Pirelli want more time to test 2020 tyres

Esteban Ocon will head to Paul Ricard on Thursday to complete the final Pirelli test on their prototype 2020 tyres, that is unless teams agree to an extra test that would be scheduled in October.

The two-day “blind” test will take place at Paul Ricard, home of the French Grand Prix, on Thursday and Friday with Ocon and Renault/McLaren reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin in action.

Ocon will be testing the 2020 prototype tyre compounds, while Sirotkin will be tasked with trying out Pirelli’s 2021 prototype 18-inch tyres on a Renault mule car.

This is the last of the two-day tyre tests which have been spread out across the teams this season, but Pirelli have requested an extra test as they look to deliver on their compounds for the following two seasons.

The 2020/2021 target letter was circulated last month and Pirelli have until the Abu Dhabi test in Decemeber when the 2020 tyres must be rolled out for all teams to test.

Discussions over an extra test in 2019 were held at the Italian GP, but no unanimous agreement was reached.

The issue will be brought up again at a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, along with the contents of the target letter before talks move on to 2021 business.

Another option that could be agreed is that Pirelli provide the 2020 prototypes to run in Friday practice on race weekends – Pirelli desperately want to avoid creating tyres similar to this season’s which would fail to satisfy the demand placed on them for lower degradation.

“We are going to discuss in Geneva on Thursday a number of topics related to tyres,” Pirelli Formula 1 boss Mario Isola told Motorsport.com.

“I’ll be part of the discussion so we’ll explain exactly what we are doing, and what we can achieve, and what we can do.

“At least we have the opportunity to explain what is going on on our side. This week’s test in Paul Ricard is fixed, and we are going to continue the development to finalise the 2020 tyres.

“The meeting is September 12th, our test is September 12-13th, so after the meeting I hope we have an agreement for 2020 tyres, and we will select the best prototypes in the direction of these expectations.

“We started the discussion on targets quite late in the year, and we had already started our development. So if we want to achieve something that is different compared to what we have now, we have also to consider an extra test.”

The problem for teams is the further strain that another test would place on their already stretched schedules, but Renault principal Cyril Abiteboul knows it’s important to get the tyres right for the future of Formula 1.

“We know that Pirelli needs more test time,” he told Motorsport.com. “I think it’s important that we need to find a way to do it, to support them, but also in a way that’s fair to all competitors.

“It’s a bit of a frustrating situation, but right now we need to be able to come together to support Pirelli so that we have a product that is spectacular, safe and appropriate for F1. I think we need to have certainty that we’re embarking on something that will improve the situation and will be better.”

Alfa Romeo principal Frederic Vasseur was keen to ensure that another test was viable and didn’t favour certain teams.

“We have to be supportive with them,” he explained to Motorsport.com. “But we have to consider on the other hand that we have to do it in a fair way, not to help too much one team.

“If we want to test the tyres, it will be around October perhaps, and the majority of the teams don’t have the resources to do a session in Europe. It’s sure that we’re not able to do it.”

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Pirelli told 2019 ‘tyres are a bit too peaky’

Pirelli’s main target for the 2021 season is to develop compounds with a “wider working range”, according to their F1 head of car racing Mario Isola.

The Italian company introduced thinner treads for the 2019 season, but it doesn’t anticipate too many changes ahead of the 2020 campaign.

However, Formula 1 will switch to 18-inch tyres the season after next and Isola says drivers want them to produce a working range that reduces overheating “even more” and allows them to push the tyres for longer.

“For 2020, the technical regulation is stable, so there are no big changes,” he told F1Technical.net. “For 2021, on our side, we are developing new constructions, we are developing new compounds, the main target is to have a wider working range, most of the comments from this year were that our tyres are a bit too peaky.

“That is why we are trying to develop tyres with a wider working range. You can do that both with a different construction and with different compounds. We are going this direction, trying to keep the number of the homologated compounds.

