Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles says he’s confident that Pirelli’s new line-up of compounds for 2018 will promote closer racing. All of Pirelli’s slick compounds have been reformulated this year to make them somewhat less durable and more prone to degradation. In addition, Pirelli have added two new compounds to last year’s line-of of five options. The superhard tyre will provide the longest life, while the hypersoft will be held back for twisty circuits requiring greater grip.
Teams only got a chance to see the new compounds in action in post-season testing at Abu Dhabi last November. But Vowles is confident that Pirelli’s new tyres will deliver tighter racing in 2018: “These tyres are softer, which means more degradation, more lap time drop and more stops required.” – James Vowles said, as reported by the British media – “Last year when you caught another competitor they wouldn’t have a huge amount of lap time drop from the tyres,” he explained. In the areas where you need to overtake – the braking zones and traction – there wasn’t a big enough differentiation. In 2018 we will have more differentiators and it will generate more overtakes,” he continued. “We don’t know how much at this point in time. My personal opinion is we will see more pit stops,” he said. “A little bit more overtaking than last year, and cars dropping a lot of performance trying to hang onto a tyre.”
Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola has previously said that it’s tricky to balance degradation and safety: “We do not want to go too much on the high side of degradation,” he said. “You make drivers unhappy because they want to push, especially when they are attacking. When they are trying to overtake another car, if they lose performance too much it’s not good for them – and it’s not good for the show. Last year we were conservative but for a number of reasons: new tyres, new sizes, new demands,” he admitted. “Now we know we can move softer and have more flexibility with what compounds are available. We are moving all ranges one step softer and expect to have quick lap times from that,” he summarised. “The total lap time will be more or less one second or a bit more quicker than last year. I am sure we are going in the right direction.” – Mario Isola explained.
Formula One teams will get their first proper chance to try Pirelli’s new compounds at the first pre-season test of 2018, which gets underway at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday February 26.