Pirelli Motorsport has detailed on the 2021 prototype tyre test held at Algarve as it aims to homologate the definite compounds for another running.
With the 18-inch tyres pushed to 2022 due to COVID-19, Pirelli were left with no choice but to extend the current set of tyres for another season in 2021, having designed it first in 2018, to be used in 2019. It was already extended to be used in 2020.
The original 2020 compound was not favoured by any of the F1 teams, which forced Pirelli to alter the tyre pressure and continue with the same compound. For 2021, though, they are planning few changes into the construction material for better integrity.
The first-ever test of the 2021 prototype took place at Algarve during the FP2 session where F1 teams were given 8-10 different compounds to test. Among them, Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen were forced to end their run early due to lock-up.
At the same time, the data from Daniel Ricciardo did not prove to be hugely beneficial as Renault interchanged the front tyre set. From the rest, Pirelli felt there was an improvement already and so they are intending to homologate them.
By doing so, they can then run the definite compound in another test which they wish to carry, either in Turkey and or Bahrain or Abu Dhabi. Adding more on the changes, Isola noted that the front is seeing a profile change, but not the rear.
“We tested the new prototypes in Portimao,” said Pirelli F1 head Isola. “We analysed the results of the test, collecting all the feedback from drivers; all the telemetry data. It was a good validation, I would say, because in difficult conditions, a new track, and so on, in the end we had a good result.
“We identified a prototype that is, in our opinion, an improvement compared to the current specification, considering that all the prototypes that we decided to bring to Portimao had a higher integrity as intended. All the solutions we brought to Portimao had this kind of approach. What we were missing was the drivability; the performance and the drivability on track.
“We identified a combination of a new front and a new rear, that are an improvement in our opinion. We sent a request to the FIA for the homologation of the new prototypes. What we are discussing is the next steps, because this is the first time we’ve supplied different prototypes to different teams. In the past when we provided prototypes in free practice it was two sets of the same prototypes for all the teams; all the drivers.
“That means that not all the teams, not all the drivers tested the prototype that we plan to run in 2021. So we are in discussion with the FIA and the teams to test again the selected prototype in one of the next races. We have Turkey, two races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi [remaining] in which we can supply the version we want to homologate to the teams so that they have the opportunity to test it.
“In that case it wouldn’t be a blind test so we’d give the opportunity for all the teams to test. We made some changes to the construction. As I said, we didn’t test different compounds; we only focused on the construction. There is a slightly different front profile. With the rear we decided to keep the same profile because of the floor and all the issues that we can have when we fit a different profile.
“But also on the rear we are using some elements that are different, and also materials that are different. The difference is not huge – we are going to validate a construction that is not a completely different product compared to this year, but in terms of integrity, the result we had from indoor testing was quite promising,” summed up Isola.
Isola thinks the combination of front and rear which they ran in Algarve seems the best one according to Pirelli, which is why they have already requested the FIA to homologate it, so that they can prepare them for another test before F1 2020 ends.
Although the current formula of testing is not ideal but Isola believes this is what was agreed upon during lockdown. For the lack of running is also why they focused on improving integrity of the compounds, so that issues like Silverstone is not repeated.
“This approach was decided with [the input of] everybody,” said Isola. “There were meetings during lockdown when we agreed to postpone the introduction of the 18-inch Pirelli tyres. We agreed to cancel all the tests because it was too difficult with this COVID situation, and we also agreed upon this system to test any new tyre in FP2.
“We had two targets: one was a reduction in downforce to start the 2021 season with more or less the same downforce cars had at the end of 2019 and start of 2020. Don’t forget, we’re using tyres that were designed in 2018! The other target was to make some small modifications to the tyres in order to have a higher level of integrity – which is exactly what we’ve done.
“Again, [the contrast in tyre construction] is not black and white. It’s not a completely different tyre to what we have. This is why they weren’t too different during the test. In a few cases, teams said ‘But the prototype is very similar to the baseline’. That was what we were looking for: we didn’t want to change its performance or drivability, but we wanted to increase its integrity,” summed up Isola.
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