Pirelli pours cold water on Prost’s F1 tyre idea

Alain Prost believes that allowing Formula 1 teams to combine different compound tyres on the same car, and giving them the option to compete without switching to a different compound, would make for a race with more surprises and greater freedom for drivers. But Pirelli isn’t having any of this. Pit stops are viewed as integral to the F1 spectacle, and the F1 tyre supplier dismisses the mixing of tyre types as impractical.

Speaking to German publication auto motor und sport earlier this month, the four-time champion proposed that F1 “let drivers put together 13 sets of their choice from the five tyre types.” He added: “I’d even allow a mix of tyre types in a set. A soft (compound tyre) left and on the right a hard, or the other way around.”

As Michael Schmidt, motorsport editor at auto motor und sport wrote, Prost considers a pick and mix approach to tyre choice a means of facilitating a variety of strategies and a factor that may bring unpredictability, such as opportunities to overtake, into the race. “I’d also abolish the rule that drivers must race with two different types of tyre. When someone with hard tyres wants to drive through without making a pit stop, why not? Perhaps another is quicker with two stops and the consistently softest compound.”

Pirelli views Prost’s suggestion with skepticism, and again it is auto motor und sport that brings us up to speed. The publication spoke with Mario Isola and reported on the weekend that the head of car racing at Pirelli considers “compulsory (tyre) changes are central to the show.” He explained: The teams’ individual stints are differentiated in this way. You can stay out there on a set of tyres for a longer or shorter time. If you give the teams the chance to contest the race without stopping, most would work in this direction.”

As for the idea of fitting differing compound tyres together on the same car, Isola believes this wouldn’t work. “That would perhaps function with a GT car if you select a harder compound for the more heavily burdened front wheels. But Formula 1 cars are too sensitive for this.” The head of car racing also believes that pairing different compounds on the front and rear axles would ruin a car’s balance. “Take two combinations. One a supersoft at the front and a soft at the rear. The other a soft at the front and medium at the rear. The delta between supersoft and soft amounts to around 0.7 seconds. Between soft and medium is 1.5 seconds. You have much more grip on the front axle as on the rear. This inevitably leads to severe oversteer and skidding. It would be unbelievably difficult for teams to balance both axles.”

A lot of naysaying from Pirelli, however Isola indicated that workable alternatives do exist: “What we could do is produce differing compounds for the front and rear from the same tyre type. The regulations actually permit us to do that.”               sg

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