During the 18-inch tire tests in Abu Dhabi in December, many drivers complained about a sudden tendency to understeer. However, the teams' engineers are confident of getting the balance right with the 2022 cars.
The first tires of the 2022 generation are already baked and are on the ship overseas. Pirelli started production of the new 18-inch tires right after the last test drives in Abu Dhabi in mid-December. Adjustments to the mixtures and the construction were not necessary, report those responsible with satisfaction.
Head of Sport Mario Isola drew a positive conclusion: "The data from the test in Abu Dhabi confirmed our findings from the development phase. No further changes are planned for 2022." But there are still small question marks. Abu Dhabi was not ideal for a tire test. On the winding desert course, the asphalt is relatively smooth and the cornering speeds are low.
Only the stress test on the rough surface and in the fast corners of Barcelona will show whether the tire really lives up to expectations during the winter tests at the end of February. Pirelli is hoping for a mild Catalan winter to gather useful data. Snow, like a few years ago, is of no use now before the big rule revolution.
Understeer gone with new cars?
But at least Abu Dhabi brought some new insights. "We got feedback from the drivers that the rear tire is very strong compared to the front. This led to a tendency to understeer," reveals Isola. Because the teams drove with so-called "mule cars", there were only limited possibilities for countermeasures during the setup.
With the poorly modified racing cars, the engineers tried to simulate the downforce level of the coming generation. In addition, the suspension and the vehicle height were adjusted. The teams' technicians believe that they can compensate for the shifted aero balance relatively easily with the new cars. The effect was not unexpected, which is why the concerns are limited, they say.
Isola hopes that the loss of time will also be reduced somewhat with the new cars. The lap times in Abu Dhabi with the new 18-inch wheels were on average 1.5 seconds faster than the 13-inch wheels. "That's acceptable considering the mule cars weren't optimally matched to the tires. They should work much better on the new cars."
Due to the smaller cross-section of the tires, the teams will have to drive less camber on the front axle in the future. For the test in Abu Dhabi, however, Pirelli's specifications have not yet been adapted to the new tires for the sake of simplicity. That may have been one of the reasons for the balance issues.
Pirelli specifies tire types
As far as the fight against overheating and wear is concerned, Isola has confirmed its expectations. Only a somewhat annoying graining on the front axle with the softer compounds caused problems for the drivers when they went to the limit for a little longer. But this problem should also disappear in Barcelona, Pirelli hopes. The harder grades are used on the Spanish Grand Prix circuit.
Speaking of tire types: The specifications for the number of individual compounds will remain the same in 2022. Before the corona pandemic, the teams could put together their own delivery. "The teams wanted to keep the new system. They then don't have to assign extra employees to make an individual selection. All that remains is the analysis of how to best use the given tires," explains Isola.
So it remains as before with two sets of hard tires, three mediums and eight softs. However, discussions are still ongoing with the teams as to whether the selection for the race weekends with sprint races should not be adjusted. It is being considered whether a special choice of tires can generate a little more tension here.