High-degradation tyres “completely the wrong thing” for F1 – Symonds

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 made a mistake by asking its official tyre supplier to produce high-degradation rubber, according to chief technical officer Pat Symonds.

However he admitted he doesn’t yet have a “clear idea” exactly how F1’s tyres should perform in order to generate exciting races.

Pirelli returned to Formula 1 in 2011 and was briefed to provide tyres which needed to be replaced more than once per race, in order to add strategic interest. However Symonds believes this approach has proved a failure.

“I think we were asking completely the wrong things of Pirelli over the last few years,” he said. “The high degradation target is not the way to go.”

A switch to 18-inch wheels has already been agreed for 2021 as part of a package of changes to reduce costs and create better racing. However Symonds said the sport faces “a very complex problem” in deciding how the rubber should behave.

“It’s something where we don’t have a clear idea on yet,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of simulation. There are many things you can do.

“We do believe pit stops are important in Formula 1. We know our fans enjoy these two-second, sub-two-second pit stops. So we do want to have that level of pit stops. You might say the easy thing to do is to have a Le Mans-type tyre that will go on and on and on. But then we’ll lose the pit stops.”

F1 has enlisted some teams to run simulations to test possible solutions in order to inform their decision for 2021. Pirelli intends to begin tests of its prototype 18-inch rubber in September.

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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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36 comments on “High-degradation tyres “completely the wrong thing” for F1 – Symonds”

  1. Here’s a thought. Let Pirelli make just 3 specs of dry tyres – grippy, balanced, long-lasting. They bring only one compound to a race, based on the track’s nature. No mandatory pit stops, but tyre changes are allowed (e.g. due to wear, damage). Let the cars race. Let’s stop having people have to finely analyse tyre performance and build entire race-day strategies around it. Let’s get the focus a little away from the tyres.

    1. they can’t @phylyp

    2. @phylyp I’m not sure how this helps with the racing. It’s not like drivers will stop conserving tyres, and it’s also not like tyres won’t be a talking point since even the same compounds work differently at different tracks. Instead what you’re proposing is removing another variable that aids overtaking, which is differing tyre life. Moreover, teams will now be more inclined to just conserve the whole race through instead of making one more stop to run an aggressive strategy, as you can’t go aggressive on a softer compound than your rivals. So, all in all, no thank you. I’d rather keep things the way they are with regards to compounds, and just have tyres that have a wide operating window that enables drivers to attack the cars ahead for multiple laps, instead of having to back-off after following another car closely for 2-3 laps. With the tyres the way they are, drivers prefer to follow the car ahead at a safe distance so as to not overheat their tyres and try to undercut/overcut them instead.

      1. @mashiat – let them fuel up to the limit, let them run their engines more aggressively (e.g. RBR at Austria). These are just a few options for strategy other than merely tyres. Today, tyres dominate strategy so much that other variables often don’t come into play.

        1. Thing is, without variables all teams will just simulate the heck out of the weekend, and require their drivers to run the optimally simulated strategy, as slow as they can, with as little risk as possible @phylyp.

          With tyres lasting all race, there is no incentive to stop. Every stop makes for extra risk of things going wrong. And it means a driver has to overtake, another risks teams would try to avoid having to take.

          Also, while we keep hearing how tyre saving (and fuel saving) are boring, they ARE about a driver’s skills in doing them while still going fast. Surely we shouldn’t take that factor out or limit it in a chase for that elusive “great race”.

          Remember the teams aren’t focussed on racing. They are focussed on finishing in what they think (simulate) is the position they can achieve.

    3. Alternatively – and my preferred option – bring those three tyres to each race and let the teams choose which ones they want to run during each race. None of the nonsense of having to having to use different types, let alone the top 10 qualifiers starting on their fastest Q2 tyres.

      I’d love to see those names on the sides of the tyres; grippy, balanced or long-lasting. It might help with marketing, too.

      But I am not convinced (not that it’ll make any difference) that switching to 18inch wheels and rubber will reduce costs; quite the opposite.

      1. Agree with your first paragraph, that is as good an – if not a better – option.

        18″ rims – in the other article today, Brawn days they are going to standardize the wheel, cutting down teams’ expenditure on that area.

        1. * cutting down teams’ ability to innovate and compete.

    4. @phylyp I can’t help but feel F1 and Pirelli are putting themselves in a straitjacket with the approach they’re taking—providing a standardised range of five compounds and a single construction to cover all cars and all tracks.

      It might help to have a little bit more flexibility. Why have five different compounds but not differing constructions? For instance, the reason we have the thinner tread tyres this year is to prevent blistering seen at some tracks. But blistering at any given track is usually an issue on a single tyre—whichever corner of the car the track happens to load the most. So then why not keep thicker treads overall, but bring a slightly different construction for, say, the left-front, at that particular track?

      In other words, instead of providing a standard range and challenging the teams to make them work (as part of “the show”), why not try to bring the best possible sets of tyres for racing to each track, varying the compounds and the constructions to match the track?

