Pirelli tests new tyre in radical plan to make F1 more exciting to watch

The manufacturer intends to introduce a new compound after criticism from drivers

Harry Latham-Coyle
Friday 31 May 2024 09:31 BST
Pirelli hope that a new compound will create better racing
Pirelli hope that a new compound will create better racing (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Pirelli, the tyre suppliers to Formula 1, are planning to introduce a new, softer compound as they bid to add excitement to racing and adjust to the sport’s new calendar.

A number of drivers have complained recently that the manufacturer’s existing range of five tyres perform well only for short periods, either being too cold or hot and degrading quickly.

Pirelli currently provide five compounds, from the hardest C1 to the softest C5 — a harder tyre is slower but degrades less quickly.

Finding a balance between degradation and speed is the key with Pirelli seeking ways of mitigating against tyres overheating. The proliferation of street circuits on an expanded calendar also provides challenges, with the smoother tarmac compared to purpose-built tracks generally requiring a softer compound.

That may lead to drivers pitting more often to maintain speed, which could lead to more variance in race strategy.

The Milan-based manufacturer have conducted testing at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard in France with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ahead of a possible introduction.

“The idea is to introduce a new C6 compound, a softer one, because in the calendar we have more and more street circuits and we need softer compounds,” Mario Isola, Pirelli’s motorsport director, explained to The Times.

Pireli currently make five tyre compounds
Pireli currently make five tyre compounds (Getty Images)

“We will move the range on the soft side, always trying to remove overheating. The real problem is to find the right trade-off between overheating and degradation.

“We tested one [C6] in Paul Ricard a couple of days ago. It’s the first attempt but the idea is to go in this direction probably to [have] six compounds next year. That was our idea, considering the calendar and considering where we go to race. The target is that we have to encourage a mix between one and two-stop strategy. We made the proposal to go a bit softer because the request [from teams] was to reduce overheating.

“The risk is that if you reduce the overheating they change [tyres] less because obviously they can run more laps without high degradation. If we go in this direction, then we need to have softer compounds in the range.”

Pirelli currently only offer three of their tyres for each grand prix, banded in white (hard), yellow (medium) and red (soft) for easy identification for fans.

Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton described this season’s range as the worst he’s driven with.

“I think we’re just working in a really, like, minuscule window of tyre temp[eratures],” Hamilton said after the Miami Grand Prix. “I think it’s this tyre. Definitely, in all my career, I don’t remember ever having such a small window of working.

Lewis Hamilton has criticised this year’s Pirelli tyres
Lewis Hamilton has criticised this year’s Pirelli tyres (PA Wire)

“Honestly, it’s probably the most frustrating thing. You look back in the day where you had a much bigger working window to work with. Then you can just optimise the balance and then just have good grip throughout the whole lap. This is definitely my least favourite.”

The 2024 season continues with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal next weekend.

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