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Tyre Connundrum

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by SK, Dec 1, 2015.

  1. SK

    Prince with a thousand enemies. Premium Member

    After writing my wall of text in @Chris Stacey's article on 2017... I started thinking about ways to improve the way tyres are managed in F1.

    How did we go so wrong?

    First lets cast our mind back to 2010. This was the year re-fuelling was banned. Bridgestone tyres in this season were essentially too good. The rules we have currently of having to use both compounds in a race was still in effect, but they were both so good that 90% of races still resulted in a one-stop strategy. Although drivers could push extremely hard for most of the race, strategy became extremely one dimensional. So in 2011 FOM decided to hire Pirelli to construct a tyre that would produce races similar to that of Canada 2010, an oddball of the 2010 season which saw teams make upwards of 3 tyre stops because Bridgestone bought an uncharacteristically soft tyre to the event.

    For 2011 the Pirelli introduced the intentionally fragile tyres requested by FOM, and the intended result was initially acquired. Teams/drivers, having not figured out the optimal strategy, ran races as if it was 2010 for the most part. A combination of fast running and just pitting as soon as the tyres hit the pundit coined "cliff". This continued for the next year and a half until Pirelli started to get a little bit more conservative to the point where teams realised that it was actually faster during a race to just protect the tyre as much as humanly possible and keep the number of stops down to 2 or even 1 depending on the track/compound combo. Effectively turning a two hour sprint into a two hour endurance race.

    This brings us to today were teams are intentionally running races with drivers up to 10 seconds off qualifying pace in an effort just to save tyres and thus do less pitstops. Because tyre saving is so critical at present, following in another cars aerodynamic turbulence for anything longer than a lap or two is completely infeasible. This is due to that fact that when they are in the turbulence there is less aerodynamic grip and they must use more of their tyre grip and thus wear them faster. This then scuppers their race strategy. So instead of trying to pass they just hold station and pray for undercut. China, Brazil, Mexico are just a few races which come to mind from this season which display this. Of course this dullness is amplified in our currently situation due to the Noah's Arc pecking order of the cars.

    So what do we do?

    Well obviously we want drivers to be able to feasibly drive as fast as possible. To obtain this with the current regulations would probably require some form of Goldylocks tyre that somehow only functions at qualifying pace an 2011 "cliff"-like characteristics below that whilst wearing evenly at both temperatures... Perhaps a bit far-fetched.

    But what if we could reach some sort of compromise between the racing regulations and the tyre construction?

    Hear me out...

    1. Bring the tyre compounds closer to 2010 Bridgestone in terms of endurance/grip coefficient. Q3 Q4 2013 Pirellis probably come close to what I mean.
    2. Teams MUST use two sets of the Option tyre during the race. Thats it.

    This to me reaches a decent compromise between manufactured strategy and giving the ability for drivers/teams to do stints at a higher pace.
    O > O > P
    Two high speed stints followed by a longer third.
    O > P > O
    Extended middle stint
    O > O > O ( > O )
    Three stops 4 qualifying stints.
    O > O
    Rare one stop for Perez types to pull off an low wear tracks
    P > O > O
    >10th options.

    The current regulation of having to use both compound encourages the team in most cases to ditch the option and rune two extended, conservative stints on the prime compound. Ditching that in favour of forcing the use of options twice in theory almost guarantees two stop strategies geared towards faster stints, assuming step 1 is accomplished.

    Thoughts? Am I stupid?
  2. Chris

    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Member

    TLDR: The real issue with the Pirelli's is the smallness of the optimal thermal operating window.

    I commented a while ago in a thread about the state of F1 that one of the ways I'd fix it is to bring back tyres that behave like the 2010 Bridgestones and then enforce a minimum of 2 pit stops per race. This means that you'd still get the pitstop action whilst drivers are pushing at 100% the entire time.

    It's also massively important to note that Pirelli are simply carrying out the directives of the FIA. It's actually much harder to make a tyre that degrades quickly than it is to make one that lasts forever.

    Having said that, Formula One has always been about finishing the race first in the slowest possible time. Saving tyres, fuel, gearboxes etc. has always been a part of the the game.

    The 2015 spec Pirelli tyres have been the closest to the 2010 Bridgestones we've seen since Pirelli entered the sport. They're actually just as durable as the Bridgestones if not more so, the biggest difference is the optimal thermal operating window: it's MUCH smaller in the Pirelli's. This is where the drivers complain about the tyres because pushing too hard results in overheating and thermal degradation, which is the real issue with the Pirelli's.

    If the optimal operating window is made larger, then we would have seen drivers pushing much harder for the entire race all season this year, much like the Bridgestone era.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2015
  3. Turk

    Premium Member

    The problem is no matter what you do, engineers will spend their time trying to make it boring and predictable again. That's what engineers bassically do. Make things as predictable as possible.

    As long as drivers have access to engineers they will listen to the engineer's opinion. If drivers had no access to the engineers during a race they'd probably always think they're going to slow. Although, in this day and age many of the drivers are probably borderline engineers themselves.

    It's a difficult problem, just because F1 teams are so good at what they do. They are there to win races, as much as they go on about the fans the objective is to win the race, not entertain. They can't really concern themselves with entertaining fans either.

