Pirelli Pic
Charles Pic was testing the Prototype 18" Pirelli tyres at Silverstone (Credit: Pirelli & C. S.p.A)
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Pirelli Unveil 18-Inch Prototype Tyre at Silverstone Test

A lot of the focus of the post-Silverstone Formula 1 test was on the Lotus F1 Team, and more decisively on the Pirelli tyres that adorned the 2014 car. For the first time, the tyre manufacturer bolted on a set of eighteen-inch concept tyres with a view to introducing them to F1 in the future, replacing the standard thirteen-inch tyres currently in service.

Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery felt the new tyres looked good on the Lotus, but admitted they were a prototype concept that could be introduced in time in F1 if the teams wanted the tyre manufacturer to go in that direction. He believes it would not take too long to produce the number of tyres needed for F1, but knows more testing will be required to perfect them, much like they needed before coming back into the sport a few years ago when they replaced Bridgestone.

“In our view, the new tyres looked stunning fitted to the Lotus, and the reaction has already been felt all over the world,” said Hembery. “These are just a prototype concept, but if the teams decided that they wanted us to proceed in this direction, we have the capability to carry on development in this area and come up with a production-ready version in a comparatively short space of time. We’ve heard a lot of opinions already and we look forward to canvassing other opinions in the coming weeks and months.

“Even though performance wasn’t by any means priority here, the new tyres still behaved exactly in line with our expectations, so we’re clearly potentially at the beginning of a huge development curve, with the wheel and tyre size rules having remained unaltered for many years.”

Speaking on the official Lotus website after being the driver responsible for the testing of the new tyres, test driver Charles Pic said the new tyres would be a challenge for teams to get the best out of, as he struggled for pace with the low profile tyres.

“They seemed more reactive and more nervous, but we ran them in a very conservative manner as regards to speed, tyre pressures and avoiding the kerbs,” said Pic. “I think that it is a tyre that will react quickly; the reaction you get in the steering wheel feels like it’s more nervous and you get a snap, it’s quicker.

“They certainly look very different – some people will like them some others not. I though they looked pretty big, but maybe it is just because it was the first time I saw them. It didn’t look much different from the cockpit or feel any higher; they looked a bit larger at the front from behind the wheel.”

Although a lot of the focus of the test was on the eighteen-inch rims, Pirelli also managed to get a lot of information about the current tyres and the 2015 tyres, after Ferrari, Marussia and Red Bull also carried out tyre tests alongside Lotus.

“These new tyres were clearly the focus of the test, but of course we managed to complete a lot of work for next year and the shorter term as well, with the two days of dedicated tyre testing from Ferrari, Marussia, Lotus and Red Bull as well,” said Hembery. “Having learned a lot from the previous tyre tests in Bahrain and Barcelona, we were now able to carry out a lot of more targeted work for 2015, on a fast and demanding circuit.”

Infiniti Red Bull Racing Race Engineering Co-ordinator Andy Damerum was happy that they managed to get through the schedule Pirelli wanted them to do despite Sebastian Vettel suffering an engine failure mid-way through the day. Having honed their skills with changing engines, the time lost was only three hours, which still left them with enough time to complete the test.

“We got out on time this morning, got the car balanced and then worked through Pirelli’s schedule, which involved testing tyres for 2015,” said Damerum. “We had an issue with the car about halfway through, which resulted in a change of power unit, but thankfully we’re able to do that a lot quicker than at the beginning of the season, so in the end we lost only three hours. Even with that delay we were still able to complete Pirelli’s plan for the day.”

Ferrari were able to allow test driver Pedro de la Rosa his first experience of the F14 T at the test, and in a role reversal, lead driver Fernando Alonso took his place in the simulator, much like de la Rosa does during race weekends. As well as running through the Pirelli testing schedule, Ferrari were able to check the correlation between the simulator and how the F14 T worked on track.

“I am very happy to be back in the car, because no simulator can compare to actually driving a car on track,” said de la Rosa. “It was enjoyable getting to grips with the circuit, as I miss it and miss training in race trim. That aside, I am very pleased with the correlation we saw between the car and the simulator.

“That is a very important factor, as Formula 1 testing is reduced still further, obliging everyone to do more simulation. Maybe this needs a rethink, not just for the test drivers, who do too little driving, but for the youngsters and for Formula 1 as a whole.

“Fernando as we know is very professional, but I must say it felt a bit strange knowing a world champion was working for me while I was on track at Silverstone.”

Jules Bianchi was Marussia’s representative at the test on day one, with the Frenchman completing his running during the morning before being able to focus on the development of his car in the afternoon.