Pirelli Motorsport believes they have developed tyres to make more exciting races and aid overtaking, but Mario Isola says they could not push their degradation levels too far so to make races more of a lottery.
Formula 1’s sole tyre manufacturer is aiming to have tyres with higher thermal degradation levels in 2018 than in previous years, but without causing them to overheat excessively on their surface, which drivers are often complaining about.
Isola, Pirelli’s motorsport boss, says the kind of balance needed to achieve better races with more overtaking, coupled with additional pit stops after the majority of 2017 races were one-stop affairs, is tricky to achieve, and should they go too far, the performance of the tyres could drop off too quickly, which would not be good for the show.
“Overtaking is a different story, because [with] overtaking we know how difficult it is with the current aerodynamics and the effect when you follow another car,” said Isola to RACER. “Braking is very late, so it’s also difficult because of this. Increasing speed means that the ideal line becomes narrower, so we are trying to have a bit of a better situation in terms of overtaking with more degradation of the tyres.
“So cars on tyres with a different number of laps should create a differential in performance, but we don’t want to go too much on the high side of degradation because then you make drivers unhappy because they want to push. Especially when they are attacking, when they are trying to overtake another car, if they lose performance too much it’s not good for them and it’s not good for the show.
“It’s a balance and a compromise that is very difficult to achieve, but we are working on compounds with a bit higher degradation, but thermal degradation, not surface overheating,” continued Isola. “Surface overheating is what the drivers hate because they push on the tyre and they lose the performance.
“Thermal degradation is linear: as long as you use the tyre, you lose the performance. So it’s something that they know and they manage. Surface overheating is a different story. You cannot increase thermal degradation and decrease surface overheating. OK, we try to, but it’s very, very, very difficult.”