This had been rumoured for some time after Bernie Ecclestone suggested that more tyres was the way forward, now it has been confirmed in a press release from Pirelli previewing this weekends Spanish Grand Prix.
Revealing the plans, Hembery said “As permitted by the current regulations, we’ll be supplying an extra set of prototype hard compound tyres for free practice, which will hopefully ensure that all the cars run throughout these sessions. It’s something we wanted to do to encourage all the teams to run as much as possible right from the start, especially with the rookie drivers, to give fans the spectacle they deserve to see.”
Pirelli previously announced that they were introducing a revised hard compound tyre in Spain which is “closer” to the characteristics of the 2012 tyre. They felt this was necessary to broaden the working temperature range and race strategies. “This new tyre gives us a wider working temperature window – although it delivers a little bit less in terms of pure performance – but it should allow the teams to envisage an even wider variety of race strategies than before in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged this year.”
The decision was made after trawling through data and evaluating how the tyres performed and held up during the first four races of the 2013 season. Hembery continued “This is a decision that we’ve come to having looked at the data from the first four races, with the aim of further improving the spectacle of Formula One. In fact this is almost a tradition with us now, as we also introduced a revised version of the hard tyre for the Spanish Grand Prix in 2011, which was our first year in the sport. We’d expect the medium tyre to still be significantly faster and this is the one that the teams are likely to qualify on, whereas the hard is likely to be the preferred race tyre.”
Former Formula 1 driver and Pirelli ambassador Jean Alesi is expecting teams to get a better understanding and assessment of the tyre performance in Barcelona. “I think Barcelona is the place where we will really be able to access the tyres properly for the first time, as it’s the first European race of the year on a circuit that is a well-known reference point without any particular peculiarities. It’s a circuit that I personally always liked as a driver although it is very complicated: especially Turn 3, which is extremely demanding on the tyres.”
The Frenchman also cited traction as being one of the main elements of the lap at the Circuit de Catalunya, particularly in the twisty final sector. “Traction is a key area of performance, which also puts a big emphasis on the tyres, so this is one of the most important races of the year because it acts as a really useful indicator for the season ahead.”
He felt that making the changes to the hard tyre compound and bringing in an extra set of tyres for Friday practice was a good move, “Introducing an extra set of tyres for free practice is a very smart move, as it’s bad for the sport to have the cars sitting in the garage for a long time. It will be interesting to see as well the effect that the new specification of hard tyre has on the race.”
The teams have plenty of data from testing, but Alesi is unsure how much of that will be relevant due to the higher temperatures and conditions. “On the whole the teams should be very well-prepared for Barcelona as they have a lot of data from testing at this circuit: the big question is how much of that data will still be relevant, as ambient and track temperatures will have changed enormously since the teams were last there.”
Pirelli will also return as the tyre supplier for the GP3 series which launches this weekend as well, alongside fellow Pirelli-supplied series GP2.
Image courtesy of Pirelli Media