Pirelli using past experience to develop future 18 inches F1 tyre
The past knowledge of developing an 18 inch tyre along with its use in other championships will come in handy for Pirelli when it prepares towards 2021.
Pirelli won the contract to continue supplying tyres in F1 from 2020 until the 2023 season which includes the change to 18 inches from 2021 onward. The current 13 inches will remain in the sport until the 2020 season.
Even though the 18 inches tyre is more road relevant but the development is still demanding with the Italian manufacturer having to prepare it as per the demands of a faster F1 car than a road car.
It is still three years away but the work has already begun considering the magnitude of the order. One hiccup for Pirelli is the lack of clarity over the technical regulations for 2021 and beyond which the FIA, FOM and the teams are still deliberating.
While it is being sorted behind the scenes, Pirelli's preliminary work is on the basis of its past experience of developing the 18 inch tyre for GP2 Series and also from the various GT series where Pirelli supplies the 18 inches tyres.
"It is a big challenge [to develop] because it is not just the jump to 18 inches but also, they want to remove blankets so there is a double effect on the tyre," started Pirelli's Mario Isola when asked exclusively by me/FormulaRapida.net on the preparations.
"We need to also understand the technical regulation because to design the tyre you need to know the level of the load on the tyre. The 18 inches is all-together different because you have a smaller sidewall.
"Also, you can imagine what is the impact on kerbs for example, but also talking about the cars, they have to redesign the suspension and then the travel of the suspension because the sidewall is no more part of the suspension - it is much smaller.
"If you don’t use blankets you have to consider pressure evolution that is a lot bigger compare to the current one, so there are some technical stuff that are important and we need to analyse that.
"We did an 18 inches in the past when we developed for GP2 in 2014, so we have experience on this size. Also, from another championships like in GT racing and more all around the world, but [for starters] it will be a technical challenge."
Isola revealed that Pirelli has received a detailed target letter, not only for 2019 or 2020 but also for 2021 which it needs to address when developing the 18 inches tyre. Certain elements needs discussions with the FIA, FOM and teams though.
With only a blueprint available at the moment regarding the 2021 regulations, Isola reckons the approach could be similar to that of 2016 when it was preparing for the wider 2017 tyres without having a car to test and develop.
"We need at least to understand – lets say if the technical regulation is not 100 percent defined then we need a draft at least," he said in the media. "But more than the technical regulation, we need an estimation from the teams on the performance of the new cars.
"So, we are not interested in the more details of the technical regulations but hopefully have a good estimation from the teams regarding the level of downforce, speed and all the parameters that they supply to Pirelli on a regular basis.
"We can start our simulations, we can start to develop the model of the tyre. I think the process we used in 2016 to develop the tyres of 2017 was working well, we didn’t have a car available in the beginning.
"So, we had from the teams an estimation of the performance of the new cars. We [then] designed our model tyre and we gave the teams those model tyres. Step by step they were able to come close to the final version of the tyres used.
"Before a physical prototype of the tyre was used on track, we were already aware of the estimated performance and this process was converging to the final solution with more or less all the teams staying in same range.
"The first run was difficult but they gave us a picture and starting from that we were able to produce the tyres." Pirelli had Hankook as its rivals when the tender was processed for 2020 but the Italian manufacturer was awarded the contract as alluded earlier.
[This story was also written by me on FormulaRapida.net]