Thursday 8 January 2015

'Conservative' approach works for Pirelli and Hembery

The 2014 F1 season just passed was a relatively quiet one for the sport's tyre supplier Pirelli. Indeed a repeat of the raucous 2013 campaign for it doesn't bear thinking about, given therein the Italian company became something of a bete noire - accused of being too much of a factor in Grands Prix with their product's deliberately gumball characteristics, and exploding literally to the forefront with a series of spectacular blowouts in the Silverstone race mid-season.

Pirelli's Paul Hembery spoke at today's
Autosport International 2015
And as far Pirelli's Motorsport Director Paul Hembery was concerned at today's Autosport International 2015, this simmering down from boiling point in the latest F1 campaign was indeed welcome.

'There was a few people complaining (in 2014)...that's the nature of motorsport for a tyre maker! We have a little rule book, we say that when somebody's winning it's always down to the driver and the car, when they're losing it's always the fault of the tyres!

'It was a quieter year, still a very good year in terms of racing as we saw. We were going into a year with huge technology change so we had to make sure we took a slightly conservative approach to it. But I think sometimes that was taken as being an exceptionally conservative approach but you had to do it in the circumstances.

Hembery also insisted that the scaling back of the degradation of the 2014 tyres wasn't down to 2013 and all that. 'No, not at all. In reality it was really related to the change in regs and the need for different aspects of the sport to take centre stage; it was the year of technology with the power train in particular and quite rightly that took centre stage and we weren't needed to provide anything different, it was the racing based on different aspects of the sport.'

Hembery also spoke of the challenges, and the changing challenges, to the tyre maker of the 2014 machines with their higher levels of torque.

'It was a big change. During the season they (the teams) were able to adapt the mappings of the power train to reduce wheelspin in particular...That was something that we saw through the year, which is normal, we anticipated that. When we think back when we first went on the simulator with the new power trains you could wheelspin through every gear and drivers said it was undriveable but that changed. And as you saw towards the end of the season lap times were tumbling.

Looking ahead to 2015, Hembery anticipated yet more challenges, as power units are continuing to develop and moreover greater liberalisation of the units has been speculated as being imminent, matters which will have a close to direct impact on the Pirelli product.

'That's when performance comes out, there's a lot of technology involved and after a learning year they've got a lot of ideas of what they want to change, so it's going to be interesting for us to see where we are in Melbourne and China in particular (and) what the real impact is.

'But we can't change. We seen the data for next season and some of it is interesting to say the least, so we're anticipating a strong step in performance.'

When asked about the severely limited winter track testing to prepare the tyres for these changes Hembery retorted: 'No testing is a better way of saying it!

Hembery explored familiar subjects such as
tyre testing and Pirelli's relationship
with the teams
'We do a lot of work virtually today, like the teams do...However we are the contact patch with the circuit...and that has a lot of external factors that are very hard to simulate today...There is always a need to do some outdoor testing, we are working on improving that aspect of our work. Which means if we do need to make changes we would have to ask for a bespoke testing session because currently with the restrictions we have it is very hard to operate.'

Speaking of the company's relationships with the teams and FIA, things which have been questioned in the past, Hembery noted that matters have improved over time: 'We have an excellent working relationship with Charlie Whiting (of the FIA) and his team, they help us greatly with our work, providing data.

'Even having said that it is a moving target and you are relying on the best data available from the teams. But there's always strong collaboration; it's a competitive world though. We're not probably high on their list of priorities.

'We've learnt over our time in Formula One when to push and when to ask, and that's something that we've managed to improve on over the time.

'It's a complex world, people from the outside probably don't see how difficult it is working with the interests of 10, 11, 12 teams, depends how many we've got, and also their interests and our interests plus the competitive instinct that they have.'

Hembery also indicated that Pirelli wouldn't necessarily be averse to competition from another supplier in F1, but added that he doesn't think such a move is imminent.

'Yes you could do it, it depends on the regulations of course...If the regulations changed you'd look at it and see on what basis you could compete. You never rule it out.

'There doesn't appear much appetite at the moment for it, in any motorsport if I'm being honest with you. Of the 170 championships we've got around the world certainly over 100 of them are actually the control tyre environment. People want to take that performance aspect out, they want to control it. At the end of the day people want to see drivers fighting, they don't want to talk about tyres.'

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