The switch to new low-profile tyres represents a technical revolution for the pinnacle of world motorsport, requiring an intense research and development programme that featured both indoor and outdoor testing. Compared to the previous-generation 13-inch covers, the move to 18 inches marks a clean-sheet design – Pirelli’s engineers re-thinking every tyre element: from the profile to the structure to the compounds.
Pirelli’s 2022 Formula 1 Tyres
‘We started the development process with the profile before moving onto the base construction and homing in on the five compounds that we will homologate for next year,’ highlights Mario Isola, Pirelli’s head of Formula 1 and car racing. ‘The results obtained have been arrived at with the input of the drivers currently competing in the championship, a vital aspect for us, albeit using mule cars.’
There were 28 days of track testing for the new 18-inch tyres throughout 2021, making a total of 36, including the test days carried out late 2019 and early 2020, before a delay to the programme caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The development campaign for the new 18-inch tyres was a comprehensive operation from start to finish, involving more than 10,000 hours of indoor testing, more than 5000 hours of simulation, and more than 70 prototypes developed virtually, which resulted in 30 physical specifications tested on-track by the drivers. ‘Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that we had to revise our test programme entirely, cancelling on-track testing to concentrate on simulation as well as virtual development and modelling,’ says Isola. ‘This virtual screening system helped us optimise the number of physical prototypes produced and return to on-track testing for 28 days throughout 2021.’
A total of 4267 laps were driven on the track, making up more than 20,000 kilometres. The number of sets used was 392, equivalent to 1568 tyres. Nearly all the teams took part in Pirelli’s test programme and 19 drivers: 15 regular competitors in the championship. The role of the drivers was crucial, with each one offering their perspective throughout the different phases of development. This valuable feedback helped Pirelli evolve the new tyres step by step, considering the drivers’ comments and expectations.
Next year, Pirelli will still have some test days at its disposal, which will allow it to fine-tune the 2022 tyre with the new cars if needed. Once the FIA has validated the specification, the drivers will have the chance to try out the definitive 18-inch tyres at the test after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.