With a change to be introduced in the 10th race of the season, all knowledge of the Pirelli tyres gathered might become obsolete.
The new tyres are yet to run on track and will be tested on Friday next week at the Austrian Grand Prix.
The decision to go ahead with a stiffer rear sidewall could either have no impact or change the entire outcome of future races.
To make things more interesting, the tyres will be introduced during the first-ever sprint qualifying session of the season at Silverstone.
The teams will use the new tyres in FP1 on Friday and then head directly to the qualifying with almost no time to adjust their cars.
Toto Wolff responds
“That’s a curveball,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
“Nobody really knows on which head it is going to detonate. You could be on the lucky side or on the unlucky side.
“We’re going to test them next week and see what they do. But it’s very much an unknown.
“It affects a lot, because we only have this 60 minute session now, so we are time-limited anyway, and now you need to test another tyre.
“But as long as it’s the same for everybody, we can cope.
“We will take on the challenge and try to find out what to learn from these tyres, and what feedback to give Pirelli, and that’s fine,” he stated.
New tyres introduced after Baku failure
The first step was, however, issuing a technical directive on tyre pressures.
Silverstone is a venue where tyre problems can easily crop up and Pirelli wanted to avoid any problems.
Back in Austrian, a high-level meeting took place among team bosses chaired by F1 boss Ross Brawn.
Pirelli’s Mario Isola was asked to present his views on the matter.
However, Brawn’s presence indicated the graveness of the matter and the desire to avoid a repeat of what happened in Baku.
What did Brawn say?
“It’s an evolution,” he said after the meeting.
“Pirelli want to give some more margins for the teams to work with. And it’s a sensible change.
“I think it’s something all the teams support, and a logical move.
“I think the changes that were done with the pressure control would have handled the situation.
“But we want to give ourselves a bit more margin,” he concluded.
Teams given only limited information
All teams have been given only a small chunk of information regarding the tyres and will receive more details on Tuesday.
On Friday, each driver will be handed two sets of the new tyres to run either in FP1 or FP2.
The test is important as it will dictate their use in Silverstone.
Isola breaks the ice
“We are talking about the construction that we never tested before on track,” said Isola.
“That construction was an idea that we had last year, when we were developing the 13-inch tyres for 2021. If you remember, we tested different constructions in Portimao.
“And then we had a deadline to respect to homologate the new 2021 construction.
“But after Portimao we had also some other ideas on how to make the rear tyre more robust. And we made some prototypes.
“We usually run several indoor tests to assess the level of integrity of the tyre. And the new construction was positive in this regard,” he added.
2021 design an upgrade over 2020
Isola added that the new design is superior than the previous one.
“The 2021 construction is for sure a step better than 2020. But the new one we want to propose is another clear step in the direction of having a tyre that is more robust than the current one,” he said.
“Why do we believe we want to test it and why we want to introduce it? It is true that with the new technical directive we have a much better situation now.
“The type of controls and number of controls made by the FIA are giving us a good guarantee about the way in which teams are running the tyres.
“But it’s also clear that we don’t yet have a standard [pressure] sensor. And until 2022 it’s impossible to introduce a standard sensor.
“So the situation has improved massively compared to a few races ago, but we still have this impossibility to check the running pressure.
“And we have a busy year in front of us. So we believe that having this solution in the pocket, and not using it, is not the right decision,” he stated.
Pirelli has some ideas for next year
Isola also mentioned that Pirelli has some ideas that they want to implement next year.
“This new construction has some concepts that we are planning to introduce also in the 18-inch tyre,” he explained.
“So when we found that this improved integrity on the prototype, we tested end of last year, those concepts were taken for the 18-inch tyre.
“And now, if we introduce it, also on 13 inch. It’s a good test also for the 18-inch tyre, because the idea behind is on both tyres,” he said.
Tyre profile same as old one
Isola added that the new tyres have a profile just like the old ones and therefore are expected to have a minimal impact on the teams.
“I’m not expecting a different driveability,” he said.
“Obviously, it is a different construction in terms of geometry and design of the tyre.
“We are not going to change the external profile, because otherwise this affects the design of the floor and the downforce on the rear of the car.
“So it is not going to change these elements. But it is more robust.
“In terms of driveability, I’m not expecting a big shift in balance, or something like that. But we need to test it on track to confirm that,” he stated.
Pirelli has no concerns going to Silverstone
According to Isola, even with the issues faced last year, Pirelli has no problem going to Silverstone with the current tyres.
“No, because we have changed the construction this year,” he clarified.
“The front is different not only in the construction, also the profile on the front, we had the possibility to make a further step on the new 2021 construction, changing also the profile, a step that was not possible on the rear.
“But with the new conditions we are not worried about the integrity of the current tyre.
“If we want to introduce the new one, it’s because it’s available, and because we believe that we have more margin, not because I’m worried about anything,” he concluded.
McLaren boss provides his opinion
“In the end the most important thing is safety,” McLaren boss Andreas Seidl said.
“And, therefore, we also strongly support the initiative from Pirelli, together with the FIA to do this test next week, and then to possibly introduce this new construction from Silverstone onwards.
“Together with the technical directive that has been sent out during Paul Ricard, in terms of what the expectations are, in terms of tyre pressure management, I think it’s two very important initiatives in order to make sure our drivers are safe when they go on track.
“Of course, with a change of tyres or construction in the middle of the season, there’s always the potential that there’s winners and losers from such a change.
“But I think it’s important in such a situation to put our opportunistic view on things aside, priority must be safety. And that’s why we support it,” he concluded.
Aston Martin could lose it all
Aston Martin is at the top of it’s game when it comes to tyre management and therefore could lose out a lot more as compared to others.
Team boss Otmar Szafnauer claims that changing tyres mid-season could lead to tricky consequences.
“It’s happened before, I think we’ve done this before a few years back,” the American said.
“And I remember that construction didn’t suit us at all. And we went backwards in competitiveness.
“So hopefully, this time, we’ll get on top of the new tyre as well.
“I think we get some information next Tuesday. Hopefully we’re going to be running 40 sets of tyres here next weekend [between all teams], and we’ll collect a lot of track data from that.
“Once we have that track data, we’ll make a good decision.
“It’s a lot of difference for Silverstone. New tyres, plus a sprint. But we’ll do it, we’ll do a good job,” he concluded.
Drivers offer their thoughts
“I don’t think that the previous tyre was unsafe,” George Russell said.
“Obviously, we know the reasons of the blowouts. But if there is something that’s slightly safer, there’s no reason not to take it.
“And so let’s see how we get on with that. I’ll be shocked there’s a big difference, just the integrity will be slightly better,” he stated.
“If we are doing that for safety, I think we can’t complain,” said Esteban Ocon.
“We have seen tyres breaking, we have seen tyre failures. So it is quite good that we come up with some solutions to fix those problems, especially looking at Silverstone coming shortly.
“I think this is going to be quite important.
“Until I test it, I can’t really give feedback on how it’s going to feel.
“It’s going to be interesting, because it’s going to re-set a bit the understanding of everyone into the season, as the tyre topic is usually something quite difficult to get right,” he concluded.
Some drivers are under the impression that the new tyres could be beneficial: “It’s only positive for us, just to see if it changes a bit the trend,” said Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr.
“It could help. Who knows? I think our problem is the fronts, but let’s see,” he stated.
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