Pirelli Motorsport boss Mario Isola says that the performance of the new-for-2019 Formula 1 cars has come as a surprise to the tyre supplier over the course of winter testing.
The annual eight-day test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya gave teams their first proper taste of Pirelli’s revised tyre line-up for 2019, labelled C1 (hardest) through to C5 (softest).
The test’s fastest lap was set on the final day by Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel, with a time of a 1 minute 16.221 seconds, 0.961 seconds quicker than the fastest lap seen in 2018 winter testing – also by Vettel.
A matured surface, following the track’s resurfacing prior to 2018, and warmer temperatures in Barcelona can provide further explanations to the performance increase.
Red Bull Racing motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said in January that Red Bull has reached the same levels of downforce it had by mid-2018, despite heavily altered and simplified aerodynamic regulations for the 2019 season.
The number of front wing elements allowed has been reduced, alongside lower and less intricate bargeboard solutions and a revised rear wing structure – all in an attempt to prevent issues with cars dramatically losing aerodynamic performance when following rival cars closely, which proved to be damaging to the quality of racing.
Early predictions estimated a change in lap time up to 2s slower than 2018 times, but this winter has shown that to not be the case.
“What’s perhaps more surprising is the pace of the cars at this point in the season,” said Isola.
“[They] are they going faster than last year’s test, despite being 10 kilograms heavier.
“We’ve had eight productive days of testing, with teams accumulating plenty of running in generally good conditions, although – as expected at this time of year – without reaching the temperatures we anticipate during the season.”
Isola added that Pirelli is satisfied with the early performance of the new tyre compounds, even though the softest C1 configuration is not set up for a high-stress circuit such as Barcelona.
Graining was apparently evident in the cooler temperatures, but Isola is confident that those problems will disappear in the warmer temperatures that F1 is generally acquainted with.
He then provided rough detail into the teams’ working over the second test, the emphasis being on race simulations, with the season-opening Australian Grand Prix less than two weeks’ away.
“Considering this, we are satisfied that all five compounds are performing as we planned, even though the softest compound is not really suited to Barcelona,” Isola continued.
“As usual, during the second week of testing, teams were sampling a wider range of compounds and targeting performance and race procedures in preparation for Australia.
“We experienced a bit of graining in cooler temperatures, which should disappear in warmer weather, and no blistering.
“It’s hard to get a precise read on degradation in these conditions.
“At the moment we’re seeing a gap of around 0.6 to 0.7 seconds between each of the compounds seen on track in Barcelona, which should translate to our target of about 0.9 seconds on a longer circuit in warmer weather.”