2020 tyre spec uncertainty a "nuisance", say F1 teams
Formula 1 teams have expressed their frustration at the delay over a final decision on what Pirelli tyre construction will be used next season because of the impact on their aerodynamic R&D.
Pirelli's planned 2020 tyres were trialled by all teams in practice for the US GP, but feedback was so negative that there was talk of sticking with the 2019 tyres.
The FIA subsequently agreed that next week's two-day test of the 2020 tyres should go ahead as planned, and if drivers are still unhappy then the teams may be invited to vote. If seven or more want to stick with the 2019 tyres, the new construction will be shelved.
The official deadline in the FIA technical regulations for notification of what construction is to be used is September 1.
The significance for car development is that the shoulder shape of the 2020 construction is different, and that has a significant impact on the way the tyre interacts with the floor.
Midfield teams believe that it is much harder for them to adjust to late changes than it is for the bigger players.
"The September deadline was put in for a reason," Racing Point boss Otmar Szafnauer told Motorsport.com. "That's so we had certainty of tyre construction, which can have a big impact on all of our development.
"Unfortunately for smaller teams like us, if you change things later on, we can't react as quickly, and it just makes us worse off.
"On the one hand the FIA and the commercial rights holder want closer and better racing, but on the other hand they do things like this, which just spreads the grid apart even more.
"We don't have the new wind tunnel tyres yet, we only have last year's. From that regard it's an even playing field. However, when we do get the new ones, if we get them, the bigger teams can react quicker."
Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur agreed that the delay was not helpful.
"I'm just a bit scared that I we have to wait the definition of the car on the aero side is a bit different," the Frenchman told Motorsport.com.
"Because of the shapes of the tyres are different. It's not easy for us. I can understand the situation of Pirelli, they did a huge job, but they have also to understand that on our side we need to have a decision. At the moment it's 2020 tyres, and that's what we're working on."
Mercedes technical director James Allison conceded that even for a top team the lack of certainty was a "nuisance."
"I think it's been an interesting process," he said. "There's been all sorts of unusual decisions taken to get us to where we are today, but we're relatively relaxed about whichever direction it goes. We've tested the tyre a couple of times, and I think we should be alright whichever direction.
"It's just going to be bit of a nuisance, waiting until that point in the year to know for sure what the aerodynamic shape of the tyre is going to be. But that's going to be the same for everyone."
Haas F1 team boss Gunther Steiner insists that the sport has made the correct decision in waiting for the Abu Dhabi test to give Pirelli a proper chance to prove the 2020 tyres.
"I would say it's very important," he explained. "Because it's the first time that we can really get something out of these tyres. I think I was one of the few who after Austin said we cannot jump to a conclusion after this FP1 test.
"I know that there were tests done before, but the teams didn't have a back-to-back with the tyre we are currently using. They said the tyre wasn't good, but who says the '19 tyre would have been any good? So I think we need to give it a fair chance. I'm not saying the tyre is any good, by any means. After Austin, we don't know."
Steiner acknowledges that the test in Austin was not necessarily a fair representation of the 2020 Pirellis.
"The temperature was too low, the cars were not prepared for it, it looks like we ran too high pressures.
"I think we need to give it a fair shot next week with the comparison to the current tyre, and then I think we can look at the data and come to a conclusion that will give us the real result. Then we have to see do we want this tyre to be the tyre for the future, or do we stay with the old one?"
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