Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Albert Park, 2019

Pirelli wants drivers to explain why its tyres make passing difficult

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola has responded to complaints from Formula 1 drivers about how tyre performance makes it difficult for them to overtake.

Aerodynamic changes were made to F1 cars for the 2019 season in a bid to allow them to follow each other more closely and overtake. However some drivers have said tyre performance when following another car remains an obstacle to better racing.

“The new rules are great for following another car,” said Romain Grosjean, “but the tyres are still what they were last year. As soon as you push, you slide, and then you lose the grip.”

F1 rookie Alexander Albon said he was surprised how much grip he lost from the tyres when he caught another car.

When you’re following cars it’s really bad for tyres,” he said. “So battling is really difficult. You can’t spend more than two laps in a row, really, without overheating them.”

Isola said Pirelli is prepared to listen to the drivers and wants more information about what they’ve experienced.

“I accept the comment if they explain a bit more in detail which is the problem that’s related to the tyre. Is it overheating? Is it degradation? Is it what?

“Obviously we are always working to improve the product we supply. We are already developing the product for 2020. Even if we know that for 2020 it’s the last year of 13-inch tyres. So putting an additional fork in developing these tyres could be useless because we can focus our development on 18 inches instead of spending money or resources on developing the 13-inches while we are doing that because we want to supply a better product.”

“When they make generic comments like this one it’s a bit more difficult because I need to understand who made the comment [and] why they made the comment,” he added. “It is sometimes difficult to find the drivers and talk to them.

“But as you know sometimes I go to the drivers’ briefing and I like to understand from their perspective which are the areas of improvement and it’s very useful because they drive the car, they have the feeling and they know what to suggest.”

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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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  • 17 comments on “Pirelli wants drivers to explain why its tyres make passing difficult”

    1. The temperature operating window is to small?

    2. Thermal degradation, needs to be wear based degradation only. dErP.

    3. When they start to reduce aero, then increase mechanical grip, get rid of DRS, then we will have closer racing, and more excitement.
      The quest for a higher speed through aero, it is detrimental to close racing. I would prefer closer racing, than watching a train will many cars following.

      1. Haven you seen the tires on the cars? If I had to guess these current tires are some of the biggest f1 has ever used. There is a ton of mechanical grip. A lot of it is just lost because the cars are too heavy. The way tires produce mechanical grip is down to the load sensitivety of the tire which is not linear relation between grip and load on the tire but unlinear relationship where the more load you add the less benefit you get from it if you keep adding more. This makes things difficult for pirelli.

    4. I almost can’t believe Isola’s words here and only do because two reputable people have put them in the body of an article. Surely Isola is getting a jump on April Fool’s day.

      He’s only just asking now for drivers input? He’s been to briefings and still doesn’t get it? He can’t find the drivers to pin them down on specifics? Failing that he can’t go to the team principals and ask what the drivers have been saying because, after all, it is important to him? They are always wanting to improve the tires?

      Give me a break. To me this reeks of passing the buck, or pretending their tires are great and now trying to blame the drivers for not being accessible and telling him the problems. So what then, otherwise they’d have better tires?

      These disingenuous words are more akin to that of a politician spinning a yarn than of a tire maker who genuinely wants to do better.

      1. georgeboole (@)
        30th March 2019, 13:58

        All I can read here is that they can’t care less about the 13 inch tires but they have to say something to fool the press and fans

      2. I was thinking the same thing. They have engineers in every garage on the grid so how is it he doesn’t know what the drivers are experiencing. I guess the Pirelli engineers in the pit lane are just “fan boys” with great seats.

    5. Why does F1 make it so hard? All you need to do is decrease the difference between the optimum speed and line through a corner, and the best alternatives. At the moment all areas of handling performance are too peak-y.

    6. Maybe the air coming off the rear wing is just passing over/above the following car and creating lift therefore less grip, much like air over a plane’s wing or wind over a roof creating a vaccum sucking it upward. . .could be that simple, I don’t know.

    7. This may be part of the reason why Pirelli have trouble with creating F1-suitable tyres – and is an exemplar for why they’ve had trouble with their out-of-paddock credibility.

      If Isola’s comments had been taken alone, the request would be quite reasonable, as it amounts to “give us more detail, so we can produce a better tyre”. That would be a good way of making progress on what is probably always going to be a hot topic of discussion between drivers and a high-level tyre company (tyre improvement, that is, not necessarily the specifics of the current complaints). However, He also asked, “Is it overheating? Is it degradation? Is it what?”