    I think they should make use of all the great simulator software we have. Try out some concept series by making models/rules for sims and let us trial them out before investing billions in changing the cars.
  4. Design tires so that the drivers can be pushing hard all race. Recently, the Pirelli boss was quoted saying that pre-2011, the racing was boring because the cars "ran on rails", and the mathematical count of overtakes was lower than it is today. However, F1 isn't necessarily more "exciting" if there are more passes. Most of the passes we see today are just backmarkers battling for P18, and let's face it, nobody wants to watch the back of the grid race. If the cars can be pushed hard like they were back in Schumacher's day, it'd make the racing more about the drivers consistently getting the most perfect lines with the perfect throttle/braking/shifting throughout their laps. Then, all drivers would always be driving "in the zone". Though there might not be as many overtakes, the ones that occur will be more meaningful and exciting. What's more exciting: watching the Manor cars repeatedly trade places in between blue flags, or watching the driver in P2 pressing hard on P1? It'd leave it up to the driver in P2 to find a faster line or change his cornering/braking strategy to get an advantage. Pirelli boss claims cars that can be pushed to 100% all race take the driver skill out of the racing, however it does nothing but make the race completely about driver ability. By the standards of the FIA, if Jim Clark would race today, the races would be deemed "boring", and they'd claim that anybody can drive a car that fast.
  5. Turk

    Premium Member

    Well these days just about anybody can be trained to drive that fast. They work out driver problems as a team, using data.

    They could bring in a tyre that can be pushed hard but it would basically eliminate the need for pit stops. Because if the tyre wears enough during the race to require a pit stop, that means it has a life span, a cliff, and driving to a delta will always be a winning option.

    We know the drivers can get into a zone and drive a car fast for a long time. Managing tyre wear adds another thing the drivers have to deal with and take them out of their comfort zone.

    It will never be just about the driver's ability to go fast until the cars have fixed designs with complete reliability. Until that happens they're always going to be managing a machine that's basically disintegrating as they drive it. The option will always be push hard and take the life out of your car/tyres, or be conservative and have more left in your car/tyres when the end of the race comes.

    I'd be afraid with reliable tyres that will last an entire race, without showing any drop in performance, would allow the top teams to pull further into the lead. If they can just drive around in circles as fast as possible there's nothing to disrupt their advantage, there's no need to strategize, no need to worry that the guy behind has saved his car for a comeback, and if the cars can't overtake each other on track then we'll just see the field gradually spread out with no cars close enough to each other to have any kind of wheel to wheel racing.
  6. I might not have made my point clear. I definitely agree that pit strategy and pit stops in general are important to the overall excitement of the sport, however I don't feel that the tires should have a margin of <5 degrees between optimal conditions and blistery, undetsteery failure. Tire temperatures can go up over 10 degrees between initial braking and the apex of a corner, which could be the difference between having grip and having blistered tires. No matter what, people want F1 cars to go around the tracks as fast as they feasibly can. Nobody goes to an F1 race and says "Wow, would you look at how well that team is managing their tires? It's so exciting to see them going 15 seconds slower than they did in qualifying! How exhilarating!" People want to see fast cars versus fast cars. They want to see action like in the days of Hakkinen and Schumacher, Prost and Senna. Now, the most action that happens these days is Rosberg and Hamilton duking it out at press conferences and in the media. Not on the track. Even F1 drivers admit that this breed of racing is some of the least exciting to ever happen in F1. Look at what Alonso recently said in an interview, for example. He fully admitted that the WEC, MotoGP, and DTM are much more exciting than F1, and they are more fair and reasonable with rules, regulations, and penalties. We need to bring back the character into F1.
  7. As I've already said once in some other thread: bring back refueling!
    Being able to refuel during the pit stop = not having to take fuel for the whole race = lighter car = faster car.
    AND: lighter car equals less strain on the tires, so the drivers can push more.
    Also, refueling doubled the time spent in the pits, which meant the mechanics weren't under that much pressure to fix the wheels properly. There was a bigger margin for error, so there weren't as many problems with loose wheels.

    People say the refueling ban was introduced with safety in mind, but... how many serious fires in the pits have there been in the last 10 years (by that I mean 2000 - 2010)? Not that much. Maybe someone spilled some fuel by ripping the fuel hose out of the pumps, maybe some of it caught fire by touching something hot on the car, but it always died out right away, as soon as the drip of fuel burned out.
    At the same time - Kovalainen's Caterham caught fire ON the track, without refueling. Williams' garage burned down with the cars inside, stationary and definitely NOT being refueled.
    So where exactly is that fire hazard?
  8. Chris

    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Member

    I say again, the tyre wear is not the issue. It's the thermal degradation that is the issue. The optimal operating window in the current Pirelli's is too small, and they're incredibly sensitive to temperatures that are outside of that window, even if it's just a few degrees. Once they're above the optimal thermal window, the chemical compound of the tyres begins to break down, and this is what is causing the drivers to have to manage the tyres so much, not the actual amount of rubber left on the carcass.

    And no, refueling will not make the racing any better. If prior experience is anything to go by, not only is it incredibly dangerous and very expensive, but it won't actually make the racing any better because all of the overtaking will happen in the pitlane.
  9. Dangerous, huh? How many people did you see get hurt by fuel fire in the last 10 years of refueling and how many by wheels being loose because of a rushed pit stop?
    Expensive, huh? Don't they already have refueling rigs that can measure the precise amount of fuel to put in the car?

    As opposed to... I dunno, this year's Russian or Brazilian GP? Yeah, all that fuel onboard really allowed Hamilton to fight with Rosberg ON the track instead of the pit lane... :unsure:

    I didn't say refueling would improve the RACING aspect. It WOULD ease the strain on the tires, so the drivers wouldn't have to do laptimes 10 seconds slower than in qualifying just to be able to get 10 laps out of a set...