufacturers enter motorsport series only for brand building, not to hone their tyre technologies.

    2. (9 sets per weekend) for just one car

      More like 20 sets per car, per weekend. 13 dry and 7 wet (potentially 8 depending on conditions). All of which are scrapped at the end of the weekend (except unused wets in European races)!

  6. I agree with Toto.

  7. “So it’s just… pathetic how opportunism drives various stakeholders in this business to push for a direction that is detrimental for the sport.”

    — Toto Wolff

    Gosh, I hope that statement never comes back to haunt Toto!

    To be fair, if I hadn’t seen the source I don’t think I would have been able to attribute it to any one team principal.

  8. If Pirelli (FIA/Liberty) wants more stops why not make a rule of two mandatory pit stops and a driver must use all three compounds every race. And make the tires last a bit longer so we won’t have Mexico all over again.

    These tyres are like using a computer at work and changing it twice a day. It makes every day interesting but after a while it’s not good for anyone.

    1. Mandatory stops never work to make the races better because you not only take away the option of teams trying different strategies but you also create a situation where everybody knows exactly what everybody else is doing which tends to shift the incentive away from going for overtakes.
      For instance if everyone is mandated to make 2 stops & you know you & the car ahead both need to stop once more why go for the overtake when you can instead try the under-cut. It’s the same problem we saw with refueling, When you know what everybody your racing is doing & you know it’s easier/less risky to get by without trying to overtake on track it’s what they will do.

      You always get the best racing when teams have more freedom in terms of how they run there races & where it’s harder to predict what everybody else is doing because if you don’t know if the car your racing is going to stop or not or what compound of tyre he’s on (I think they should stop giving us & teams that information) it creates a situation where there’s a greater incentive to push harder on track & go for an overtake because that may be your only opportunity to get by. This is a big part of why there was so much more overtaking & why drivers pushed so much harder to race/try & overtake in the days before refeuling when nobody ever knew who was doing what in terms of it anyone was going to make a pit stop at all. You had to try things on the track.

  9. I do agree to a certain extent with his comments that “we have asked the wrong thing of Pirelli” and the general consensus that the high deg and temperature sensitivity and drop off of current tyres is not good, however I do also think its a bit disingenuous of teams to comment, as these tyres and their very specific parameters and characteristics are as a direct result of the HUGE increase in investment in modelling and strategy management employed by the teams

    Its a kind of battle between 2 sides, Teams investing in new skills, technologies and competences to overcome each other, and then FIA / FOM then introducing something new in their arsenal to overcome the teams – only for the teams to then outwit the rules again!

  10. Robbie thats what i have posted a gazillion times. The tyres should not degrade thermally but just wear down.

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