Despite a reported lack of co-operation from teams, the delay in agreeing a contract extension and threats of withdrawal, Pirelli is confident development of its 2014 tyres will be ahead of previous years' schedules.
Speaking exclusively to the official F1 website, motorsport director Paul Hembery admitted that it was unrealistic to expect the teams to spill – and share – otherwise confidential design and performance data regarding next season's cars, but lamented the fact that his company was not being provided with information that he sees as crucial to producing the best tyres for the new breed of machinery.
Pirelli has already revealed that, in light of the new engine and drivetrain package being put in place for F1 2014, it intends to be a 'bit more conservative' with its next batch of rubber, but Hembery fears not being able to home in on the right combination of compound and construction to do justice to either the sport or his company.
“We've done a survey of the teams and how they envision the cars looking, and it is very clear that the development speed of the teams will be very fast,” the Briton noted, “But, of course, at this stage, the teams will not give us any more information because this is a competitive environment and I am sure they don't want to be compromised. So we have taken worst-case scenarios, based on the data that we have, and we are working towards that. Having that in mind, we have to be a little bit more conservative.
“We're going a little bit in to the unknown - as everybody is – and, like anybody else, we would like to understand better how these cars will work and behave when we get them on the circuit. We understand that there will be a lot more torque, of course, and that can create more wheelspin, but the teams want to control that through proper mapping in their engine maps. We know that we need to make compounds more mechanically robust but, of course, we can't go to the extreme where there is no grip. It will need a delicate balance.”
Hembery revealed that, without a complete set of data, Pirelli has had to compile its own theoretical model to predict what its tyres may be subjected to next year.
“You have to create a car, bringing together all the data from all of the teams - a car that doesn't exist, a fictitious car, but which is the worst-case scenario in terms of the parameters we're looking at - related to top speed, lateral loads, vertical loads, aero loads, the loadings on the front and the rear…
“Of course, with the huge changes in regulations the teams will, step-by-step, learn to understand what they really mean and we'll need the data very early on to understand where they are. We'll then keep asking to be updated during the season. In pre-season nobody will give too much information - as I said, this is too competitive an environment – but, once we are running, we need to be very clear on where the journey's going as we don't want to repeat the errors of this season.”
The announcement that pre-season testing will move, largely, from Spain to Bahrain has been welcomed by Hembery, as he believes that will give Pirelli an earlier handle on the performance of the 2014 rubber.
“To be on a track like Bahrain, which is very hot and very abrasive on the tyres, is good, compared to going to Barcelona, where it's been ten degrees Celsius for the last few seasons,” he pointed out, “[In previous seasons,] it has only been when we got to China or Bahrain that we've really understood where we are so at least now we will know where we are at least a month in advance.
“We've been very much in favour of the change in testing location [and] much of the work will be finalised in the later part of the two Bahrain tests - before we go to Melbourne. Then we will select from a number of compounds, because we need to scale them - and that is a difficult job. We only have four and have to try to get it right for 20 or so tracks. That is real 'art work'!”