Pirellis latest specification of the P Zero Silver hard tyre was scheduled to make its debut in free practice at Silverstone before the famous British weather decided otherwise. Consequently, the new hard tyre will now be brought to Germany for the drivers to try out in free practice on Friday. They will have two sets of the new tyre on top of their usual allocation of 11 sets, with the P Zero White medium compound and P Zero Yellow soft nominated for Germany.
Hockenheim which alternates with the Nurburgring to host the German Grand Prix is one of just three new circuits for Pirelli this year, together with Bahrain and the United States. The Italian tyre firm does have some experience of racing there through the GP3 Series, which it has supplied since 2010, but no P Zero Formula One tyre has ever yet turned a wheel at the track. However, computer simulations of the circuit and mathematical modelling techniques mean that Pirellis engineers are well prepared for what they will face over the weekend.
Hockenheim formerly one of the fastest circuits in the world is now characterised by some long straights combined with a much slower and more technically complex stadium section. This requires a very versatile set-up, and the tyres too have to cope with an extremely wide range of speeds and conditions. Getting good traction out of all the slow to medium speed corners is key to a quick lap, and the tyres play a vital role in this. There are also a number of heavy braking areas, with the tyres having to absorb up to 5g of deceleration forces.
Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery: "After a wet Silverstone, we hope to give the drivers the chance to run on the experimental hard compound tyre during free practice at Hockenheim. But the weather in Germany at this time of year can be almost as unpredictable as it is in England: when we were at Hockenheim for the GP3 Series two years ago we saw plenty of rain, although it's been very hot in the past too. The new hard tyre is not a big evolution, but it has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres up to temperature and maintain them in the correct operating window. Were running them in Friday free practice only as with the championship so finely balanced, we feel that it would be unfair to suddenly alter one of the fundamental parameters that the teams have made a lot of effort to understand and get the most out of. But we enjoy a very productive dialogue with them, and we will always take into account the wishes of the majority. It's certainly going to be interesting hearing what they have to say about the new tyre, and seeing if their impressions match up to the conclusions that we have drawn from our private testing. Coming to a circuit that is new to us always holds a different challenge, as we don't have any of our own previous data to compare it with. But the progress that has been made with simulation is incredible: these days you can learn so much about how a tyre will behave on a circuit without even going there. These advanced modelling techniques illustrate just one example of how our Formula One involvement can help to improve our everyday road car product."
Pirelli's test driver Lucas di Grassi: "My personal memories of Hockenheim are both good and bad: I had the biggest accident of my career here in Formula 3 in 2005 when I touched wheels with another car and went flying upside down over the fence but I was also twice on the podium in GP2. Unlike the old Hockenheim, the modern circuit is a track that doesn't have any particular one feature that will push the tyres hard but instead the challenge comes from a combination of factors: there are some heavy braking areas, with lots of energy going through the tyre, and the stadium section relies heavily on lateral grip. You could see some understeer here if the tyres start to wear, but the main limiting factor will be traction which is very important. A lot depends on the temperature of course and in Hockenheim anything is possible. Its going to be interesting to see what people think of the experimental hard tyre, which I helped to develop. Unfortunately we won't be able to compare it to the current hard as this is not nominated for Germany, but I think the drivers will like it: it offers even better traction, particularly if temperatures are at the lower end of the scale."