FIA sets tough conditions for Pirelli’s 2017 tyres
Pirelli have been tasked with producing tyres for next year that can be pushed hard throughout their life. The FIA has issued the company with a ‘target letter’ that defines the behaviours it wants to see in the tyres in 2017.
This follows growing disenchantment with the nature of the current tyres, which have high thermal degradation and cannot be pushed hard for more than a lap or two at a time. This has meant drivers must lap well below the limit in races to ensure the tyres make the optimum stint lengths. Growing pressure from the drivers over the past year or so brought this issue to a head.
But Pirelli have also made the letter a condition of their continued involvement in Formula 1. They had asked to be issued with a clear brief, since they felt they were already currently satisfying a brief given by Bernie Ecclestone, but that different stakeholders had other expectations and desires. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery: “We have to make tyres that will have less degradation and less wear”
F1 Racing can reveal the key details of that target letter, which focus on two main issues. First: degradation should be proportional to the performance of the tyre; so the lower the performance of the tyre, the longer it will go before it starts to degrade.
And second: Formula 1 does not want tyres that degrade to the extent that their performance can never be recovered when one car is following another closely. Current tyres cannot be pushed for more than a lap or two due to high thermal degradation – something Pirelli have been asked to address
The FIA feels that these two aims will ensure a tyre in which thermal degradation is a far less significant characteristic at all times. Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said: “We now have to make tyres that will have less degradation and less wear. And they have to be tyres that the drivers will have a wider window of opportunity to push on. So it is a big change, and big performance improvements.
“We’re working on tyres that have a wider thermal working range, so they are less sensitive to thermal input, meaning that if there are conditions that create currently an overheating situation, that won’t be the case.”
The FIA and the teams had also initially wanted the target letter to include a requirement for Pirelli to set minimum pressures closer to the tyre’s optimum performance level. This is because teams have complained about what they see as the excessively high minimum pressures imposed by Pirelli for safety reasons following the high-speed blow-outs suffered by Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.
But Pirelli objected to this on the grounds that it was too difficult to achieve and guarantee. The FIA, to which Michelin had expressed the same view when they were competing for the 2017-19 tyre tender won by Pirelli, backed down and left it out of the requirements.
The governing body has sent Formula 1’s sole tyre supplier a ‘target letter’ outlining how the tyres should work next season