“If it is possible to reduce overheating even more because overheating is something which drivers don’t like. If they can push the tyres more, we have then better races.”

The introduction of the thinner rubber at the start of 2019 coincided with a dominant start to the season from Mercedes as they won the first eight races.

Merc certainly made hay while the sun was shining as several other teams struggled to come to grips with the new compound.

There were some suggestions that the new rubber was produced to favour Merc, but Isola played down those reports.

“Mainly it is because of the design of their car,” he said. “We don’t just focus on Mercedes, I can say that lots of teams work with the tyres quite well.

“Just look at McLaren, how McLaren are going compared to last year. It is not just the tyres, it is the design of the car. There are teams that are working well.

“Toro Rosso, Red Bull were complaining a few races ago, and they are now using the tyres quite well. There is a learning curve, this is true.

“Some teams are able to understand the tyres better, and for some teams it takes a bit more time. In the second half of the season, they are learning and converging, using the tyres in a better way.”

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Thinner tyres not to blame for Merc dominance, says Pirelli

Pirelli has played down suggestions that the thinner tyres introduced at the start of season has contributed to Mercedes’ dominance.

Thinner threads were used at three races during the 2018 season to prevent overheating and its success meant that it was adopted for all tracks for this campaign.

With Mercedes starting the season like a house on fire by winning the first eight races, some claimed it was because of the new thinner tyres, but Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola has dismissed those suggestions.

“Yes, we know that Mercedes is very fast this season. But for the sake of convenience, forget them. What can we say about McLaren, Toro Rosso and Renault? They are really fast at times. Proof has therefore been provided that other teams have mastered the tyres,” he told RaceFans.

“If you look at previous years, it has always been that there are teams that understand the tyres just a little faster at the beginning of the year than the rest. Sometimes it’s Mercedes, sometimes Ferrari, Red Bull or another team.”

The thinner tyres were used at the Spanish, French and British Grands Prix last year and Merc were one of the teams that were happy with the new rubber, but Isola says they were not the only ones who were in favour of it.

“In Barcelona we had a race where Mercedes was dominating. But then we had the in-season test after the race and Sebastian [Vettel] tested both the normal tread and the thinner tread and his comment was the thinner tread is better. His words, not mine,” he said.

“So we had Barcelona where it was clear that the thinner tread was better – I’m not talking about Mercedes. In Paul Ricard we had a race with some situation that are not telling us that one car was a lot quicker than the other. In Silverstone Mercedes didn’t win the race.

“So it’s difficult to say that the thinner tread was giving a clear advantage to one car or another.”

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Buemi unhurt in high-speed testing crash

Sebastien Buemi walked away unhurt from a high-speed testing crash while in action for Red Bull and Pirelli at the Silverstone circuit on Thursday.

This week it was Red Bull and Williams who stepped up the plate to help Pirelli with their development of their 2020 tyre range.

While George Russell and Robert Kubica shared the driving duties for Williams, it was Pierre Gasly and Buemi who were in action for Red Bull.

The latter, a former Toro Rosso driver, brought the test to a premature end when he suffered a high-speed crash exiting the right-hand Abbey corner.

According to reports he was taken to the medical centre for checks but given the all-clear by the track doctors.

Pirelli did not release any details other than to say the test was called off early with the two teams having covered 2108km over the two days.

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Pirelli hit ‘most’ of 2019 tyre targets

Pirelli say they have hit “most” of their targets with the 2019 compounds as they battle criticism from parts of the grid.

A vote was held in Austria over whether to go back to the 2018 compounds, but with teams split five/five, the majority of seven which was needed wasn’t reached and the 2019 tyres remained.

The Ferrari and Honda-powered teams are believed to be the ones giving Pirelli stick, but Formula 1’s tyre supplier are standing firm and insist that “most” of their targets for 2019 have been hit which are set out in a ‘targeted letter’ agreed between the FOM and FIA.

