Pirelli surprises F1 with Melbourne ‘supersofts’

Pirelli has surprised the F1 world by revealing an aggressive selection of tyre compounds for the start of the 2013 season. The big surprise is the choice for the Melbourne opener, as Pirelli opts to supply to teams the ‘supersoft’ and ‘medium’ compounds.

“These (supersoft) tyres offer great grip, but have a short life,” noted O Estado de S.Paulo correspondent Livio Oricchio.

Indeed, this is the “first time that Pirelli has nominated the softest compound” for Australia, the Italian marque announced.

Last year, Pirelli supplied the soft and the medium compounds to teams in Australia.

“The full step in the compound choice should ensure a performance gap between the cars that allows strategy to come into play,” added Pirelli in a media statement.

There is also an all-new selection for April’s Bahrain grand prix; the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ compounds, compared to the 2012 selection of soft and medium.

Paul Hembery said the idea is to shake up the team’s growing knowledge of Pirelli’s tyres.

“We found that by about the middle of last season, the teams had adjusted almost a little too well to our compounds,” said Pirelli’s motor sport director. “So, in close consultation with the FIA, we have made the task more difficult,” he is quoted by Speed Week.


Pirelli wants 2014 tests in Middle East

F1 could be heading to the Middle East for pre-season testing next year. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said the Jerez circuit, the scene of last week’s opening test of the 2013 pre-season, is no longer suitable for winter running.

“It is not a good reference,” he told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper, “because of the condition of the asphalt.”

He is referring to the extreme abrasiveness of the Spanish circuit’s surface, which has apparently become even worse than before in more recent times.

“I think next year maybe we should go to Bahrain or Abu Dhabi,” added Hembery.

The good news, however, is that Pirelli is basically satisfied with the outcome of the Jerez test, where the Italian marque’s 2013 tyres were put through their paces.

“The drivers and engineers gave us positive feedback,” said Hembery. “It seems we have achieved our goals of having faster tyres that reach optimum grip more quickly, and have a wider window of peak performance. Our intention was to offer greater mechanical grip, thus reducing the importance of aerodynamics.

“This leads us to predict that there will be less difference between the performance of the big and the middle-sized teams,” he added.

F1 heads to Spain’s Circuit de Catalunya for the second test next week.


Kovalainen could join Pirelli in testing role

Heikki Kovalainen could be heading to Pirelli as a test driver. However Pirelli’s boxx Paul Hembery has said that the Finn’s future will depend on whether Pirelli’s contract to supply F1 tyres is extended or not.

“This question is still open,” Hembery told Finland’s Turun Sanomat.

The highly-rated former Renault, McLaren and Caterham driver Kovalainen, 31, is the latest victim of the rise of ‘pay drivers’ in F1.

Hembery continued: “When everything has been resolved, we will see what the situation is with our test drivers.” He confirmed that Pirelli’s 2012 test duo Jaime Alguersuari and Lucas di Grassi are still very much in the frame.

“But Heikki would be an excellent candidate,” added Hembery. “He is a highly experienced driver. I really believe that he is one of the strongest candidates to be with us.”

Finnish rally legend Juha Kankkunen, however, thinks Kovalainen should give a career in rallying a chance.

“I think it would be a perfectly reasonable alternative for Heikki, but so too is DTM or Le Mans,” he told the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti. “But I have seen Heikki in a rally car on the frozen lake in Kuusamo (Finland) and he is an excellent driver, with real talent.”


Pirelli wants new five-year F1 deal

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s F1 boss, has revealed the Italian tyre supplier is pushing for a longer-term contract beyond 2013.

Recently, the FIA has been tendering is contracts with F1’s sole tyre suppliers on a three-year basis, and Pirelli is now approaching the end of its first run.

Hembery said Pirelli wants to stay on the grid beyond 2013, but is pushing for an even longer contract than three years.

“We will know soon if we get a new contract as the sole supplier in formula one,” he is quoted by the German-language Speed Week.

“We would prefer a long term contract, say five years,” he added, referring to the world of Nascar racing, where Goodyear’s latest contract is for five years.

Asked when Pirelli needs an answer from F1 about the future, Hembery smiled: “Yesterday, ideally.

“Seriously, we have 600 professionals at work, and so if we’re no longer in F1, then we have to see how we can use them elsewhere.

“Unlike last time, we don’t want the decision in June or July — it’s just too late,” said the Briton.

Complicating the matter further, added Hembery, is the switch to turbo V6 power for 2014.

“It is expected that the turbos will develop more torque, which influences the traction of the corners,” he said.

“More traction means more temperature, and we also need to know what to expect in terms of top speed so that we don’t have problems with the integrity.”

After a sneak peak of Pirelli’s 2013 tyres in Brazil late last season, the F1 field got their first real taste of this year’s rubber at Jerez on Tuesday, as the official pre-season test period began.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber – and many other drivers – complained about high wear, according to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.

“You could see it with the naked eye, so sudden was the loss of grip,” said the Australian.

“The difference between a new and an old tyre was very big. After a few laps, the times were falling off dramatically.”

Webber added: “But Jerez is a bit different. You can have problems here that you don’t have somewhere else.”

Romain Grosjean agreed: “The asphalt here is very rough and the layout is hard on the tyres, and the temperatures are also low.”


