Pirelli unveil wider tyre prototype for 2017
Track testing of the new rubber is due to commence, but some teams remain unconvinced about the tyres’ expected benefits
Pirelli have unveiled their prototype of the wider tyres that will be introduced into the sport from 2017 as part of the sweeping rule changes.
Track testing of the new rubber will start in August, but it was tted to a test car at the Monaco Grand Prix just to give an impression of how it will look. The rear tyres are 80mm wider than in 2016 at 405mm, and the fronts are 60mm wider at 305mm. Pirelli will also adjust the shape of the tyre to increase the contact patch in an attempt to provide cars with increased mechanical grip.
Although the 2017 cars will have more downforce than in 2016, in an attempt to make them four seconds a lap faster, F1 bosses have formulated the rules with the intention of not increasing the proportionate contribution of aerodynamics to the overall grip of the car.
Pirelli’s main task for next year is to satisfy the ‘target letter’ written by the FIA that denes how tyres must perform. This contains two key demands: that tyre degradation be proportional to performance, so the less grippy the tyre, the longer it runs before it degrades; and that tyres should no longer suffer irrecoverable and irreversible thermal degradation.
The FIA feels that if these two requirements are fullled, drivers will be able to push much closer to the limit for during races. This was a key demand of the drivers when they met with Pirelli and F1 bosses in February.
There remains scepticism within the teams as to whether Pirelli can achieve this, but one senior insider who has generally been critical of Pirelli said: “I’m quite optimistic. Pirelli have never had a clear set of instructions before. They really are trying very, very hard.”
Some teams are doubtful about the new rules. This is due to concern as to whether Pirelli can produce a tyre that can withstand the forces of faster, heavier cars, while also satisfying the requirements to be more ‘raceable’. They have also pointed out inconsistencies between the aims and results of the new rules. One insider said the track had been widened to 2,000mm from 1,800mm because people felt the cars of the late 1980s and early 1990s looked especially attractive. But those cars had a bodywork width of 1,400mm, like the 2016 cars, while the new rules dictate a width of 1,600mm wide.
That means the proportions of the new cars will remain the same, they will just be larger, giving the effect, he said, only of “standing closer to the TV screen”.