During the Bahrain tests, MotorLAT had the chance to talk with Pirelli’s chief Mario Isola. During our exclusive interview with him, we asked him how did Pirelli change their 18-inch tyres design to fit with the design of the new generation cars, and if he would say the compounds are more conservative.
“We started the project of 18-inch tyres working on the target letter, which contains the request of the client. Their requests were on overheating, degradation and other characteristics.
"We were able to adjust thanks to the teams’ simulations, all the downforce expected in different conditions, at high and low speed. Obviously last year we could not test them on this year's cars but we could work on simulations.
"When big changes come up, just like in 2016, we work on a virtual model and send it to the teams, who prove it on their models and give them to us. We correct some things with data and have quite a representative model of what will happen on the track. The tests are very important, though. We tested them in Abu Dhabi on old generation cars and now with the new ones, even if the teams will change their cars a lot, like we have seen in Bahrain already with Mercedes.”
Then we asked on which aspects with the tyres have they worked on closely following the learnings and data from Barcelona.
“The data we got from Barcelona on is useful to confirm and improve our products for 2023.
"It will be useful to do fine-tuning on the 2023 tyres and with such a new product we will have to work on the lap-time and fix some aspects. Consider that we take all the data but we do an average, as we’ve ran on three completely different tracks and conditions. We can’t have the same data in Spielberg and in Spa.”
We know that the Bahrain circuit tests traction and has all tyres of different corners, plus hot conditions. How valuable are the three days of testing for Pirelli at this venue?
“It is very valuable, especially in the last part of the day, because the conditions are alike the actual race ones. The new test schedule has been moved later for this reason. Barcelona is a completely different layout. It doesn’t recall the race conditions but the track has the first two sectors that are faster, the third one requires more traction. Bahrain’s asphalt is more aggressive and the track is how I call it a “Stop & Go”, the use of the rear part is extreme as you have traction, heat and aggressive asphalt and the combination of these elements in the last part of the day when the sun is up, we experience one of the hardest conditions we’ll ever have. We’ve seen how the tyres were used up but we expected that. It wasn’t such a big surprise.”
At this point, we asked him if Bahrain can be defined a better testing venue for Pirelli at this time of the year, having more realistic conditions compared to a February week in Barcelona.
“Yes, but we brought home lots of important data from Barcelona too. – Isola said - You have to consider that in Barcelona everyone was focused more on the car than on the tyres. Here they can focus more on the tyres as the teams have a race but we take more reliable data from tests than from Free Practices.”
In a few days, the new season will finally begin with the Bahrain GP. Does Mario expect the opening race next weekend to be a one-stop race or could it be a two-stop with the heat and traction limitations?
For the first time in 2022: it’s race week! 🏁— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) March 14, 2022
The @BAH_Int_Circuit will host the season-opener for the fourth time. The new 18-inch tyres will also make their Grand Prix debut in Sakhir. 🇧🇭https://t.co/6O0vZWMINj#F1 #Fit4F1 #Formula1 #BahrainGP #Pirelli #Pirelli150 pic.twitter.com/OTaN4AZxg2
“It is possible. During the tests, someone had some representative long runs so if we take that data for example, a two-stop strategy can be faster, - he explains. - We will have to see in the hours of the race though, as when the sun goes down the temperature is cooler. From one side, when you go faster the degradation is major but on the other, without the sun the temperature is cooler and it reduces it. So, we’ll have to see when the teams will go to their maximum. I can’t exclude a two-stop strategy.”