Will we see drivers nursing tyres a lot less this season? Renault’s Jolyon Palmer’s latest comments suggest that we will see drivers being able to push the rubber much harder in the upcoming season.
Pirelli were asked to produce tyres that fell apart easily last season and achieved what was asked. Whilst it created a broader spectrum of strategy in the pits, pure driver pace was sacrificed as tyre management became central to the game.
Palmer has completed a lot of running in testing, and managed to post the third fastest time in the morning session of day three. The British driver said,
“The degradation’s very low. Obviously the tyre’s completely different. Pirelli wanted to have a very insensitive tyre to thermal degradation and they’ve done it because you can keep pushing and the tyre keeps hanging on.
I’m pushing hard and even going quicker sometimes through the run as the fuel comes off. But I’ve only run the medium and soft. It feels like they’ve gone two steps harder on compound because the warm-up’s really difficult and then there’s no deg.”
– Jolyon Palmer
If this theme carries over to the start of the season, then less pit-stops should be expected per race. Whilst this simplifies the strategy game, it will give the drivers a much greater window to race at 100% and not worry about the performance immediately dropping off on the tyres.
Pirelli are satisfied with the initial feedback from the paddock, which included Felipe Massa confirming that he could push on a 20-lap stint for 20 laps. Pirelli’s technical boss Mario Isola said,
“Last year, no one could have driven 20 laps with the soft tyre in Barcelona. Because you would have lost 4 to 5 seconds. Now the degradation is 1 to 1.5 seconds.”
– Mario Isola
This may also affect qualifying. Previously, driver’s had to temperature treat the tyres on the out-lap, complete one hot lap and then pit because the performance of the tyre would already be off. If the tyres are more durable, then we may see drivers complete more timed laps in each qualifying session on higher fuel runs.