New Pirelli F1 tyres

By on Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Photo credit: Pirelli

Pirelli is changing all the slick tyres for the 2012 Formula One World Championship, and introducing a modified version of the wet tyre. Only the intermediate tyre – the Cinturato Green – remains unaltered.

The characteristics of  the tyres requested by the teams for 2012 are in line with the expectations from last year: tyres that help to provide entertaining competition, with at least two pit stops per race and a wide variety of strategies. The new design of Pirelli tyres for 2012 takes into account the change in the rules from the FIA regarding blown exhausts.

The tyre becomes square: The first big change for this year is the introduction of a new profile. The tyres that will be used in 2012 have a squarer profile in order to improve the wear rate: particularly on the all-important shoulder of the tyre. The new front and rear profiles have been designed to distribute the stresses more evenly across the contact patch. This modification, regularising the demands and temperatures over the entire surface of the tyre, has been designed to reduce the risk of blistering and spread the tyre wear over a wider area of the footprint. This extends the amount of time during which the tyre can operate at peak performance, but does not affect the durability of the tyre in terms of the number of laps that it can cover. The new tyres have been designed to provide more grip at the rear, compensating for the reduction in aerodynamic downforce caused by the latest rule changes introduced by the FIA.

The tyres become softer: Pirelli will introduce some entirely new compounds for the 2012 championship, with the exception of the supersoft, where only the profile has changed. The objective is to reduce the performance gap between the different compounds. Throughout the 2011 season there was a gap of around 1.2 seconds to 1.8 seconds per lap between the different tyre nominations for each race. This year, the objective is to bring that gap down to less than a second: between six to eight tenths on average.

Generally speaking, the 2012 tyres will be softer and less conservative than last year’s tyres. The way that the teams rapidly understood how the tyres would perform and behave already paved the way for some more extreme solutions in the second half of 2011, which were capable of generating increased grip. These characteristics, together with a smaller gap in lap times and a distinct degradation curve between the different compounds, allows the teams to adopt a variety of strategies during the races.

P Zero in the dry, Cinturato in the wet: The innovations for 2012 include both some new names and new colours for the tyres. The two wet weather compounds will adopt the Cinturato name and comprise the full wet tyre, recognised by blue markings, and the intermediate tyre, which is denoted by green markings. The four slick compounds, which will be continue to be called P Zero, maintain their colours from last year: silver for the hard, white for the medium, yellow for the soft and red for the supersoft. The tyres from both the P Zero and Cinturato ranges will be more easily recognised by the public thanks to bigger markings on the sidewalls.

The slick tyres

Dry weather tyres, known as slicks, are characterised by a tread pattern that is devoid of blocks or channels. They come in four compounds: supersoft, soft, medium and hard. The different compounds mean that the tyres are well suited to a wide variety of circuits, according to the type of asphalt, the number and severity of the corners, and the top speed on the straights. This allows the teams to make use of an ample range of strategies.

P Zero Red, a supersoft for street circuits: Of the four slick tyres, this is the only one to remain unchanged from the 2011 season. It showed itself to be particularly versatile, offering high peaks of performance over slow and twisty circuits that are characterised by slippery asphalt and low lateral loadings. This is the ideal compound for street circuits or semi- permanent facilities.

P Zero Yellow, softer with less blistering: The new soft tyre is well suited to circuits with low tyre wear. It is designed to offer a high level of grip coupled with a significant amount of degradation, resulting in a comparatively short lifespan that will give the teams a greater number of options with pit stop strategy and even closer racing. Compared to the equivalent tyre in 2011, the new soft offers greater thermal resistance to reduce the risk of blistering. Tested for the first time during free practice at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the new soft tyre is set to be one of the most frequent nominations in 2012, together with the new medium tyre. This combination offers a great deal of flexibility and also a rapid warm-up time.

P Zero White, the medium tyre that is well suited to all conditions: This extremely versatile tyre adapts itself well to all sorts of track conditions, particularly when asphalt and circuit characteristics are variable. The brand new P Zero White is intended as the ‘option’ tyre on tracks with high temperatures or abrasive surfaces and as the ‘prime’ tyre on tracks that are less severe with fewer demands on the tyres. The new medium compound was tried out last year during free practice at the German Grand Prix and made another appearance during the young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

P Zero Silver, hard but not inflexible: The new hard tyre guarantees maximum durability and the least degradation, together with optimal resistance to the most extreme conditions, but is not as hard as the equivalent tyre last year. The P Zero Silver is ideal for long runs, taking more time to warm up, as well as being suited to circuits with abrasive asphalt, big lateral forces and high temperatures. The new P Zero Silver was tested at the Barcelona circuit by Pirelli’s test driver Lucas di Grassi, and is the only one of the new compounds that the regular drivers have not yet experienced.

Wet weather tyres

Wet weather tyres, characterised by grooves in the tread pattern, are split into two types: full wets and intermediates. The full wet tyres can be easily recognised by the deep grooves in the tread pattern and sipes to drain off water on wet asphalt. The intermediates feature channels that are less deep and are designed for damp or slightly wet surfaces, as well as uncertain weather conditions.

Cinturato Blue, the full wets: Of the two wet tyres, only the full wet has been significantly altered compared to the 2011 version. The changes relate to the rear tyres, which use a different profile in order to optimise the dispersal of water in case of aquaplaning and guarantee a greater degree of driving precision. Characterised by deep grooves, similar to those seen on a road car tyre, the wet tyres are designed to expel more than 60 litres of water per second at a speed of 300 kph: six times more than a road car tyre, which disperses about 10 litres per second at a much lower speed.

Cinturato Green, the intermediate for light rain: After the excellent performances seen from this tyre throughout the 2011 season during particularly demanding races such as the Canadian Grand Prix, Pirelli’s engineers decided not to make any changes to the intermediate tyres. The shallower grooves compared to the full wet tyres mean that the intermediates do not drain away as much water, making this the ideal choice for wet or drying asphalt, without compromising on performance.
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