Aston and McLaren are undertaking a two-day trial as part of Pirelli’s agenda of non-blanketed slick running, although the plan may be affected by rain.
Originally, Pirelli aimed to launch the new tyres in 2024, but it was recently decided in the F1 Commission meeting last Friday to delay the transition away from blanket tyres, reconsidering it for 2025 instead.
This decision came too late for Pirelli to modify its testing schedule for Spa, which means the test will continue to focus on the non-blanketed tyres, with an intention of accumulating more data for potential implementation in 2025.
The predicament, however, is that Pirelli isn’t certain whether it will continue to be F1’s official tyre supplier for that season, as they face competition from Bridgestone for the contract that spans 2025 to 2028.
A decision regarding the contract is anticipated during the summer break. If Bridgestone secures the deal, Pirelli’s non-blanketed programme will be rendered immediately redundant as the company won’t be in F1 in 2025.
This would in effect render the Spa test useless, especially in terms of any slick running.
Pirelli will then be free to concentrate on further tests throughout the season – including a session at Monza post the Italian Grand Prix – to prepare the optimum standard tyre for 2024.
Given that its focus this year has been on testing without blankets, Pirelli has assigned fewer resources than usual to the development of blanket tyres for 2024, considering the yearly increase in downforce levels and overall team performance.
It now has the task of creating a tyre that can handle the load levels predicted for the final race of the 2024 season.
“With the delay of non-blanket tyres till 2025, we now also need to evaluate if we require any changes to the current product for the next year,” said Pirelli F1 chief, Mario Isola, when questioned by F1 Flow.com about the test programme.
“So, we must reassess our plan, and obviously consider the tyres for 2024. If we are confirmed for 2025, we will also need to develop the non-blanket tyres and figure out what to do for the wet weather tyres.”
When asked if Pirelli still has time to convert next month’s Monza session into a test of standard tyres for 2024, he responded: “That’s a good question. I have to check. I don’t know yet! But we are not in summer shutdown, so we can make some prototypes.”
Should it rain consistently during the two days of Spa testing this week, Pirelli will have an opportunity to test its latest development wet and intermediate tyres.
Isola expressed hopes for rain during Tuesday and Wednesday, “So that we have the possibility also to compare the current intermediate with the one that we want to homologate for next year. That is a good opportunity.”
The limitation of having only two cars running is that they won’t clear the water, but on the flip side, spray is less of a concern, especially if the cars are deliberately kept well apart on the track.
Under ideal circumstances, this would mean the drivers could do some more extensive track running on full wets than was possible last weekend, when visibility with a full field on track was a significant factor.
“Considering that on Tuesday and Wednesday we have two cars running, you can send out the two cars at a certain distance,” said Isola.
It’s yet to be determined how relevant this week’s test is for the two teams involved. Any track mileage gained in-season is useful, and Aston Martin is taking the opportunity to allow reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to test on Wednesday, which will aid in his sim correlation as well as preparation to step in if needed.
However, the testing is overseen by Pirelli and there are strict rules on the car configuration that can be used.
McLaren’s Andreas Stella explained to F1 Flow.com, “In terms of the relevance of the test, I was actually discussing [on Sunday] morning with our director of engineering like we were hoping to have some good weather so that we can do some work that can be useful for Pirelli in the future. We will be I think a bit at the mercy of the weather again.”
Aston performance director Tom McCullough said the test could still be useful, especially if Pirelli does win the tender and its non-blanket tyres are needed in 2025.
“Obviously with Pirelli we’re always looking to support and develop the tyres,” he said. “We are always interested to see what Pirelli bring, they’re always bringing tyres. For them going to lots of different duty cycle tracks, with all the different tyres getting that input, it’s just useful for Pirelli to keep learning and keep improving.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Pirelli tyre testing
What is the purpose of the two-day test by Aston and McLaren?
The two-day test is a part of Pirelli’s programme for non-blanket slick running. The objective is to gather more data for the possible introduction of these tyres in 2025.
Why might the non-blanket Pirelli tyres never race?
Pirelli’s non-blanket tyre programme could become obsolete if Bridgestone, who is competing for the same contract, becomes the official F1 tyre supplier for the 2025-2028 seasons.
What are Pirelli’s plans for 2024?
With a delay in the introduction of non-blanket tyres, Pirelli will now focus its efforts on developing the best possible standard tyre for 2024. They need to produce a tyre capable of handling the load levels predicted for the final race of the 2024 season.
What are the factors influencing the relevancy of this week’s test for Aston and McLaren?
The relevance of the test for the two teams depends on several factors including the weather conditions during testing, specific rules on car configuration, and whether Pirelli retains its status as the official F1 tyre supplier for the 2025 season.
How does the testing process adapt to different weather conditions?
If it rains consistently during the two days of Spa testing, Pirelli will have an opportunity to test its latest development wet and intermediate tyres. This can help compare the current intermediate with the one that Pirelli wants to homologate for the next year.