Why Pirelli’s emergency F1 fixed supply rule looks set to stay

Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli doubts teams will go back to having a free choice of compounds for each race weekend, with supply choices to be fixed again for 2022.

Pirelli tyre on the car of Fernando Alonso, Alpine/Renault RS18 Mule

Since the start of 2016, in a bid to add variability to each grand prix, teams were able to choose how aggressive they wanted to be with their tyre selection for grand prix events.

While they were limited as to the total number of tyre sets they had available, teams were able to vary the spread of compounds within that – either opting for softer or harder rubber depending on their strategy choices for each individual track.

But, as part of the emergency cost-saving measures introduced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, that free choice was stopped and instead Pirelli handed out the same compound selection to each team.

That rule stayed the same last year and will also now carry over in to 2022, when Pirelli will introduce its new 18-inch tyres for the first time.

While the possibility of opening up the compound choices remains something Pirelli is happy to consider in the future, it seems that teams are actually not especially eager for it to happen.

Speaking at a Pirelli pre-season launch in Monaco on Tuesday, the Italian tyre manufacturer’s head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola explained why he thinks the days of free choice may be over.

“We had to find this solution for the pandemic to be quicker in reaction,” explained Isola about the current fixed supply stance.

“But then the teams came back to us saying, actually the system is quite good. We want to keep it for the future. So it was not our decision at the end to continue with this fixed allocation.”

Isola explained that the teams felt much more comfortable being told what tyres were being picked for them, than having to devote resources to working out the best option themselves.

Pirelli tyre on the car George Russell, Mercedes W10 Mule

Pirelli tyre on the car George Russell, Mercedes W10 Mule

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“They told us that if they have a fixed allocation, and it is the same for everybody, so there is no advantage for one or the other, they can start planning on this fixed allocation instead of spending time and resources and people to think about one set more of medium, or one set less of soft. They have that allocation [fixed now], and they have to work around this.

“So in 2020, they said we want to continue for 2021. In 2021, with the new product for 2022, nobody was confident in deciding on the compounds and breakdown and so they want to continue [for now].

“I don't know if in 2023 they want to change but for the moment, this is the answer.”

Pirelli’s new 18-inch tyres will get their first proper run on 2022 F1 cars at the first pre-season test at Barcelona in Spain next month.

Isola was confident already, however, that the new rubber should allow drivers to push harder than they were able to on the previous generation of tyres.

Reflecting on what was learned from the post-season Abu Dhabi test, Isola said: “There is less overheating. Drivers had the possibility to push more, and that was important in Abu Dhabi, because in Abu Dhabi, we had also some traffic.

“That is something we cannot simulate during our tyre development tests, where we have only one car that is running on track, or two cars maximum.

“This improvement in reducing the overheating, this improvement with degradation, it means less degradation.”

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