For 2019 there are only five F1 tyre compounds hiding behind three colors – sounds simple? But there is more to it than meets the eye.
Pirelli is the official tyre supplier of Formula 1 and will be until at least 2023. But with the regulations ever-changing to liven up, and in this case simplify the spectacle for a new generation of viewers, changes have been made to the most vital of areas.
Last season, there were seven different tyre compounds (plus two for wet weather conditions) — from hypersoft to superhard — with seemingly all the colors of the rainbow to differentiate! This year, color range is reduced from seven to just three. But the number of compounds is only reduced to five (not including wet spec tyres).
Motorsport Technology spoke to Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola, about these changes, and how they’re going to affect the competition this season.
Is the change to make it simpler for fans to understand tyre management?
MI: Pirelli is reducing the number of compounds to five but keeping only three colors. The idea is to make it easier for spectators who are not greatly interested in the technical details. The three colors, which will be the same every race, will make it easier for fans to understand which of the three is the softer, or harder of the three compounds used. With just three colors, they’ll know that the white one is the hardest, red is the softest and yellow is in the middle. Then we have compounds ranging from 1 the hardest, to 5 the softest. For each race we’ll select three from the five and mark them in three colors.
So, the three compounds, even the same color, will be different on different tracks?
MI: To go from Monaco, to Silverstone, to Suzuka, we have tracks with completely different characteristics. We cannot use the same three compounds at all of these venues. If we use the same, it means at Monaco everyone will use the softest one, and there is no chance for the one in the middle of the hardest spec to be used, because they’re out of range for this kind of circuit.
The soft in Monaco would be, for example, compound number 5, and for Silverstone, number 3. Same color, different compound. But the teams and media will have the information which compound is used, exactly, and why.
We know the layout of the circuit, the tarmac roughness, the expected degradation – we have a database of previous years. And we have an idea which are the three compounds are most suitable for a given event.
Based on that data, we make a choice, get an approval with the FIA, and then inform the teams.
What made you change from seven to five?
MI: F1 is a very demanding sport. We have to achieve targets, and the targets are agreed with the drivers, teams, FIA and the FOM. We have to supply F1 what they want. To be part of the show we need to give them tyres that let the teams generate different strategy, encourage more overtaking etc. To do that, we need the right number of compounds. We tried to stay at the minimum, but it needs to be the right range.
So, the reduced compound range will help overtaking in 2019?
MI: It’s an ongoing discussion. Tyres are a key part of this. We have to consider the tyres, the car, the downforce — the sporting rules play a big part in that. But talking about tyres, the discussions is often about one stop or two stops. Which is the best strategy? If it’s a high degradation track, the driver possibly has to manage the situation and nurse the tyres more. Or with lower degradation, drivers can push harder, and possibly opt for a one-stop strategy.
The discussion is still open, because nobody has a perfect solution. But it’ important that we talk about that. And talk about that, we can really find is the best, perhaps not the perfect, but at least the best solution.
Top photo: Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, Mario Isola, during the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. © Acronis.