Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has conceded that the Italian tyre-supplier has a dual task on its hands as it prepares to return to F1 for the first time in precisely two decades next season – that of spicing up the spectacle in the top flight whilst producing a competent product into the bargain.
Pirelli will grace the grid for the first time since 1991 in the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix
at Sakhir next March, but testing has already begun, with a generally positive and constructive outlook following a two-day session with all twelve teams in Abu Dhabi last week.
Hembery has revealed that drivers and teams alike were on the whole 'very enthusiastic' about the product, and dismissed as 'pointless' comparisons between Pirelli and outgoing supplier Bridgestone, with reports that the Milan-based marque's rubber is around two seconds-a-lap slower than that of its predecessor at present. There are also concerns that whilst the soft compound-tyre wore well at Yas Marina, the harder version inexplicably deteriorated more quickly.
As to the delicate balancing-act that must be struck between durability and entertainment – with the events of Montreal this year, when Bridgestone's tyres were so aggressively competitive as to fall apart on the abrasive track surface, providing great drama for fans but doing little for the Japanese manufacturer's reputation – the Englishman acknowledged that the objective is to arrive at the best of both worlds.
“We have been asked to produce tyres to improve the show,” he told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
, “but if we are criticised by the teams or the drivers, yes, we will be able to bring to the next race very durable tyres.”