MONTREAL — While Formula One fans were focused on the cars zooming around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Sunday, a lot of the talk leading up to the Canadian Grand Prix focused on the tires.
And for Paul Hembery, the motorsports director at Pirelli, the sole supplier of tires for F1, it’s time for that to stop.
“Formula One is a very competitive business and sometimes the comments that are made are with an interest of achieving a sporting aim, which may not always be, from our point of view, what we want to hear,” Hembery said after a slippery qualifying session on Saturday.
Christian Horner, the team principal an Infiniti Red Bull Racing, agreed Sunday morning that it’s time to stop talking about tires.
Horner was hoping for consistent weather throughout the race, adding that a cooler day would also be beneficial on race day.
“The tires seemed to behave pretty well on Friday, but it wasn’t as warm as this,” he said. “The tires are very sensitive to temperature so it is going to be interesting to see how they respond (on Sunday).”
Despite the recent controversy about the quickly degrading tires, Hembery said Pirelli has been very happy with its involvement in Formula One.
“I think what we would say, though, in particular in light of what has happened recently, (is that) we need to have a much more structured and open way of testing, which provides us with the ability to do our job the way we need to do it.”
Pirelli is in the last year of its contract as the official tire supplier of the premier racing circuit in the world. Hembery says discussions on a new deal are ongoing, but admits time is running out.
“Cars are very different next season and decisions will need to be made because we will need quite a dramatic redesign” of the tires, Hembery said.
“It’s sometimes a little bit difficult,” Hembery said of the relationship with F1 teams.
“But there’s probably a need, because of the changes next year, for everybody to get together and find the best way forward,” he added.
Hembery said Pirelli had no hesitation agreeing to Formula One’s desire to have tires that disintegrate quickly.
“We had to agree to do things a slightly different way,” he said. “Sometimes, you are pushing it a bit too hard because you only have four compounds to use all around the world for the whole season. You go from a chilly Montreal at the moment, at 15 degrees, to 50 degrees C in Bahrain. So the tires have to cope with quite a wide range of conditions and sometimes you will be at the outer boundaries of the tires, so you are more compromised.”
The decision to modify the tires so that would wear down faster was influenced by what Hembery called boring racing a few years ago.
“They (F1) used to have what they have now — two to three stops where they used to (add) fuel and (change) tires together,” Hembery said. “But when they got rid of refuelling, things went a little bit conservative and basically the races were one-stop races, but most often just within two laps of the end of the race.”
As a result of the tire changes, “the spectators have enjoyed the racing, it’s been more interesting and we have been seen as one of the contributors to that,” Hembery said.
For Montreal, Hembery said Pirelli arrived with between 2,200 and 2,300 tires, not to mention a team of about 60 people to service all 11 teams, totalling 22 cars.
“We have what we call our overseas kit, of which we have five, and they are being sent around the world at different times of the year,” Hembery said, adding that the equipment in Montreal is headed next to Abu Dhabi. “They do quite a tour of the world.”
For Montreal, Pirelli used four compounds, two for dry weather and two for wet weather, of which there was plenty on the weekend.
“Now, the dry compounds, we brought here what we call the super soft,” Hembery said. “That is a compound you tend to use for street circuits, smoother circuits. Montreal is a circuit for traction as it doesn’t have very high lateral loads — not very high cornering loads.
“The medium tire, which is, let’s say, a more conservative approach, but it will be the main tire used in the race.”
In an ideal world, Hembery says Pirelli would have more than four compounds available to use in its tires.
But, in the end, the results are worth the effort.
“We feel the entertainment value has been good,” Hembery said.
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette