Speaking recently, race-winning driver turned pundit, David Coulthard expressed a desire to see the sport return to the halcyon days of the tyre war, the Scot claiming that due to drivers feeling unable to push to the limit the current era is somewhat boring.
“He was not criticising Pirelli,” said Mario Isola, when told of Coulthard’s comments, “but he’s obviously… he likes the tyre war era, he likes to have a competition in Formula 1 that is not only for engines, cars but in his opinion is also about tyres.
“He doesn’t like the current system, where we have tyres with some degradation that, as you know, they are designed to have this level of degradation.
“It is and it will be a different story next year,” he insisted, “when we’ve been requested to design the new 18-inch tyres with different characteristics: less overheating, less degradation.
“He was just expressing his opinion about the current regulations and the current system, and I fully understand because he is a driver that used to drive more than 10 years ago when it was a completely different situation.
“We know that with the current cars, which are very fast, even if much heavier compared to the past, you put a lot of stress on the tyres,” he continued, “this generates degradation and also when you follow another car you lose downforce and it is an additional element. So we are working together with the FIA and F1 in order to have a different situation for next year.
“I’m sure that if you don’t lose downforce, when you follow another car, and with tyres that are designed with different characteristics we can achieve the target.”
Having claimed that the weight of the cars is one of the issues, Isola was asked how Pirelli will meet the demands of 2022 when the cars will be even heavier.
“It is not only the weight of the car that is stressing the tyre,” he explained, “it’s the level of downforce, the speed.
“There are many parameters that we have to consider and obviously we are designing tyres for next year, keeping in mind all these numbers and also asking the teams that are providing mule cars, to give us cars that are representative of next year’s cars, even if they are mule cars. But the weight is the same that is in the regulations for 2022, weight distribution, level of downforce also.
“We are designing tyres with these characteristics in mind. Obviously they are different compared to the past but that’s our job.”
In view of his claim that the characteristics will change next year, Isola was asked if this meant Pirelli have been given different targets.
“The new target letter is just stating that we have to design a tyre with less degradation,” he replied. “The numbers of degradation are in the target letter, the data lap time is defined in the target letter.
“We have to focus on compounds with a wider working range and to reduce the overheating,” he added. “These are the main parameters that are interesting to know that there are some other technical characteristics but mainly this is a summary or what we agreed.
“Obviously the degradation cannot be zero for all the compounds because otherwise there is no reason to have strategies with more than one stop or using different compounds, so we have to look at those targets and try to design compounds with these characteristics.
“What I can tell you is that during our tyre development tests, we obviously measure the degradation and we ask the drivers to push each lap, to simulate what will happen next year and the results are very promising.
“Then next year we will have different cars and we have to validate the results on the new cars but the results so far are promising.”
Promising, of course, is an all-encompassing word, but, based on what the drivers have experienced so far, will Pirelli really be able to produce a tyre that drivers will be able to push for long periods of time, multiples of laps, on the limit, without suffering the thermal sensitivity and overheating issues that have been characteristic of the tyres for the last few years?
“I’m using the word promising just because the development is still ongoing and we haven’t finalised the product for next year,” said Isola. “But the numbers that we collect from test sessions are in line with the target letter.
That is why… we saw some areas in which we can improve and we are working around that,” he continued. “Obviously we have to design five compounds to race on 23 different circuits so we need to collect more data on different circuits with different cars to be one hundred per cent sure that we are on the target.
“How can we produce tyres with these characteristics? We had to completely change the approach. We have to redesign the compounds and we are talking about introducing a new family of compounds with different ingredients. Alsdo, in terms of construction, we have designed a construction with some characteristics that are going in the direction of reducing degradation and overheating.
“If we want to say that the overheating or the thermal sensitivity will be zero, I tell you that that is impossible from a physical point of view so forget the possibility to have a tyre with zero overheating or zero degradation. That in any case is not in the target but we can heavily reduce it and the challenge for us is to produce a tyre with these characteristics.”
The ongoing tests feature mule cars, which in reality will only produce estimations, meaning that the opening days of pre-season testing will be critical.
“Now the technical regulations are available, teams have the possibility to prepare some simulations and we did simulations also to prepare mule cars that are representative for next year,” said Isola.
“It is true,” he added, “we cannot have final feedback until the pre-season tests next year, for sure, and in any case, when we start the season next year, there is no plan to – once the tyre are frozen and this is what the regulations state – we cannot change the tyre unless there is a specific reason that we have to agree with the teams and with the FIA. So there is no plan to review the compounds during the season.
“Obviously all the data collected next year with the real cars will be useful for us to upgrade the product for 2023 but there is no plan to do that during the season.”