Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport Chief Strategist James Vowles believes that this year’s tyres will lead to more overtaking, with the new compounds seeing higher degradation and more drop off in lap times.
Degradation has been a tricky issue to get right for F1 tyre manufacturers Pirelli, with current tyres not showing much degradation until drivers hit “the cliff” – a steep drop-off in performance caused by a lack of grip.
This, coupled with cars that produced more downforce and made it harder to follow, made it much more difficult to overtake..
This season should be different though, says Vowles, as the new tyres are softer, and have more degradation – thus leading to more lap time drop and more overtaking.
“These tyres are softer, which means more degradation, more lap time drop and more stops required.
“But, also, last year when you caught another competitor, they wouldn’t have a huge amount of lap time drop from the tyres.
“So, in the areas where you need to overtake – the braking zones and traction – there wasn’t a big enough differentiator. In 2018 we will have more differentiators and it will generate more overtakes. We don’t know how much at this point in time.”
2018 sees the addition of two new tyre compounds – the SuperHard and the HyperSoft. These new tyres will bookend the current selection, giving teams even more of a range in performance to choose from.
The two new compounds were added as a result of last year’s poor overtaking and pit stop numbers. Teams were largely able to complete a race with only one pit stop, whilst overtaking fell from 866 in 2016 to 435 in 2017, with the Russian Grand Prix hosting one solitary overtake.
Teams are taking to the track this week in Barcelona to test both the new cars and new tyres, however ahead of the test Vowles predicted an increase in pit stops and overtakes – along with more strategy in tyre choice.
“My personal opinion is we will see more pit stops, a little bit more overtaking than last year and cars dropping a lot of performance trying to hang onto a tyre.”
Vowles isn’t alone in his belief that there will be more pit stops than last year either, with McLaren’s Tim Goss also stating he expects pit stops to increase thanks to the new tyre compounds.