      Well… …Albon used the exact word “overheating”, and it fits the symptoms of what has been seen – not only in Australia but for substantial stretches of Pirelli’s tyre programme (and, in fairness to them, Michelin tyres also often did this last decade). Given he’s been using F1 tyres for the grand total of two months, that even Albon can nail the problem down to this extent suggests that if Isola asked any F1 driver, he would get feedback at least at the requested level.

      This also slides over the fact that F1 drivers are F1 drivers, used to speaking to general racing engineers and the public. They are not specialist tyre manufacturer engineers and therefore will have some limitations as to how much jargon they can use to relay the issues they are experiencing to tyre manufacturers. If Isola is requiring that drivers speak like tyre engineers to convey their points, he’s going to be waiting a while. If he truly needs that jargon to translate the drivers’ words into actionable insights, perhaps he should consider some track time for his staff in an old F1 car (or even an adapted road car) equipped with the current tyres. There’s nothing in the regulations against it and it would enable Pirelli to start translating words into deeds.

      Another thing that is not helping is lack of experience with other brands’ tyres of this type. While Pirelli’s F2 product is apparently superiour enough to its F1 product on the overtaking aspect for Albon to notice, the last time F1 had F1-specific tyres from anyone other than Pirelli was 2010. While many of the drivers have experienced rival brands’ efforts for other series, these will never quite be under the same demands as an F1 tyre (sportscar, touring car and rallying tyres all need different things to work, and Indycar tyres, which are in the series most similar to F1, don’t have the same requirement balance as F1 ones), only five have ever used a F1 tyre not designed by Pirelli in a race situation: Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Hulkenberg – and only Raikkonen’s ever used as many as two non-Pirelli brands of tyre in a race situation. This also limits tyre-related vocabulary and makes it easier to dismiss complaints as “different tyres for different series”.

      Also, it seems that the tyre problems are multiple, not single – Albon talks about overheating, while Grosjean talks about the road-holding being worse (Isola probably has a more technical term for this). Both of these would inhibit overtaking, but in different ways. A hot tyre doesn’t generate as much grip as a correctly-temperatured one due to chemical changes in the tyre, preventing overtaking from being considered (it’s faster, in many situations, to lose a little time each lap than a lot of time in one go). A tyre that doesn’t hold the road loses grip when it’s expected to be there, making drivers less confident that the car will do as asked. I’d also want the amount of marbles off-track to be looked at (a third element of tyres that reduces overtaking). Fixing just one problem won’t fix the whole thing and may aggravate other elements of the issue. But if Pirelli’s expecting to find a single issue, receiving these multi-component flaws may confuse it.

      What I fear is that we’re not necessarily seeing Isola stubbornness here, nor Pirelli-fuelled intransigence (though either or both could also exist). Rather, I fear we are seeing FIA contractual requirements for tyres to be a certain way coming home to roost. Again. In which case, expect Isola to continue speaking like a second-rate politician, not because he wants to or Pirelli has asked him to do it, but because he knows the FIA would reject a real, concrete answer to the questions drivers and fans alike are asking… …and even if it was contract time, the FIA has enough power that Pirelli wouldn’t be able to get it to change its bad ideas. Openly complaining about the FIA would likely get Pirelli fined or disciplined (something the company-loyal Isola would not want), and Pirelli has no reason to break the contract. So all Isola can do – pretty much regardless of his actual opinion on the subject – is to try to get others to change instead.

      1. This is a comment section, not an essay competition ..

        1. Hahahahhahahaah agreed

          1. Sorry, I didn’t realise my comment had got quite that long. Usually I put a [b]Warning! Long comment alert![/b] at the top when I’m doing a long one so that people who don’t feel like reading an essay can skip it.

    8. Great essay. Thanks for writing.

    9. The issue withe the pirelli tyres is the same as it has always been, they can’t make a tyre that has a wide temperature operating window. For whatever reason unlike bridgestone they can’t make a soft tyre that provides grip at the optimum temperature and nearly as much grip when it overheats.

    10. Dear Mario, I am sure you will not have heard this before but when I follow closely behind another car and try to force the driver into error by faking a pass on the left or right my tyres melt, this is not helpful for me. Please don’t tell the others I told you as we’re supposed to keep it a secret.

    Comments are closed.