Tyre Talk - exclusive Q&A with Pirellis Paul Hembery 11 Feb 2011
They may not be sauntering around the paddock rocking the latest sunglasses and pursued by fans, but tyres are well on course to becoming the stand-out stars of the 2011 Formula One season. With new official supplier Pirelli eager to mix up the status quo with their aggressive compounds designed to challenge the teams and drivers, the spotlight will be trained on rubber choices more than ever this year. We caught up with Pirellis motorsport director Paul Hembery to discuss the finer details of their 2011 plans
Q: Whats on your to-do list for the Jerez test?
Paul Hembery: The one thing were looking at here is a revised medium compound. The drive for that came from out testing in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. Its got a little bit more durability. Our aim is to get to around 100 to 150 kilometres per set.
Q: We obviously saw some quite heavy degradation, particularly with the rears, in Valencia. Do you think this may address some of the teams issues?
PH: No, in the sense that it was our aim and its what they asked for. In certain situations the wear would have been too high and we wouldnt have met our targets. So this is part of achieving the 100/150 km target.
Q: What kind of driving style do you think will best suit your tyres?
PH: Its as much a case of design set-up as it is driving style. Were seeing quite a difference in tyre wear and usage between the teams, but I wouldnt like to draw too many conclusions about that yet as a lot of the teams arent using what will be their final chassis. But there is a difference between the teams.
Q: When do expect to confirm the final compound specifications?
PH: Well they are actually done, in the sense that weve defined what they are. Its just a case of phasing in during these four tests. Barcelona will have all the final compounds.
Q: Whatever tweaks you make, are we correct in assuming that one-stop races will be few and far between this season?
PH: Thats what were aiming for. At some races we might find weve been very conservative and at others we might find weve been a little too aggressive, but thats going to come with experience of the events.
Q: Tyre strategy will clearly be crucial this season. So in terms of publicity, is it fair to say Pirellis job is already half done?
PH: Well, it depends on how people read it. People wanted something to be added to the sport. We wanted to bring tyres and particularly tyres and the skill needed from a driving point of view. It does also reflect what you need to do with a road car. You know if you use your tyres poorly on a road car they will wear out very quickly. And if you dont have the correct pressures or chassis settings, then youll find that your tyres wont last as long as they could do. Thats a common problem in the automotive world - that people dont look at the way they treat their tyres. So thats one part of the message. The other part is to try and make people make decisions during the race. There are no fuel stops now, obviously, so we only have tyre stops. That we hope will bring interest. Of course we also want to have a difference between the two tyre choices. So that its not a case of having a couple of tenths difference between each tyre, theres a least half a second a lap performance difference between the two options available at the weekend, which again adds to the decisions the teams will have to make.
Q: How will the handling characteristics of the typical 2011 car, on its Pirelli tyres, differ from its 2010 Bridgestone-shod counterpart?
PH: Its very early days yet. At the end of this test I think well have a better idea - McLaren have their new car here, Force India etc, so therell be a wider range of cars to draw experience from. I think the one characteristic youll find is that the front tyre in particular will give a sharper turn-in for the driver, so theyll have a lot of feel from the front tyre. And with the higher wear rates that the tyres are going to have, youll probably find that the balance of the car will change during the stint, which will probably lead to drivers having to deal with more oversteer.
Q: Bridgestone used a green band to differentiate compounds. Will you follow the same system, or do you have other plans?
PH: We will run a different marking system - an announcement is still to come.
Q: How will you continue to develop the tyres as the season progresses?
PH: We will have a parallel development programme for ourselves. Well have the 2009 Toyota but modified with similar downforce that the current cars are running with. Well have test session once a month starting from April in Istanbul and we will go through to return to Abu Dhabi at the end of the season, probably for some more wet testing.
Q: Is anything giving you sleepless nights at the moment, or is it all smooth running?
PH: Well, I wouldnt say sleepless nights. Were dealing with a big challenge to get ready in time for the season. We still have work to do. Its not just the tyres, its the complete support structure, the logistics, the people, information systems to get us ready to supply the teams. So thats ongoing ahead of the first race. Suffice to say, were not wondering what were doing everyday.
Q: Has that been the biggest challenge then - the infrastructure?
PH: Yes, the time has been the real problem because there is a time constraint. There are realistic time scales and you have to live with them. So knowing what to do is not just the issue, its having to realise what you want to do and you unfortunately have different time scales. Thats been the big challenge.
Q: Finally, if you were to place a bet on which driver would clinch the first Formula One victory on Pirelli tyres in 20 years, who would you put your money on?
PH: Oh Im not meant to say anything and be neutral, but I would say that as Im English Im going to go for one of the English guys, so Im going to go for Lewis (Hamilton).
For tickets and travel to 2011 Formula One races, click here.