Pirelli have completed a whopping 12000km of testing on their new prototype tyres for the 2017 season. The distance that the testing over 24-days will provide Pirelli with more than enough information. They tested over 100 differing prototypes and will select the lucky few later on.
12,000 km of running is a lot of burned rubber. That’s 1714 laps of Spa-Francorchamps or 39 Belgian Grand Prix-in-a-row. The test in Abu Dhabi concluded yesterday and Lewis Hamilton (for a bit), Pascal Wehrlein, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen tested no less than 96 different prototypes in heavily modified 2015 cars.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) November 29, 2016
The tyres are much wider next season, bringing in a significant technical change to the aesthetics and balance of the 2017 grid. After the conclusive running in Abu Dhabi, Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery said,
“For the final test of the year, we had five F1 race drivers sample our 2017 prototypes as we completed the development programme with three cars at the same time. Now the hard work begins as we collate and analyse the results of our 24 days and approximately 12,000 kilometres of testing in order to define the tyres with which we will go racing next year.
These will then be run on the actual 2017 cars for the first time during the official group tests next February. Our latest test in Abu Dhabi went according to plan and we were able to collect the data we needed thanks to the three mule cars from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari; without whom it would have been impossible to carry out this intense development programme.”
– Paul Hembery
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) November 29, 2016
The increase in tyre width is expected to allow the cars to change direction more aggressively with an increased surface contact and will give the cars much more downforce. Massive gains are expected in lap-time but the fundamental issue of improving the prospect of overtaking remain unclear. Hamilton’s stark insight suggests that the added downforce may make cars harder to follow, an increase in the post-car-space-time “dirty air” zone set to increase.
“I think we need more mechanical grip and less aero wake coming off the back of the cars so we can get close and overtake. Give us five seconds’ worth of lap time from aero and nothing will change – we’ll just be driving faster.”
– Lewis Hamilton
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) November 29, 2016
McLaren’s Race Director Eric Boullier believes otherwise and that there are additional regulation changes that should negate this potentially negative effect. He said,
“The car will generate more downforce from the tyres, so mechanically, which should not hurt the overtaking numbers. Additionally, the influence of the front wing will be lower, since the floor and the diffuser will generate more downforce, allowing more overtaking.
All this makes the car allow more overtaking maneuvers, maybe by 5 per cent, as all current overtaking maneuvers are driven by DRS and tyre regulations.”
– Eric Boullier