Pirelli fear full 18-inch tyre test not possible

Jamie Woodhouse
Pirelli 18-inch tyre tests 2021

FIA approve use of 2021 cars in 18-inch tyre tests.

Pirelli are concerned that they won’t be able to conduct a full testing programme in 2021 for the upcoming 18-inch tyres.

Initially the 13-inch tyres were set to be dropped at the end of this year in favour of 18-inch rubber as part of the new rules coming into the sport.

But all that was pushed back a year, meaning the current 13-inch tyres will be in use again for 2021.

Pirelli had planned an extensive testing programme for this year to get the 18-inch tyres ready for the 2022 season, but the 25 days of wet and dry running which they were allocated fell apart due to the global pandemic.

All 10 teams on the grid were part of the plans and they were going to use ‘mule cars’ converted to work with the 18-inch tyres.

However, the 2021 calendar is very much subject to change, so Pirelli are worried they won’t be able to fit all this testing in to the 2021 season.

“It will be very difficult to fit the 25 days of testing in next year’s calendar,” Pirelli’s F1 boss Mario Isola told Motorsport.com.

“We know for sure that we are going to start the season with COVID restrictions still in place.

“As soon as there is a draft of the calendar, we will try to put some days in it. One option for example is to try and use as much as possible the Tuesday and Wednesday after events, so staying on the same track. This minimises the movement of the teams.

“We have to consider that quarantine will still be in place, moving from one country to another, this kind of stuff.

“We will try to do a clever and flexible plan for testing, but it is clear that without testing, we cannot introduce the 18-inch tyres, so we have to find a solution.

“It’s not easy, but we will do our best, but together with the teams we will try to introduce a calendar for these criteria.”

FIA make new tyre testing compulsory for teams, Pirelli decide schedule.
FIA make new tyre testing compulsory for teams, Pirelli decide schedule.

One potential stumbling block is the fact that only Paul Ricard, home of the French Grand Prix, has sprinklers to be able to create some wet-weather running on a current Formula 1 track.

“For wet testing it’s difficult or impossible to test on the same circuits,” said Isola.

“Other than Paul Ricard, which is the only circuit with sprinklers, or in Fiorano, but in Fiorano we don’t have a Grand Prix. So for wet testing we have to make a plan that is not linked to one event.”

Racing Point technical director Andrew Green says the very early stages of 2021 will be key to whether or not a testing programme for the 18-inch tyres can be put in place.

“We don’t really know how next season is going to pan out yet,” he admitted.

“But I can see unless we clear this pandemic quite quickly in the early part of next year, then 18-inch testing is going to become really difficult.

“I’m sure we will do something, but it’s probably not going to be the testing schedule that we’d all like.”

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