Pirelli will add two new compounds to their existing range of five compounds of dry weather tyres for the 2018 Formula 1 season. The Italian manufacturer will add the new Superhard and Hypersoft compounds at the two ends of the spectrum of compounds. The Hard, Medium, Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft compounds are being used now. There will be seven different compounds of dry weather tyres and the Intermediate and Wet tyres in 2018.
Pirelli’s new range of tyres for 2018
Pirelli tyres in Formula 1
Starting with the 2011 season, Pirelli became the sole supplier of tyres for F1. They were tasked with producing tyres that would degrade fast enough to cause multiple pitstops during the race and create mixed strategies. These less than durable tyres then started putting a premium on cars and drivers that were easy on the tyres. “Tyre Management” became a major part of F1. This caused a lot of heartburn among the drivers and fans as drivers could not push all out during the races as they had to conserve tyres.
The various controversies caused by the fragile nature of the Pirelli tyres culminated in a series of tyre blowouts during the 2013 season. Pirelli had to revert back to the tyre construction of the previous season based on safety considerations. This mid-season change did not go down well with the teams and drivers. In 2015, the tyre blowouts suffered by Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg at the Belgian GP led to Pirelli mandating minimum tyre pressures the teams should use at each race.
In 2017, the new regulation changes made the cars significantly faster and a lot more torque and loads were imposed on the tyres. Pirelli had requested the FIA to have more extensive tyre testing involving the teams before the season started to simulate the increased downforce of the new cars. Erring on the side of caution, Pirelli went harder on all its compounds. So the medium-compound tyre was the 2016 season’s hard-compund tyre, the supersoft-compound tyre was the previous season’s soft-compound tyre and so on.
These harder compounds used for the tyres led to many one pitstop races this season. The tyres also had very narrow operating temperature windows making it hard for the cars to switch on the tyres. Also the performance of the cars underwent wild swings in performance on the same track from session to session based on temperatures. The one good thing that came out of the 2017 tyres was that tyre management and conservation of tyres became less of an issue. Consequently, drivers could push harder for longer on the more durable tyres.
Pirelli tyres for 2018
Pirelli will introduce their “rainbow range” of tyres with the following stripes – Orange Superhard, Ice Blue Hard, White Medium, Yellow Soft, Red Supersoft, Purple Ultrasoft, Pink Hypersoft compound tyres. The wet tyres will be the Green-striped Intermediate and the Blue-striped Wet tyres. Pirelli has decided to abandon its conservative approach of 2017 and go for softer compounds for each of the ranges. Only if there is significant difference in lap times and durability between the different compounds of tyres, more pitstops and variations in strategy between teams will be seen.
According to Pirelli Racing Manager Mario Isola: “We decided not only to move all the range one step softer, but to introduce one more level of softer compound, that is the pink hypersoft. This is the softest compound we’ve made so far in F1.
“This is obviously a compound that we developed for very low severity circuits. We realised that, under the unique circumstances of this year, some of our 2017 compounds were perhaps conservative. The tyres we have created for 2018 addresses this, in line with the objective of having around two pitstops at most races.
“However, the fundamental design concept of the tyres hasn’t changed next year, preserving the attributes that all drivers have appreciated this year and allowing them to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint.”
Abu Dhabi Post-Season Tyre Test
After the Abu Dhabi GP last week, the final race of the season, all the teams tested the 2018 tyres for two days. All the current race drivers got a run on the new Pirelli tyres. The two Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets on the first and second day of testing respectively. The times were set on the new Hypersoft-compound tyres. A lot of focus was on Robert Kubica driving for the Williams team. The Pole suffered a horrific accident in a rally car before the 2011 season. Williams are evaluating Kubica in a current car for a drive alongside Lance Stroll in 2018.
The newly-crowned world champion Lewis Hamilton hailed the new Hypersoft-compound tyres as the best tyres Pirelli have made in F1. Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas also approved of the new softest compound tyre which offered good grip and speed. The fans have expressed anger at the increased number of tyre compounds Pirelli is going to have in 2018. During the current season, in race after race the hardest of the three compounds of tyres was seldom used. Hopefully, the new tyres will offer mixed strategies and exciting racing in the new season. This will make Pirelli, the teams and fans happy.
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