Regulation changes for next season mean tyres will be around 25 percent wider, with rears up from 325mm to 405, and fronts up from 245 to 305. Diameter will also increase very slightly, though wheel rim size remains unchanged at 13 inches.
Testing of the new tyres has been going on since the summer, with three teams (Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull) providing ‘mule’ cars - 2015 F1 machines with a wider track modified to simulate in part the increased downforce that next year’s cars will generate.
“We’ve made huge steps forward since trying the new tyres out for the first time at the beginning of August and we’re pleased by the results obtained with the majority of the specifications,” said Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery.
“We know, however, that the work is just beginning. The aerodynamic progress made by next year’s cars will lower lap times by around five seconds compared to 2015, and about three seconds compared to this year.”
The mule cars are still some way off the real performance of the 2017 cars, which will influence the way the tyre compounds behave. A number of these compounds, designed with a new philosophy and new materials, have already begun to meet Pirelli’s targeted objectives of lower degradation and greater resistance to overheating, allowing them to consistently maintain an optimal level of grip.
“The new cars that will take to the track for the first time in February will have a downforce increase of more than 20 percent: much more than we have seen with the mule cars,” added Hembery. “And that progress will continue throughout the whole of next season.”
Pirelli will complete this year’s test programme on their 2017 tyres with a final day of running in Abu Dhabi following this weekend’s Grand Prix. The Italian company’s next development phase, aimed at 2018 when the cars will be faster still, begins in February and they are already working with the teams to define a new test plan for next season.