Back in 2011 when RichlandF1.com first appeared in your internet browser, the first man we interviewed was Paul Hembery from Pirelli. We then interviewed him again last year before the start of the controversial (for the Italian tyre giant among others, anyway) 2013 Formula One season.
Continuing our tradition of interviewing Paul before the start of the season, he was good enough to sit down and answer a few questions related to the black round things before the season-opener in Australia this weekend.
Richland F1: Will there be a big difference between the front and rear tyre compounds for this season?
Paul Hembery: We’ve adjusted all the compounds for this year, as well as the constructions, to take into account the new regulations for 2014. We’re seeing increased torque going through the rear wheels this year, because of the new turbocharged power units and energy recovery systems, so we’ve designed the 2014 construction and compounds to deal with that, particularly at the rear. We have fewer changes at the front, because the front end is not affected so much by the altered vehicle dynamics.
RF1: Will there be an equal performance gap between the compounds unlike 2013 where the performances were – in some eyes – too close?
PH: This year, we’re probably looking at gaps of around 0.8 to one second per lap at each race between the two compounds, which should provide the stability and the number of pit stops that we are aiming for. But it’s very early days and the cars are evolving so quickly that it’s quite hard to have a precise read on the lap time differences between the two compounds at the moment. There are so many other factors at work.
RF1: Why were the 2013 tyre tests [in Barcelona and Bahrain] closed to press and public?
PH: Those were research and development tests looking at innovative solutions that remain confidential industrial property, and that was the reason why.
RF1: Would Pirelli remain in the sport if the tyre war were to return?
PH: We would have to clearly understand the regulations in that instance, but the very strong impression we have from the teams at the moment is that there isn’t a huge appetite for a tyre war because of the current economic situation. In the end, Formula One is a championship for teams and drivers.
RF1: What are the fundamental differences between the 2014 GP2 and F1 tyres?
PH: While the two tyres are the same size, Formula One tyres are the absolute pinnacle of our technological achievement and there is a difference in the vehicle dynamics between a Formula One car and a GP2. The parameters governing Formula One are obviously very different to GP2 this year, with much more torque going through the wheels with the new engines, and the design reflects this.
RF1: How many stops do you think we’ll see in the average race this season?
PH: The target is to maintain a minimum of two stops per race next year, just as has been the case since we entered Formula One in 2011. We consider this to be an important ingredient when it comes to helping spice up the show, as per the request we received from the promoter.
RF1: Did Pirelli bring any experimental compounds to any of the pre-season tests? And how confident are you that the 2014 compounds will work right away, fresh out of the box?
PH: The compounds we brought to the tests were designed to be the definitive versions, in order to give the teams an accurate benchmark as they developed their 2014 cars. We did bring along some prototypes too, such as the ‘winter’ tyre. The aim is to provide as much consistency as possible. However, there is potential for rapid vehicle development in 2014 and we have to make sure we understand the impact of this on tyre use and performance. The new tyres have relied a lot upon simulated data during their development, but simulation these days is very accurate so we feel confident we are at the right starting point.
PH: In 2013 we had a mix of issues. Whilst we had to deal with the Silverstone incident – after which we made changes within one week that fully resolved the problem – other issues fell into a complex area of technical and sporting policy. All this, during a year of significant domination, led to an unusually high focus on tyres.
Having said that, we still delivered between two to three pit stops per car – which was our target – in line with previous seasons. There has been no negative impact on sales; if anything the Formula One involvement has further reinforced our business development in many markets. The feedback from the markets has been rather pragmatic.
There was a problem, and it was solved in a timely manner. Going forward, we have seen important changes, with new regulations regarding testing: now we have pre-season and in-season tests. We also have the Formula One Strategy Group, which has put in place a mechanism for us to alter the specification of the tyres if necessary without being affected by the other machinations around the sport of Formula One.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.