Speaking in the wake of last week’s post-race tyre test, Pirelli‘s F1 racing manager, Mario Isola has reiterated the Italian tyre marque’s confidence of a return of two-stop races in 2018. Following a regulation change in 2017 that brought about increased cornering speeds and a wider profile of tyre (60mm wider than 2016 at the front and 80mm wider at the back), Pirelli has openly conceded that the two unknowns led the outfit to go overly conservative with the compounds. Races in 2017 have almost exclusively been one-stop affairs and predominantly saw the hardest of the three compounds available left unused on the tyre-racks.
In a bid to target more degradation for 2018, and in an attempt to target two-stop races and more strategic variability, Pirelli is set to expand its range of compounds, in addition to making all of the constructions two-steps softer. The introduction of the hyper-soft and super-hard compounds was met with a decidedly mixed reaction from the paddock and the fans, however, after testing the hyper-soft at the test last week, Lewis Hamilton proclaimed it “best tyre that Pirelli have produced”.
Sebastian Vettel has since also added his approval of the step forward in the lap-time the hyper-soft provides. Pirelli expects the new hyper-soft to consistently be around one second faster than the 2018-spec ultra-soft, which in turn was 0.4s faster than the super-soft. However, with a softer compound and softer constructions, Isola explains the challenge is to get the balance right so not produce overly tyre-limited racing: “Considering all the range is one step softer, plus we have the hyper-soft, we now have the option to go soft enough to target two stops. I believe that three stops is a bit too much because we know it can be a bit confusing to have too many stops.
“We will try to make the selection of having two stops or one of the fastest strategies a two-stop. There is another advantage – with more compounds and a softer step, you give the teams the possibility to design the car that is more gentle on the tyres, so you can push the tyre towards the softer side. This is an additional variable that is up to the teams, and we give to everybody the same opportunity.”
Pirelli is also expected to announce the nominated compounds for the Australian Grand Prix today. In 2017, the race played host to the three softest compounds available – the ultra-soft, super-soft and soft compounds – however, was a universal one-stop race.