      The other straightforward way to deemphasize tyre strategies is to bring back refuelling with a fuel cell sized such that two or three stops are necessary. That would put an upper cap on the stint lengths and limit, but not eliminate, the role of tyre conservation. You could still require two compounds to be used to provide strategic variation. Plus, with a narrower range of life required in the tyres, Pirelli might also find easier to construct a range of tyres with finer differences that would be more likely to suit the range of cars on the grid, so teams could pick and choose the ones that work best for them.

      1. Why have five different compounds but not differing constructions?

        Where will the money and testing needed to make that possible come from do you think @markzastrow? Already it is expensive and complicated to make F1 tyres, this will multiply the cost and testing needs.

        Also, what will be the purpose of this? If done right, it would mean that the teams will know the tyre will last perfectly, it will be heated up easily, managed easily etc. So it can super easily be reliably simulated by teams up front.

        And the driver becomes just a tool told to run the tyres in the optimally simulated way. Instead of having to feel their way around the condition of the tyres, the track, where they are in the race etc.
        Please don’t bring in solutions that take away from the driver skills influencing things even further.

        1. @bascb I’m sure Firestone will be happy to advise you and Pirelli, as they supply IndyCar—which is hardly flush with cash—with tyres of differing compounds and constructions for every single race, including asymmetrical sets of tyres for ovals and road courses that place an extreme load on one side of the car.

          If your definition of driver skill is stopping a tyre from blistering or graining or placing it in the operating window, I agree to an extent, but it doesn’t excite me as much as their skill in outright racing—braking, accelerating, and overtaking. In any case, it’s not a matter of one or the other. As Marcus Ericsson has noted, the operating window for Firestone tyres in IndyCar is wider than the Pirellis in F1, yet managing the falloff over the course of a stint is still very much an important part of IndyCar (even with refueling!).

          1. Very funny yeah Mark, had a good laugh. A series with spec cars (i.e. clearly known limits to the downforce), very limited and well controlled development of the cars, where it is far easier to take a couple of cars and go testing. And less variance in car weight (refuelling) etc.

            If you think drivers being able to get their tyres to last longer while going faster is not a skill, I think you miss a lot of what can make drivers great.

            Where did you see me claim that the way the Pirelli’s degrade and their fickle management is great? That kind of inducing a statement on someone just so you can debunk it, is a perfect example of what goes wrong in debates.

            I think the current Indycar is pretty good. And some of the drivers would probably be a match for the top crop in F1 too. But even in your own statement you mention how managing the tyres is one of the critical skills good drivers have.

    5. look at super formula. perfect apply everything they do into f1.

  2. To be honest, I could never understand how Pirelli could have agreed to produce a product with their name on that was designed to disintergrate right in front of their purchasing public.
    It always seemed a piece of marketing stupidity to me.

    1. @nickwyatt They didn’t that’s an excuse for the poor performing tyre. Pirelli tried to supply an inexpensive tyre.
      f1 had nowhere to go, no tyre supplier, from Pirelli’s time onwards teams pay for tyres, and probably the degrading excuse was born from pirelli not having developed or invested enough, 2011 tyres were ice skids, then in 2012 they delaminated as the carcass was a metal mesh rather than the more expensive aramide belt.

      1. The first line of this article reads

        Formula 1 made a mistake by asking its official tyre supplier to produce high-degradation rubber

        So are you suggesting that Pirelli weren’t asked to provide high-degredation tyres and that it was only Pirelli’s lack of investment or unwillingness to supply an expensive product instead?
        Because if the F1 teams were actually paying for the Pirelli tyres (and as you say, there was only one tyre supplier interested), then Pirelli could have made the more ‘expensive’ tyres you describe and the teams would have been forced to pay more for them – or run on rims.
        I can’t quite accept that Pirelli agreed to be the sole tyre supplier to F1 and then knowing made an ‘inexpensive’ tyre that showed their company in such a bad light. It’s madness to supply an inferior product while knowing that the world is watching its performance.

        1. That is exactly what happened. Pirelli were asked to make tires that behaved like the Bridgestones did in canada 2010. The flat out could not. They could make tire that degrade, but they could NOT make tires that could be pushed hard for an entire stint, so they put thermal deg chemicals into the tires to behave like a fuse. Put too much heat into the tire and it lost grip regardless of how many miles they ran. It was a failsafe to protect the tires from the drivers pushing the tires too hard.

    2. @nickwyatt was going to comment this exact sentiment. I can’t count the number of people (on this site even!) that seem to believe Pirelli is incapable of producing a tire that doesn’t fall apart within an hour. It’s really a raw deal for them in terms of public perception.

      1. It’s not just public perception, it is the truth.

  3. Oh, wow!
    It took them how many years to understand this?!?

    Why am I not impressed or satisfied with this?..
    Probably because I don’t believe they will make a correct decision.

