Sports Pundit spoke to Pirelli head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola about the decisive post-season tyre test in Abu Dhabi on December 3-4.
This weekend, the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship comes to an end at the Yas Marina circuit, with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.The 70th season of the pinnacle of motorsport has seen Briton Lewis Hamilton conquering his sixth World Drivers title at the United States Grand Prix held in Austin, Texas, on November 3.
Back in Austin, Pirelli, the exclusive tyre supplier for the FIA Formula One World, run a test with the 2020 tyres which received criticism from some of the drivers, raising doubts on the improvement of the tyres.
SP: What is the concept behind the construction of the tyres for the Formula 1 2020 season?
MI: *“The construction of the 2020 tyres aims to reduce overheating and degradation, thanks to a different profile. This will mean that we can also reduce the pressures.
“The general compound concept is to extend the working range of some of the tyres as required, so that they operate more effectively within a wider window of temperature, making it easier for the drivers to get the best use from them.”*
SP: Back in Austin, when the teams had a first taste of the new package, drivers were given two sets of C4 compound 2020 tyres to be used in either session.How many sets the cars will have allocated in the post-season test in Abu Dhabi?
MI: “In total, the drivers will get 20 sets of tyres to test in Abu Dhabi, made up of both 2019 and 2020 tyres, so that they have the chance to run some valid back to back comparisons. “Pirelli will select 12 of these sets a mixture of 2019 and 2020 tyres and the teams will choose the rest themselves.”
SP: Yas Marina is a completely different circuit to Austin (COTA), where the cars tested the 2020 compound. What can we expect from the official two-day test in Abu Dhabi?
MI: “As Abu Dhabi will be a test after the season, the teams will be able to run cars and set-ups optimised for the 2020 tyres, rather than focussing on a race weekend in 2019 specification which was the case in Austin,” Isola explained.
He also pointed out the fact that “it is a two-day test, so the teams also have the time now to carry out a full assessment.”
“Another important difference should be the weather, which will be warm in Abu Dhabi, as opposed to not far above freezing in Austin,” he remarked.
SP: Can you already have a sense of how different the final version of the tyre could be to the prototypes being tested this year?
MI: “What we are testing here (Abu Dhabi) is the final version of the 2020 tyres, so what they try out here is what is planned for the races in 2020.”
SP: Pirelli came back to Formula 1 in 2011, from your perspective, what evolution (technological advance) has had the most impact in the initial request to Pirelli on developing a high degradation compound?
MI: *“The brief has changed slightly from year to year, which is why we came up with the idea of a target letter to ensure that everyone was aligned on what we should be doing.
“The current emphasis is actually no longer on high degradation tyres, as it was when we first came to F1: instead, now we are creating tyres designed to allow drivers to push as hard as possible during each stint, given that the teams tend to generally favour making just one pit stop per race.*
Accordingly, the range of our tyres from year to year is never absolutely identical: we are adjusting the compounds and constructions every season to maximise the possibilities learned from all the advances in tyre technology.
“The biggest changes we have seen so far was the move to hybrid engines in 2014, then the wider tyres two years ago. In 2021 there will be an even bigger change as we go to 18-inch tyres, so it’s a non-stop evolution.
Every year, F1 cars increase in performance: lap records have been reduced by up to seven or eight seconds compared to five or six years ago, so Pirelli has to deal with this by ensuring optimal grip and durability.”
Rokit William Racing has recently announced its driver line-up for the two-day Pirelli test. Behind the wheel of the FW42 will be George Russell, and Nicholas Latifi, both are confirmed by the British team as its 2020 race drivers.Former Formula 2 driver Roy Nissany will join them on both testing days.
Renault F1 team has announced that Esteban Ocon will officially become a full-time driver for the team from next Monday on - Ocon signed a multi-year deal with the squad, just in time for post-season testing.The Frenchman is returning to F1 and is set to be behind the wheel of the R.S.19 in Abu Dhabi next week.