Pirelli's latest specification of hard F1 tyre will hopefully get its first run-out at this weekend's German Grand Prix, having seen its proposed debut put on hold by the worst of the British summer.
The tyre was scheduled to make its debut in free practice at Silverstone but, as a result of the persistent rain which blighted the weekend, it will now be brought to Germany for the drivers to try out in Friday's two 90-minute sessions. Each team will have two sets of the new tyre on top of their usual allocation of eleven sets, with the medium soft compounds having already been nominated for Germany.
“After a wet Silverstone, we hope to give the drivers the chance to run on the experimental hard compound tyre during free practice at Hockenheim, but the weather in Germany at this time of year can be almost as unpredictable as it is in England," Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery confirmed, "When we were at Hockenheim for the GP3 Series two years ago, we saw plenty of rain, although it's been very hot in the past too.
"The new hard tyre is not a big evolution, but it has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres up to temperature and maintain them in the correct operating window. We're running them in Friday free practice only as, with the championship so finely balanced, we feel that it would be unfair to suddenly alter one of the fundamental parameters that the teams have made a lot of effort to understand and get the most out of. But we enjoy a very productive dialogue with them, and we will always take into account the wishes of the majority. It's certainly going to be interesting hearing what they have to say about the new tyre, and seeing if their impressions match up to the conclusions that we have drawn from our private testing."
Hockenheim, which alternates with the Nurburgring
to host the German Grand Prix, is one of just three new circuits for Pirelli this year - together with Bahrain and the Circuit of the Americas
current under construction in Austin in the United States - although the company does have some experience of racing there through the GP3 Series, which it has supplied since 2010. No P Zero F1 tyre has yet turned a wheel at the track, but computer simulations of the circuit and mathematical modelling techniques mean that Pirelli's engineers are well prepared for what they will face over the weekend.
"Coming to a circuit that is new to us always holds a different challenge, as we don't have any of our own previous data to compare it with," Hembery continued, "But the progress that has been made with simulation is incredible - these days you can learn so much about how a tyre will behave on a circuit without even going there. These advanced modelling techniques illustrate just one example of how our F1 involvement can help to improve our everyday road car product.”
Hockenheim – formerly one of the fastest circuits in the world – is now characterised by some long straights combined with a much slower and more technically complex stadium section. This requires a very versatile set-up, and the tyres too have to cope with an extremely wide range of speeds and conditions. Getting good traction out of all the slow to medium speed corners is key to a quick lap, and the tyres play a vital role in this. There are also a number of heavy braking areas, with the tyres having to absorb up to 5g
of deceleration forces.