Speaking to RaceFans, Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola said: “The current targets are defining a level of delta lap time between compounds [and] a level of degradation and if I look at the first eight races we are very close to the targets.

“The other request was to have less of overheating and from last year we have less overheating. As I said we can improve, but we have less overheating.

“Last year we had an issue with the delta lap time between soft, super-soft, ultra-soft were too close, now we have the right space in between compounds. That’s why I’m saying that most of the targets have been achieved.”

The idea of bringing back 2018’s compounds failed, and Isola admitted that he wasn’t sure if they would work on the 2019 cars anyway.

“We never tested the 2018 [tyre] specification on 2019 cars,” he said.

“The 2019 car is different from last year’s car. The aero package is different, there is a different balance in terms of downforce front to rear. So we are not 100 percent sure that the 2018 specification is working well on the 2019 car.

“I would say that probably the level of blistering and overheating [would be] a lot more because they are quicker, they are heavier than last year. So there is no element that is going in the direction to reduce it.”

Isola revealed that he thought going back to last year’s rubber would risk creating safety issues for Formula 1, but Pirelli are always willing to act on requests if they are backed by the majority of the grid.

“Provided that we work together, we don’t make anything that is dangerous or bad for the image of the company, we are always available to discuss any solution any idea any improvement,” he confirmed.

“I don’t care if it is during the year, for next year. If it is during the year there is a regulation that says that we need at least 70 percent of the teams in agreement to change the specification, that is clear. Or we can send the request for a safety issue. But if there is no safety issue and the current product has no safety issue we cannot send any request.

“If there is a sensible idea to change something that could be the specification, the sporting rules the allocation of the set, any of these that can be good for the sport and that is with the agreement with the FIA, FOM and the teams we are always available to consider that and to implement that.”

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Pirelli meeting ends with no changes to tyres

Formula 1 will continue with the 2019 tyres for the remainder of this season after the teams voted 5:5 to revert to the 2018 tyres.

Pirelli introduced revised tyres for this year’s championship, adopting the thinner tread that they ran at last year’s Spanish, French and British GPs to minimise blistering.

Two of those races were won by Mercedes.

This year, though, Mercedes have a 100 per cent record as they seem to be able to find the sweet spot with the new tyres a lot easier than their rivals.

This led to complaints, prompting Pirelli and the FIA to hold a meeting in Austria to discuss returning to last year’s rubber.

Half the teams reportedly voted no.

“There was a vote about returning to thicker tread tyres in today’s meeting,” reports Auto Motor und Sport’s Tobi Gruber. “It was 5:5 – not the necessary 7 votes in favor of changes.

“So the tyres will stay the same.”

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Grosjean calls on Formula 1 to use experimental tyres

Romain Grosjean believes Formula 1 can be spiced up by following MotoGP’s lead on tyre compounds and introducing an experimental tyre.

Pirelli introduced tyres with thinner treads this season to reduce overheating and blistering but teams like Haas have been very vocal with their complaints and struggles of getting the compounds performing in the sweet spot.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said that all teams bar Mercedes would be happy to go back to the old tyre compounds of last year, but Pirelli themselves say that they have not received a single request from anyone.

Grosjean, meanwhile, has offered an alternative suggestion which would add a new element to qualifying whilst also helping with the development of new tyres.

“It’s one thing I learned about MotoGP which I find amazing,” Grosjean told Motorsport.com.

“I’m good friends with Fabio Quartararo, and I asked him, ‘Why do you use the hard tyre in qualifying when you have the hard, medium and soft’?

“He says that at every race the hard tyre is a prototype tyre, new technology that they [Michelin] bring.

“It doesn’t mean it is the hardest of the compounds, but it’s a new technology. We know we don’t have the best product here, why don’t we try that?

“A soft and medium [compound] that you know, and bring a new technology [as the third compound and] make it different every race.

“We don’t have to use it if we don’t want to use it. At least we could develop the product in that way.”

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