  4. These 2 second pit stop should have encourage more drivers racing hard and trying a extra stop on softer tyres to make a overtake towards the dnd of faster fresher tyres. I’d say there is not enough difference in speed from softs to mediums to hard. I cant remembered how many constructions of tyre they have but there should be at least a second of difference per lap in each tyre. Seems quite simple, maybe to simple

    1. I agree with you. If the Medium is said to only be .6 seconds per lap slower than a Soft, and the typical pit stop delta is somewhere around 20 seconds, a driver would in theory have to do 32 laps on the Soft tire to make up the lost time from the extra pit stop versus just staying out on the Medium. Now I know in reality there’s a greater time difference between fresh tires versus used tires, so maybe it would only be 20 laps, but even still that’s too great of a distance to cover I think (especially if the Soft only lasts for 15-20 laps anyway).

      I like the idea of just having Soft and Hard for dry compounds. The compounds themselves can vary track by track as they do now, but limit it to two dry compounds per race weekend and remove the requirement to use both during the race. If someone wants to burn through three or four sets of Softs to get through it, whereas another driver tries to do the whole race on one or two sets of Hards, then they’re free to do so and we’ll see how it pans out. Plus it potentially introduces more variables if the number of pit stops increases (speeding penalty, missed wheel lug, etc.).

      Ferrari will still bungle the strategy more often than not, causing me even more mental anguish, but otherwise I think it’s a solid plan.

  5. Silverstone had harder compounds right?

    What was the race’s rating? 9/10 ish?

    Enough said.

  6. Public knowledge from race 2-2011 onwards and now it finally seems to siphon in at the F1-brass.

  7. Will Moloney
    17th July 2019, 10:21

    If high degradation means tip toeing around then it’s the wrong direction. Make the tyres in a away that allows the driver to push constantly with no drop off and see the talent at work.

    1. Yep. Then just mandate that they have to make 1-2 pit stops in a race based on how boring the track is.

  8. Watching Ricciardo chase Sainz lap after lap on the hard tires proved that for me. The softer tires melting if you don’t give a 2 second gap is the biggest problem to close racing.

    1. @ebchicago No, the aero still is the biggest problem to close racing. The softer tyres wouldn’t suffer as badly when driving close behind another car if the cars were more following-friendly.

    2. ebchicago cars have so much downforce that they can treat most silverstone some corners as straights, even on dirty air.

  9. Symonds seems captured by the same error that lead to this and many other problems with F1 at the moment (in my opinion, of course).
    Simply, the idea that a good show = good racing. While the two may intersect, they are not the same thing. You can have good racing with a poor show (bad facilities, poor media and public appearances, poor camera angles or direction, races with poor attendances) and a good show with bad racing. I don’t know what percentage of people watch F1, either on TV or in person by attending races, because they love the show and don’t care about the racing, but I imagine it’s single figure percentages. I would be very surprised to discover that F1 hasn’t lost more fans by diminishing the racing in favour of the show than it has gained in the opposite direction. The fact that this site is called RaceFans not ShowFans ought to be a clue to Liberty and the FIA.
    The idea that fans of F1 racing would rather watch insipid racing interspersed by 2-second pitstops than sustained, high speed, close-following wheel-to-wheel racing with an absence of pitstops is ludicrous. If I can have pitstops and fantastic racing, then all the better, but what a farce it is that the presumption is that pitstops are essential yet tyres that allow the cars and drivers to push hard are merely a nice-to-have.

  10. Make the tyres similar to the 2010 Bridgestones.

  11. We know our fans enjoy these two-second, sub-two-second pit stops.

    Speak for yourself, I find they break up the race, usually for the worse. Getting rid of the two compound use rule would make the races so much better, why can’t they understand this?

  12. pastaman (@)
    17th July 2019, 13:24

    Degradation is fine, it’s this tiny thermal operating window that’s ridiculous.

    1. @pastaman Yep exactly. That’s something Pirelli has never been able to do properly, give the tyres a larger operating window. Oh and making tyres that don’t have “thermal deg” where once you start to attack or follow, after a few corners the tyres overheat & the driver no longer attacks the car in front of him.

  13. How road relevant are pit stops anyways? Either make the tires last the full season or enforce a rule that requires the driver to stop and drink a cup of hot coffee and down a football sized donut while the team changes the oil and checks tire pressures.

  14. Halfway there Pat. Yes, high-deg was a ridiculous idea (from guess who) based on the result of 1 totally atypical race where the serial race winner was pipped at the post by JB who almost always chose the right time to change tyres.
    As for pitstops, most fans have never seen an F1 race without them and therefore believe them to be “part of the DNA of F1” and can’t imagine how the cars could gain positions without them. So I ask fans who love their “battle of the wheel-changers”, which would you rather see ; a good wheel-change or a good battle for position ? And yes they are related, drop the mandatory pitstop and drivers will know they have to make a pass to gain a place.

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