The Italian tire maker Pirelli is threatening to pull out as tire supplier for the 2014 Formula 1 season. The issue is that Formula 1 is changing regulations and Pirelli wants more time to test tires on the new cars. The new regulations call for 1.6 litter turbo charged V6 engines and a 20 kg/44 lbs increase in the minimum weight of the cars. This differs drastically from this year’s cars which sport V8 engines and have higher rev limits.
While they have not formally signed a contract for next year, they have been selected as next year’s tire provider by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and will likely keep that role through 2018. It’s also probably too late for French tire-maker Michellin to step up and produce tires for the upcoming season.
Pirelli made its desire to test tires on 2014 regulation cars by Christmas very well known at last weekend’s Indian Grand Prix. Company motorsport chief Paul Hembery said “We have to do some testing, if we can’t then we’ll not be able to provide the tyres.”
The company has come under considerable criticism in the 2013 season for tires that have had blow outs, and under performed in this year’s series. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso told Reuter’s “The tyres cannot do five kilometres. If you push them, you finish the tyres. It’s something that is not normal.”
At the Indian Grand Prix, the BBC reports that Pirelli issued a statement to the teams that they should not race more than 15 laps on the soft tires and 35 laps on the medium tires. Pirelli makes a range of four dry tires (super soft, soft, medium, hard) and two “wet” tires (intermediate and wet.) The company was unable to get the FIA to issue any mandate about how many laps could be put on the tires. Pirelli said they were disappointed the teams did not adhere to their recommendations. Kimi Raikkonen put 51 laps on a set of medium tires with his Lotus, the most out of anyone in the race.
Pirelli did announce it would be testing tires on November 11th and 12th with a 2011 McLaren F1 car at Italy’s Vallelunga track so long as the FIA approves the tests. Autosport.com reported that Pirelli had wanted to do test with McLaren at Austin‘s Circuit of the Americas before the November 16th-18th race weekend, but the FIA wouldn’t agree to the plan. Redbull’s team principal argued that it would make more sense to do the testing after the race.
Regardless of what the FIA eventually decides to do, Pirelli’s demands are more than valid. The company is making a concerted effort to ensure that failing tires are not a point of frustration in the upcoming season. The new regulations are an effort to make Formula 1 more “eco-friendly” but will make cars quieter and less exciting to viewers. Tire failures on top of that could lead to a generally bad 2014 season. Here’s to hoping Pirelli gets their hands on some 2014 specced racers soon.