Pirelli: Verstappen/Sainz battle proof 2022 tyres are working

Henry Valantine
Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads the Canadian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz on Pirelli tyres. Montreal, June 2022.

Mario Isola has said the new Pirelli tyres are having the desired effect on improving racing, and the late fight between Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in Canada was proof of that.

The Red Bull and Ferrari drivers were locked in a tight battle for the lead for the final 16 laps in Canada, with Sainz on fresher rubber than Verstappen and chasing him down.

He was able to remain in the DRS window of the reigning World Champion until the end but, while he was unable to make an attack, his tyres did not appear to overheat while in combat – helping him keep pressure on Verstappen throughout the closing stages.

Isola, head of F1 and car racing for Pirelli, said the tyre manufacturer is already working on next year’s compounds to try and improve further, but feels their main objective of enabling drivers to push harder for longer has been achieved, thus allowing closer racing.

“For me, what is important from this race is to see we had what they call close racing,” Isola told Motorsport.com.

“One of the targets this year was to have close racing, not pure overtaking thanks to the DRS or another system. It was to give the opportunity to the drivers to push and fight on track.

“And that’s exactly what happened with Max and Carlos, but also in the back with Alpine and [Charles] Leclerc, and many other cars.

“It means that the tyres are giving this opportunity, together with the car package, and it’s nice to see that this is happening.

“Obviously for the future we know that we can improve, and we are working for next year’s tyres. But I will say that the first target [of close racing] has been achieved and that was really important for us.”

Isola elaborated on how Pirelli have managed to achieve their improvements this season, operating on stiffer suspension caused by the tyres sitting on 18-inch wheels, rather than 13-inch constructions last year.

A significant part of the regulation changes in Formula 1 came with the view of improving how cars can follow each other. The previous incarnation of cars saw drivers lose around half of their downforce and see tyres overheat when in close proximity to a car ahead.

And Isola thinks Pirelli have played their part in helping the sport improve on that front, while offering up different strategy opportunities in the process.

“Before, the car behind would start to lose downforce, would slide and overheat the compound – so there is a big factor created by the new cars, and obviously keeping the downforce on both cars is helping the tyres.

“But also the new compounds, this new family of compounds, is working better. We know that sometimes the medium and the soft are degrading a little bit more, but this is necessary otherwise, if you have tyres that are behaving the same way, you don’t generate any strategy.

“With a hard that is very consistent, and a medium that is manageable, maybe the soft is a bit too aggressive, we can have different strategies and a different approach.”