I guess, after the flak they have received in recent weeks, that it is no surprise to see Pirelli making a compound change at this point of the season and at this point in the build-up to the Spanish GP. I’m surprised, though, that the change involved their orange (hard) tyre and not the much-maligned (yellow) (“one-lap”) soft tyre that will next be seen in Monaco.
Pirellis’ official statement says that “this latest version of the hard compound is much closer to the 2012 tyre, with the aim of giving the teams more opportunity to run a wider range of strategies in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged”.
As far as I understand it, the main change from 2012-13 was not actually to the stickiness of the hard tyre but to its operational range – ie, the working range was “lower” last year – “lower” as in a lower temperature window of operation. The 2013 hard tyre, with a “higher” working range, has been more prone to graining and wear “below” the window – and it is this problem that Pirelli are endeavoring to fix.
On the basis of Bahrain, one could conclude that this change isn’t necessarily good for LotusF1 (which found its way nicely into the hard tyre’s high working range without any graining issues) and also for Force India. For Mercedes and Ferrari, meanwhile, this latest change might be an improvement. There’s now more chance, in summary, for more teams to find some sort of sweet spot on the hard tyre (which is being used in conjunction with the medium in Spain) than was the case in Bahrain. (In both races, the compound selection was/is hard-medium).
The soft tyre, meanwhile, remains unchanged – which, as I say, is a surprise. That tyre will be used at Monaco (in conjunction with the supersoft) so the outcome there is anyone’s guess. One presumes that the soft around the streets of Monaco will assume the role of at least the medium, if not the hard – and that the supersoft could be the equivalent of the soft in China. All of which means that there should be plenty of pit stops in the over-crowded Monaco pit lane (if that is what you want) and that qualifying at Monaco – already knife-edgy because of the nature of the circuit and the problems posed by traffic – will have the added element of one-lap tyre perfection. Don’t be surprised, therefore, to see several drivers using the prime tyre in Q3 at Monaco – as Sebastian Vettel did in 2012.