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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Teams will not understand Pirelli's until Spanish GP

Back at the launch of the Pirelli 2013 F1 tyres in late January the company stated that they expected all the teams to have a good idea of the tyres from the first race of the season.
Pirelli launch their 2013 range with the help of Jean Alesi
Copyright Pirelli F1
In a post on 25th January 2013, having asked Pirelli a couple of questions, I said:
just as last year, they will be testing them in European late Winter/early Spring conditions.  I'm going to assume that this will once again lead to a lottery in Australian, Malaysian, Chinese and Bahrain weather conditions which are likely to see temperatures significantly higher than the teams experience in their February pre-season testing...lack of continuity in the tyre compounds may well mean that, for the second season running we don't see the best cars battling it out at the front as tyre strategies are likely to determine the early race outcomes once again
Much as I like to harp on about my great insight into the sport I have to say that my only expertise in this area is from watching races and listening to F1 teams and drivers discuss the problems they are encountering with the tyres, particularly at the start of last season.

It appears that I was absolutely right.  Paul Hembrey of Pirelli (I presume, in conversation with journalists in Jerez as I haven't received any press release from Pirelli, nor have they put one on their website) is quoted on F1Fanatic as saying:
"here it’s really still quite chilly in the air which suggests that going further north again we’ll have the issues we had last year of being very cold, particularly in the morning and even when you get past midday we were finding large parts of the track were in the shadow in Barcelona and you’re going from warm to very cold...I think we’d all say in the team that it’s until we get to probably China in particular that we think we’d have a good indication when we get to a faster track, a track where we’ve got more downforce, downforce is more important in the corners, high speed corners, that’s when we’ll really get a better idea of what the season’s going to look like"
What he would appear to be saying is Pirelli themselves won't really know what's going on with the tyres until China.  If that's the case we can't really expect the teams to understand them until Spain again this year.  So we can look forward to a lottery amongst the top four or five teams for the first four races, look for another Williams win in Barcelona, another Webbo win in Monaco, and then the teams can begin to approach the rest of the races in a strategic manner, with some understanding of the tyres.

Last year after Jerez Pirelli said the following:
But as the temperatures in Jerez were very low and the teams have also concentrated on other areas than tyres, it’s too early to draw any detailed conclusions. We’ll see more tyre development work at the next test in Barcelona, as together with the teams, we fully understand the implications of the latest rules

After the first Barcelona test last year they said the following:
It was an extremely productive four days, and we were helped by temperatures that – at least in the afternoons – were more representative of what we will expect to see during the season...we got plenty of work done and we’re satisfied with the levels of degradation and performance seen so far, as we head now into the final test again at Barcelona next week. It’s only then that we will see a more accurate picture of the relative performance of the teams, but from our point of view we are meeting our objectives.

And finally after the second test at Barcelona last year Pirelli said the following:
A key part of preparing for the races is understanding fully how the latest P Zero tyres behave with the new cars. A car that is kind to its tyres has more flexibility when it comes to race strategy, which can give a decisive advantage...The teams are rapidly extending and refining their knowledge of our 2012 tyres, seeing how long they can make them last over the course of race simulations, both on full and lighter fuel tanks. This is going to be key to the strategy in Australia...they are also pleased by the way that the tyre’s behaviour has become more linear and predictable. However much you test though there is no substitute for actual racing, which is why we’re all now looking forward to seeing the real picture emerge in Australia
Now, as we know, none of the teams managed to refine their knowledge of the 2012 tyres before Australia, the tyres didn't behave in any linear or predictable way and no accurate picture emerged from the preseason testing of the relative performance of the teams.

What we had last season is seven different winners in seven races with numerous upsets to the natural order purely based on a distinct lack of understanding of the 2012 tyre compounds.  These compounds have been altered for 2013 in order that they degrade more than last years.

So far Pirelli, in Jerez, is blaming the serious degradation being experienced on the surfacing of the track, saying that there's no bitumen in it, that the track is down to rock in places.  given the colder weather being experienced it's unlikely that any track would be provide a prime surface for testing, however, F1 tyres are supposed to be able to cope with all those surfaces encountered.

Remember that last years tyres were less degradable, allegedly, than this years so hopefully the problems being experienced in Jerez do not follow the tyres to Barcelona, though Pirelli would appear to be hedging their bets from what Paul Hembrey is saying today.

I'll sign off using Pirelli's words from this time last year
"Its too early to draw any detailed conclusions (Jerez 2012),  It’s only  then (Next Week) that we will see a more accurate picture of the relative performance of the teams (Barcelona test 1)we’re all now looking forward to seeing the real picture emerge in Australia (Barcelona test 2)"

While I'm at it I think I'll buy a lottery ticket.