The four points of contact of cars with the road is extremely important in the final result. This is compounded by the fact that the tires are the only factor outside the teams’ control – even if they do the lobbying required for changes, not always to the benefit of the spectacle.
THE Mario Island is in her hands Pirelli in motor racing matters, while he has been working in the company as a whole since 1996, having passed through various positions over the years.
Given that we are now in the second season of new regulations her F1the perspective of the man who leads the most ‘quietly’ influential ‘player’ in sports is highly interesting.
The Car and Driver spoke to him on the sidelines of GP Sao Paulo in early November.
How much do you think the cars have evolved since the start of the new regulations in 2022? Does this development match Pirelli’s simulations? And how do you think the new tire you introduced at Silverstone this year has performed?
The cars have evolved quite a bit, and that shows in the fact that we had to bring in new tires from Silverstone because of the loads. The loads on the tires were higher than we expected. We had received the data from the team simulations, also from 2022, and within three races this year we reached these limits. So we had to react and we did with the new rubber.
The other issue that came up was understeer, and after 2022, we got feedback that there was a lot of understeer. So we kind of changed the structure of the front tires at the beginning of 2023 to reduce that effect, and I’d say we succeeded.
We didn’t want to change the balance too much, because at the same time teams were working on solving the same issue, so we didn’t want to risk going to the other extreme and having oversteer.
The cars are now more balanced, the tires work properly, but it is certain that when you go home, you see what you can improve.
But we saw races with different strategies, 1 or 2 pit stops, with all tires in full use. It was exactly what we wanted to achieve.
We want to see action on the track, see drivers fighting, overtaking, but also managing tire wear. This is also an important element of the action. If there is no wear, then you have a line of cars on the track pushing, but all at the same level. That is why I consider 2023 to be a success.
But do you think that the tires wear excessively in some cases, as for example we saw happen in Sao Paulo?
We know that some tracks have this characteristic, they exert high levels of energy on the tires and this leads to high levels of wear. In Bahrain that’s how the track is, and it’s the same in Brazil, where their job is to manage the situation.
We must remember that there are six tires for 22-24 Grand Prix. We can’t have one tire perfectly suited for every track. We find the golden ratio by considering the layout of the track, the type of asphalt and the weather conditions.
The other issue is that a target has been set by the FIA, Formula 1 and the teams for two pit stops in the majority of races. To achieve this, the tires have to wear harder, otherwise there is no reason for a team to make more than 1 stop, lose time or position. Therefore, the erasers should be softer.
We can always change the approach we have, but this concerns all stakeholders, it is not a decision Pirelli can make alone.
What happened with Qatar and also Interlagos this year and the small cuts you found in the tires? Is there anything Pirelli can do about it?
We will have to look at the two cases separately. For me, the positive in both is that we were able to avoid any problems.
In Sao Paulo, the cuts we saw were due to debris on the track, and that led to spin. We found nails and screws in the tires. This is an external problem, so we informed the FIA, who in turn reacted immediately by cleaning the track.
In Qatar, the problems arose from the contact of the side of the tire with the kerbs. Again, thanks to our technicians who are on the track, in the Pirelli workshops, we found what happened, we spoke to the FIA about it immediately and it was decided to reduce the number of laps that each tire can do without putting anyone in danger. With this limitation, we knew we could do the race without any problems, and we did.
In this case, in the future we should have a better plan with the FIA, so that when a track wants to make changes to the track, they inform us in time, we do the necessary simulations to understand the new condition, how the curbs have changed , the asphalt, the sand traps and see if any of these are dangerous for the tires and communicate it to the FIA.
I think that we have to take something positive from this negative.
One more question for 2023: we didn’t see C0 being used, what was the reason?
The C0 was built as a spare tire. The reason had to do with the fact that we have a limit on the number of tires we can homologate per year, and we can’t make changes to that.
We decided to introduce a new rubber C1, which is softer, closer to C2, because in 2022, the old C1, the current C0, was too hard, with lower than expected grip levels.
We approved the new C1, but we wanted to have the C0 in the range without necessarily having to use it.
At the same time, we were checking the performance levels of the cars to see if we could bring it to a race. At the beginning we planned to have it in 2-3 races, but after consultation with the FIA we decided to make more aggressive choices in the tires we would have.
C1 worked well, as expected, it encouraged teams to move with different strategies, so we kept C0 as a backup. And for that reason we didn’t build a single set of C0, so we didn’t spend any materials or money.
Regarding 2024 and the new tires, we know you are in the testing phase. There is thought that Pirelli could have its own test car, as in the beginning. Is this something that has been discussed within the company or with the FIA?
In 2011 we were able to do that because Toyota had a car ready and in the end it didn’t run, so we had a car representative of the regulations.
The problem with choosing to run one car from a team in the championship is giving them an advantage or designing the tire based on that one car. Obviously this does not make the teams happy, so the other solution is to build our own car.
We are not a manufacturer, however, we do not have the ability to do this.
I don’t see how that can be.
We had previously thought about properly converting a Formula 2 or Super Formula car from Japan to make it a test car, but that would not be representative.
I believe that the current agreement with the teams for 35 days of testing during the year is good. It gives all the teams the opportunity to offer their cars and it gives us the opportunity to build a tire that is a good compromise for all the cars.
Every driver is different, every car is different, and the tire in the end is not perfect for one car, but good for all.
Finally, as far as rain tires are concerned, we are seeing drivers opting to run with the intermediate over the extreme wet. Will you do anything to make the extreme tire more efficient?
Yes of course.
The intermediate tire is good because it works even with enough water on the asphalt. That’s why drivers choose it.
The problem with extreme wet is that we have limited ability to test for it. Paul Ricard and Fiorano, which are the only circuits in Europe that have injectors to artificially wet the track, are circuits with low tire loads.
We found out more about the tire when it rained at tracks like Spa, which takes a toll on the tyres.
What we will do now is work on the extreme wet to bring it closer to the intermediate tyres, and this is where the visibility factor comes in. When there is a lot of water on the track, the FIA will throw out the red flag for safety reasons. But then we don’t need an eraser for such extreme conditions.
So in this case, we need to design an extreme condition tire that is closer to the middle.