Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2018

Making softer tyres is “useless” for creating better racing – Isola

2019 F1 season

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Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola says changes to the tyres alone is not enough to inject more action into Formula 1 races.

Speaking to RaceFans ahead of the start of the 2019 F1 season, Isola explained why the sport’s official tyre supplier had backed away from its previous policy of creating softer tyre compounds to enliven races by encouraging teams to use multi-stop pit strategies.

“If we talk about races from last year, we know that most of them were one-stop races,” said Isola. “Teams have a different approach, they try to manage the race pace rather than pushing and increase the number of pit stops because then they [fall] back in traffic and they have to overtake – [that’s] more difficult, so they have a different approach.

“At this point, and also talking to the drivers, we said that if we go softer and softer [with the compound] and the result is that they just manage the pace, this is useless, we have to find another way.”

Other changes have been made to F1 cars for the new season including simpler wings, which should help cars run closer together, and larger fuel tanks, which may give drivers more opportunities to drive flat-out. Isola believes less fragile tyres are now needed to help drivers get the most out of their cars for longer.

Charles Leclerc, Sauber, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2018
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“For 2019 it’s better to select compounds that are a bit more consistent, let’s say slightly harder than 2018, in order to have one-stop but drivers are able to push more.

“This year we have also five kilos of fuel more. That means in some races that were fuel-limited last year they can push, they can have a different race pace.

“When we talk about Formula 1 we have to think about all the factors, we cannot just take the tyres and consider the tyres themselves, it’s a mistake. We have to consider the package and talk to the FIA, FOM, teams and drivers and try to find a solution all together.

“If we work alone on tyres, it’s the wrong approach.”

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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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15 comments on “Making softer tyres is “useless” for creating better racing – Isola”

  1. More and more I’m starting to believe that the only way we’ll have varied strategies and drivers pushing is to have 2 mandatory pit stops. While I’ve generally been staunchly against introducing artificial restrictions like this, drivers will be able to take more risks on their tyres and push hard to gain positions without it having as big an impact on their overall race and there will be more room for varied strategies. As an addition to that rule I’d allow teams to pick from the full range of Pirelli rubbers, which should allow for even more variation.

    1. Sorry but are you sure you understand the meaning of the phrase ‘varied strategies’?

      1. @mrboerns Hehe, fair enough. While obviously I’d love to see a mixture of 1, 2 and 3 stop strategies, it seems extremely unlikely given the current formula. With 2 mandatory stops we’d probably see a little more variation in when the teams stop, especially if they have full choice of tyre compounds. With the drivers able to push harder and need to do more overtaking on track, we will also likely see more tyre wear and lockups, with teams having to reassess their strategies on the fly. Which in turn means gaps that other teams projected would be on track may now be filled, creating a knock-on effect. More pit stops also mean more chances for things to go wrong in the pits, again, creating unpredictability.

    2. @puffy The best way to ensure a minimum of 2 stops is simply to mandate that all the 3 compound of dry tyres have to be used. If the race is wet, then of course that stimpulation is not necessary.

      1. @ijw1 That’s certainly one way to do it. Personally I’d rather give the teams full freedom of which compounds they use during the race. So we could see teams running soft-soft-hard or medium-medium-soft or any other combinations. Even better in my mind if they can choose from all 7 of Pirelli’s dry weather compounds.

    3. @puffy Mandatory stops never work in terms of making the racing better & strategy more varied & I don’t even think they should have the mandatory stop they have.

      The problem with mandatory stops from a racing POV is that everyone knows that everyone is going to stop a set number of times so they just plan there races around that which is why the undercut became such a powerful tool. They know the car ahead is stopping at least once so know they can just hang back to go for the undercut & if you add another mandatory stop you will just get more of that.

      One of the things that was so much better in the days before refueling was introduced & before pit stops became something everyone did 1-3 times a race was that nobody knew what anybody else was doing as back then it was harder to read from the outside as compounds weren’t color coded & who was on what not shared. As such you never knew if a driver was no-stopping or stopping 1+ times & it was this which helped make the racing less predictable & the prospect’s of seeing a pit stop/strategy come into play far more interesting than it became when it was something everyone did multiple times every weekend.

    4. Varied strategies don’t make the racing any better. If one team stops once and other team stops twice then the overtake happens during the pitstops. In other words it is not an overtake at all. Trying to fiddle with the number of pitstops in f1 does not help the racing at all. What we need is more on track overtakes. Which is an aerodynamics and engine issue. Fuel saving in heavy cars which can’t handle dirty air does not make a racing spectacle because it is all about conserving everything.

      One thing I have suggested before is that with the one pitstop we modify the 2 different compounds rule a bit. We could allow the teams to mix and match compounds. So you could start the race with soft rears and medium fronts and switch to hard fronts and medium rears on your pitstop. Or run different tire in each corner of the car. Still front tires on front axle and rear tires on rear axle. Basically the rule would be to either run 4 tires of one compound plus anything else or run all three compounds during the race.

      In the end it is not a massive change but if you allow more variety on one ptstop race you can theoretically have more overtakes on track. This creates more variety in the tire options which allows more optimal strategies for undercuts and overcuts. As most circuits are dependant on the wear of a single tire in the car (monza is rear left, barcelona is front left, bahrain is front right iirc) having more options for that one tire gives more options for the rest of the car.