Hembery: 2013 Pirelli tyres could shake up pecking order

Pirelli’s new tyres for the 2013 season could shake up the pecking order in F1: that is the view of the Italian marque’s British head of motor racing, Paul Hembery, who this week was in Sao Paulo to announce Pirelli’s new foray in the Brazilian stock car series.

It has been said that, because the technical regulations are not significantly changing over the winter, next year’s pecking order could be a continuation of the 2012 season. But Hembery is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo: “The tyres next year will be different from those used this year.

“The walls flex a little more, which will have a significant influence on the aerodynamic performance,” he said. “I don’t think the next championship will necessarily be anything like how it finished this year,” added Hembery.

“I think there will be teams who will look deeply into this feature of our new tyres,” he said. “I am sure they are racking their brains as to how it affects, for example, the suspension. We saw in testing how the tyres changed the behaviour of the cars. The designers will be looking at that,” said Hembery.


Pirelli keen to stay in F1

Pirelli is keen to stay in Formula One well beyond next season, according to motor sport director Paul Hembery.

He has already made clear that, depending on the sport’s desire to keep racing with the Italian-made tyres, Pirelli wants to extend its tenure as the official F1 supplier beyond its expiring 2013 contract.

“Maximising the investments in terms of profitability will require a medium-term commitment,” Hembery is quoted by journalist Peter Hesseler in the German-language Speed Week.

He answered “eight to ten years” when asked what his definition of medium-term is.

Pirelli names Sutil, Kobayashi as F1 tester candidates

Paul Hembery has named a trio of potential candidates to be F1 tyre supplier Pirelli’s test driver in 2013.

The Briton, who is the head of the Italian marque’s F1 programme, confirmed that Brazilian Lucas di Grassi’s testing contract runs to the end of next year.

“Lucas does a great job for us. After next year his continuation depends on our decision to stay or not in 2013,” Hembery told Brazil’s Totalrace.

Jaime Alguersuari was the other Pirelli tester in 2012, but the former Toro Rosso racer is hoping to return to a race seat next season.

“In addition to Lucas, we are evaluating other names in the market like (Adrian) Sutil and Alguersuari.”

German Sutil, however, clearly has plans to race next year. After a season on the bench in 2012, the former Force India driver has updated his official website with the words ‘Next destination: Australia’. What about Kamui Kobayashi? According to strong rumours, the Japanese could be replaced at Sauber by the Telmex-backed Esteban Gutierrez, or the impressive rookie Dutchman Robin Frijns.

“It’s a possibility,” said Hembery. “We’ll see what happens with him (Kobayashi). I imagine he’s still trying to get a (race) seat, so we’ll wait.”

Hembery had even recently mentioned Michael Schumacher’s name as a possible Pirelli tester.

“I tried in Japan to convince him,” he smiled, “but it didn’t work. I think he wants to go skydiving or something!”


Hembery: 2013 F1 Pirelli tyres to be different

Paul Hembery has revealed that next year’s Pirelli tyres will be significantly different.

The teams will get their first taste of the Italian marque’s 2013 rubber during free practice in Brazil late this month.

Pirelli’s F1 boss Hembery told Brazilian journalists on Thursday: “The (2013) tyres will be significantly different to this year, which will challenge the teams because the cars will be virtually the same, with almost no change in the regulations. The difference (in tyres) from 2012 to 2013, however, will have a strong effect on the aerodynamics of the cars, and so the teams will have to work hard,” the Briton is quoted by Totalrace.

He said there will also be a greater difference between the various compounds in 2013.


Hembery doubts tyre war to return to Formula One

Paul Hembery doubts Pirelli will be fighting in formula one against a rival tyre manufacturer any time soon.

It was rumoured in India last weekend that the Italian supplier’s British chief has now kicked off talks with Bernie Ecclestone about Pirelli extending its stay in F1 beyond 2013. But Hembery is quoted by the German-language Spox as doubting the sport will end the era of no competition in the supply of tyres.

Asked if he sometimes imagines a ‘tyre war’ would be enjoyable, he answered: “Clearly. From a personal perspective, we always look forward to competition. It’s always more fun to beat an opponent,” said Hembery.

“Nevertheless, we need to consider the financial environment. The teams have no interest in a new tyre war,” he claimed. “Just as it is for the tyre manufacturers, it’s also very difficult to assess the team’s part in success.

“There would need to be quite a strong argument to return to the days of open (tyre) competition,” he added.


Pirelli to decide on F1 future next June

Pirelli will decide next June whether or not to stay in Formula One. The Italian marque’s three-year contract to be the sport’s sole tyre supplier expires at the end of next season. Motor sport boss Paul Hembery has said it is likely Pirelli will seek to stay.

He is quoted by Brazi’s O Estado de S.Paulo: “The decision to renew the contract will be taken in June (2013).

“In principle we will proceed with the project, because we have achieved the goals we set technically and in terms of marketing, and I think for the public too. “But we do need to understand better the formula one (regulations) of 2014,” Hembery admitted.

Asked if Pirelli would still be interested in F1 if the FIA opens up the rules to another tyre maker, he answered: “Why not, as it may be good for Formula One.

“But first we would need to know the details of the regulations.”

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone indicated he is happy if Pirelli stays on.

“It (the tyres) is a very important variable. And they are doing a good job — don’t you think the races are exciting?” he said.