Pirelli counters Hamilton ‘peaky F1 tyres’ frustration

“Honestly, it’s probably the most frustrating thing,” said the seven-time world champion. “You look back in the day when you had a much bigger working window to work with.

“Then you can just optimise the balance and then just have good grip throughout the whole lap. This is definitely my least favourite.”

But Pirelli thinks the importance of the peakiness of the tyres is not because their characteristics are different, but that the F1 field is now so close that every detail counts more.

In the past, when there were several tenths of a second in lap time difference between cars, being in and out of the tyre window slightly was not really critical to performance.

Asked about Hamilton’s viewpoint on peakiness, Pirelli’s F1 chief engineer Simone Berra said: “Every tyre has a peak at some point and the operating window is always just a definition. We take a certain percentage of grip loss to define the window.

“I think even in the past it was the same. But probably it was less critical because the level of detail that we have at the moment is quite significant.

“That’s why now everything is highlighted and important. In the past, 15-20 years ago, you had cars or drivers even divided by half a second or seven-tenths of a second so it was not so narrow.

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“But the fight now is completely different, and even one-tenth of a second makes a great difference.”

Berra also thinks that the situation of how peaky tyres are also varies from car to car, and can also be different across compounds.

“We know very well that especially C4, and in some cases obviously with high temperature the C5, there can be a peaky performance.

“Some teams are less able compared to others to extract the peak of performance. Part of it is the tyre, yes honestly it is.

“But part of it is as well the car, the suspension, and how the car is exploiting the compound performance. So, it’s both factors.”

What is peak grip?

Pirelli explained recently how it defines the working range of the tyre to be the temperature area that is within 3% of the peak grip possible.

With margins close in F1 right now, it has become obvious that the closer drivers can get their tyres to the absolute peak the better it is.

As Pirelli’s head of car racing and F1 Mario Isola explained relating to the below graphic: “If we look at a graph, the grip of the tyre is on the vertical co-ordinates and the temperature is on the horizontal.

“In the cold, any compound that is developed for motorsport has little grip. Instead, the grip increases as the temperature goes up.

“There is a curve that goes up until it reaches a peak, and then beyond that there will be a significant drop in grip due to overeating.”

Working out where this peak grip is delivered then allows teams to understand what the working range of the tyre is.

Isola added: “Once the peak of grip has been reached, at the highest point of the curve, the graph normally shows us a 3% area that we define as the ‘working range’.

“There is then a curve between two points that we try to make flatter and, above all, as wide as possible.

“Our goal is to give the drivers a tyre with a wide plateau, to ensure a bigger operating window.»

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