Pirelli is unlikely to become more aggressive with its tire selection approach during the 2019 season even once the full impact of this season’s regulation changes are seen.
At the end of 2018, head of car racing Mario Isola suggested the tire supplier was likely to select harder compounds in order to allow drivers to push more during one-stop races, and the nominations for the opening four rounds follow that philosophy. While Isola is hopeful the new aerodynamic regulations and extra fuel load will create better on-track racing, he says the approach from the teams has remained largely similar regardless of selections over the past few season.
“We obviously have to collect some data at the beginning of the season – as we do every year, because we design a new tire – but then data coming from races is the most reliable,” Isola told RACER. “So we collect data from the races, and we understand which is the right direction.
“We made quite an interesting analysis comparing 2017 to 2018. You’ll remember in 2017 in general, everyone was saying ‘Pirelli, you have been too conservative with your approach’. We had the new cars and everything, but the reality is, we weren’t more aggressive in all the races in 2018.
“For example, in Spa in 2017 we decided on an aggressive selection, and in 2018 it was similar. We tried to make a calculation on the pace management during the race, and it’s comparable between 2017 and 2018.”
Isola says the knock-on effect of going extremely aggressive with tire compounds in the past has been that teams actually drive more slowly to remain on one-stop strategies.
“In the races where we were one step softer, the level of pace management was slightly higher. If you consider races where we were two steps softer – like Sochi or Monaco – the pace management was huge. It was double compared to 2017.
“So at this point we said we cannot oblige teams to have a different strategy, because obviously they make a calculation and say ‘OK if I consider race pace, traffic, fuel, set-up, etc. then the quickest strategy is this one’. We can’t tell them ‘No, you have to adopt a different strategy that is slower just for the show’. So if this is the reality, it’s much better to accept the reality and try to think about something that is really improving the show.”