      I am not saying that is the magical bullet to fix the issues. The magical bullet is having less downforce. Downforce reates dirty air and you want less of both. Modern f1 cars produce more downforce than ever before and while doing that they are also most sensitive to dirty air because how carefully you need to move the air around the car with tiny winglets and appendages. You could easily take 50% and still have those cars among the highest downforce cars basically closely following the peak of the 2008/2010 levels. The reason why that won’t happen is because the current heavy engines need that massive amount of downforce to be quick and to please the car manufacturers. That does not mean going to back to 2014-16. It means going forward with less downforce and hopefully with better engines that are 100kg lighter with about 800hp with focus on racing, not road relevance. If make those two changes the cars will still be just as quick but with a ton of less dirty air and lighter cars they can race more without worrying about fuel or tires.

      And because people never want to believe how massively heavy the current engines are here are the quotes from renault:

      Racecar engineering 2013 engines special issue, page 11. Direct quote:
      ” ‘From that stage, one of the key areas we needed to investigate was the packaging of the power unit. The current V8 is 95kg, or 100kg if you add the weight of the MGU. This increases to 120kg when you include the ancillary parts, such as the radiators and other cooling devices. With the 2014 power unit, the V6 turbocharged engine will be a minimum of 145kg, plus 35kg for the battery.

      At 180kg, this is a 80 per cent increase over the current units, plus a further 20kg for the ancillaries such as the intercooler and other radiators.’ The additional weight is partly compensated for by an increase in the minimum weight of the overall vehicle to 685kg“”

      In other words v8 was 120kg, hybrid is 200kg all in all. Now how much slower is the car with 80kg of dead weight? Obviously the answer is to not go back to v8s either but clearly these current engines have massive issues and weight is just one of them.

  2. ”they try to manage the race pace rather than pushing and increase the number of pit stops because then they [fall] back in traffic and they have to overtake – [that’s] more difficult”
    – Spot on! Just what I’ve pointed out as well.

    1. Yes, that makes quite a lot of us (but still a minority) at racefans and all the drivers that want tyres they can race on, not more pitstops. And now Pirelli has seen the light also.

  3. These comments from Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola give a positive sign for the future quality of the racing. He is telling it like it is and the right people in the right places will listen, I believe. Brawn, especially, although I am sure it is nothing shockingly new to him.

    There is a lot of negativity from many of us readers and writers surrounding the efforts by the various parties to make the quality of racing better; especially the lack of results thus far. I am hopeful. It will take time but the situation we are in now seems so much more professional that the knee-jerk reactions of yesteryear.

  4. Fair enough, I’m just not sure who has been saying changes to tires alone would make for better racing. Thankfully they are making them less fragile though, finally, and with the new front wings and the added fuel that can only help, even if just a little. Surely the racing will at least not be any more processional than it was last year, and should be a little less so. I suspect there will still be a fair amount of tire temp managing unfortunately, but we’ll just have to see. In general things should be a little better as the small incremental changes for this year should at least combine as a start to head them in a better direction wrt being able to follow closer for longer. The cars will of course still be heavily dependent on clean air, and as per Wolff, who claims they have found other ways to outwash in spite of the new front wings, they’ll still make quite a wake for the trailing cars.

  5. Allocating or mandating the use of more tyres is not likely to be accepted by the FIA or Pirelli. The cost issue of making the tyres, hauling them to the races and recycling all the used (and un-used) black rubber things is one of the main controlling factors.
    I do like the realization showing up that softer and degradable is not the best choice. Hopefully we well get away from drivers driving slowly as fast as they can.

  6. The tone of these statements suggests that I was wrong in assuming that Pirelli made soft tyres on request from the FIA and that they were not to blame for high degradation. It seems to me like they are in full control of how hard a compound they can bring?
    Surely the best overtakes to watch are on track ones with cars of similar (full) pace on similar tyres. Even watching one car going at maximum pace is better than watching 20 cars driving to a target lap time that is well below the limit of the car regardless of whether they are overtaking each other or not. Drama created by driving on the limit is much better to watch than drama created because they couldn’t screw Kimi’s tyres in properly.
    They should try at least 3 races where they bring just the hardest compounds that can last the race.

  7. Pirellu dude is right. And wrong. The tyres arw to thermal dependant. They should wear by abrasion. Not be affected by heat especially from the car in front. Drivers tip toe to keep the tyres in the temperature range. We dnt see the range so we really not that interested. Although some of us are. Its not just about how hard or soft a tyre is but its about temperature. Which shouldnt be the case.

  8. Dale Wickenheiser
    7th February 2019, 15:21

    I’ve been wondering what it would be like if there was only one compound. Everyone is on the same tires and the drivers and teams decide when or if they need to pit. We’ve all seen that different tracks, weather, drivers, cars produce different effects on the tires. Some manage tires well, some don’t.

    The teams all use the same fuel – so that variable is eliminated. They all have to weigh the same – so that variable is eliminated. It’s no wonder they’re spending $150,000 on their front wings – it’s one of the few things left they can blow money on to try to find an advantage.

    This might have a budget impact as well. What would happen if every team had the same single tire compound to design around? Would that limit the amount of testing and variables that the teams have to factor into their budgets? Right now teams have to guess which tires they’ll bring to which races – a variable that is random and arbitrary and very costly. If they had a set number of tires for the season, and no restrictions from qualifying to racing, that seems to me to even the field a bit.

    Or, since the teams are allowed to use different part makers for their parts – what if they could use different tire makers as well? What if they could bring whatever tires they wanted to each race. Let them decide. To echo the comment above, then Ferrari would really not be able to know what Mercedes were going to do.

    As for money I think it would also be helpful to put a budget cap on front wings – they can only cost $25,000 each instead of the $150,000 each some teams spend. But this thought if for another forum.

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