After 4 years of being the sole supplier of tyres to Formula One, Bridgestone have left the sport to be replaced by Pirelli. Tyres are one of the most important factors in the modern sport, so how will this affect the teams and are the Pirelli’s up to the job?
Pirelli have been testing their new Formula One tyres since August 2010. The manufacturer is not new to the sport, but hasn’t been actively involved since 1991. They needed a lot of time to get up to speed with the quality and pressure that modern day F1 tyre has to go through.
And it seems that testing time has made a real difference. Several drivers including no other that Michael Schumacher have expressed their approval of the new tyres.
Nick Heidfeld is also likely to be very of of them as the Renault driver carried out most of the new tyres testing before being called up to replace Robert Kubica. It will be interesting to see how much of an advantage – if any – this will give the German.
In fact the Pirelli’s are looking potentially faster that the Bridgestone’s we have become accustomed to. Obviously different track conditions (and the level of focus the driver possesses) can also make a big difference. But the initial response from the drivers and teams is that the Pirelli tyre is a fast specimen.
However, if you have more speed, you have to lose something and that something appears to be the dependability of the tyre. At present the Pirelli’s have lasted notably less time that the Bridgestone’s. the problem is apparently so big that the FIA have granted teams an extra set of ‘prime’ tyres at Grand Prix events to help manage the load.
This is of course great news for the fans. It brings the chance of more pit stops, as the teams struggle to learn the best way to use this new tyre. But of course it could equally reward conservative drivers who can go that little bit longer. This still fairly unknown quantity is likely to give us a great mix of strategy’s which could (for the start of the season at least) dictate the way the races go.
There’s one more thing that Pirelli will be doing slightly differently. For the past few years, a green stripe has indicated a softer tyre and no stripe means a harder compound. Intermediate and wets were obvious from the grooves on the tyres. But Pirelli have taken this one step further with an all new – rainbow style – marking system.
So, from left to right – Orange is wet, light blue is intermediate, red stands for supersoft, yellow is your soft tyre, white for medium compound and silver for the hard tyre. And to be fair this will make spotting which tyre is which a lot easier… once we’ve all learnt the colour codes!
So Pirelli will make their proper F1 return in 2 days time for Friday practice. It’s a development in progress which could make a big difference as the season plays out.