Pirelli is fighting for a compromise that will increase overtaking opportunities but still keep drivers happy, according to its motorsport boss Mario Isola.
Last year marked the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations that were designed to make Formula 1 cars more visually spectacular and more challenging to drive. As part of the changes, wider tires were introduced that were harder, allowing drivers to push more. The new rules saw a drop in overtaking compared to previous seasons, and Isola says tire performance is one of the biggest influences, but going back to high degradation levels is not what the drivers want.
“Overtaking is a different story, because [with] overtaking we know how difficult it is with the current aerodynamics and the effect when you follow another car,” Isola told RACER. “Braking is very late, so it’s also difficult because of this. Increasing speed means that the ideal line becomes narrower, so we are trying to have a bit of a better situation in terms of overtaking with more degradation of the tires.
“So cars on tires with a different number of laps should create a differential in performance, but we don’t want to go too much on the high side of degradation because then you make drivers unhappy because they want to push. Especially when they are attacking, when they are trying to overtake another car, if they lose performance too much it’s not good for them and it’s not good for the show.
“It’s a balance and a compromise that is very difficult to achieve, but we are working on compounds with a bit higher degradation, but thermal degradation, not surface overheating. Surface overheating is what the drivers hate because they push on the tire and they lose the performance. Thermal degradation is linear: as long as you use the tire, you lose the performance. So it’s something that they know and they manage. Surface overheating is a different story.
“You cannot increase thermal degradation and decrease surface overheating. OK, we try to, but it’s very, very, very difficult.”
Pirelli has developed softer tire compounds for 2018 and has also introduced the hypersoft at one end of the range, with a back-up superhard tire also homologated but not intended to be used.