Pirelli is hoping to finally lay to rest any remaining doubts and controversy over their 2013 tyres this weekend, as they roll out the new-specification compounds for the Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest, the final race before the month-long summer break in this year's championship.
“Hungary marks the first event for our latest specification P Zero tyres, which consist of the 2012 construction matched to the 2013 compounds," said Pirelli's director of motorsport Paul Hembery.
The company will be providing teams with the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft compounds for the Hungaroring, the same selection that they used in 2012. Hembery explained that the tight and twisty low-speed circuit is closer to Monaco than Silverstone, where the new-specification tyres were tried out by ten of the 11 teams last week in a three-day test.
"These tyres were tried out by the teams at Silverstone during the young driver test, who benefited from the opportunity to adapt the set-up of their cars to best suit the new tyres," explained Hembery. "Now they get to use them in competition for the first time, and with qualifying particularly important at the Hungaroring, the work done in free practice will be very important.
"Traction and braking are two critical aspects of tyre performance in Hungary, with the teams running a set-up designed to emphasise these key areas," Hembery continued. "With levels of lateral energy relatively low, tyre performance rather than durability will be the limiting factor and this will form the basis of the strategy selected – with the teams aiming to keep the tyres within the peak window of operating performance for as long as possible.
"Temperatures in Hungary can be very high, and this is the other factor on which the levels of wear and degradation experienced will depend," he added, with forecasts suggesting that race day temperatures could hit 39C. "The design of our latest tyres should help them to do this," he added.
The Hungaroring requires a high-downforce set-up, as the cars are on full throttle for only around 10 seconds over the course of the 2.722-mile, 14-turn lap. The circuit is little-used outside the F1 Grand Prix weekend meaning that it starts in a very 'green' condition and even after the cars have made dozens of runs the clean line that emerged can be a narrow single-file affair with a lot of dirt, dust and marbles accumulating off the racing line, making the problem of overtaking even harder.
Of concern to Pirelli is how their new-specification tyres will cope with the large number of narrow corners and big steering inputs that mean the edges of the tyres are subjected to peaks of temperature and wear. Ironically the high temperatures forecast for Budapest this weekend could be an advantage, as tyres can sometimes overheat more on a slow and twisty track than on a fast and flowing track.
"There is some tyre degradation, but it comes from traction and braking rather than high-energy corners," offered former Ferrari F1 driver Jean Alesi. "You have to make sure that your tyres do not go off at the end of a stint in particular.
"It is really difficult to overtake, although they did make the straight a bit longer a few years ago to provide more passing opportunities, which helped a bit," he added. "So this means that qualifying as well as you can is extremely important."