Head of Pirelli Motorsport Mario Isola has admitted that the performance of the 2019 cars so far has surprised the F1 tyre supplier. The recent pre-season test in Barcelona saw the debut of the new tyre compounds, ranging from C1 (hardest) to C5 (softest) compounds.
Despite predictions that the simplified regulations for 2019 would slow the cars by an estimated second to 1.5 seconds per lap, they were seemingly proven wrong when Sebastian Vettel got within one-tenth of Lewis Hamilton's 2018 Spanish Grand Prix pole time. But drivers have reported an improvement in following other cars, as was intended with the new regulations.
"What’s perhaps more surprising is the pace of the cars at this point in the season,” Isola said. "They are going faster than last year’s test, despite being 10 kilograms heavier. We’ve had eight productive days of testing, with teams accumulating plenty of running in generally good conditions, although – as expected at this time of year – without reaching the temperatures we anticipate during the season.”
The new tyres will see the usual supersoft, soft and medium compounds used at every race for 2019, but the compounds will depend on the C1-C5 system in an effort to reduce confusion. Pirelli has also used a thinner thread for the 2019 tyres and despite concerns of graining in cooler temperatures, Isola is not worried about this matter.
"Considering this, we are satisfied that all five compounds are performing as we planned, even though the softest compound is not really suited to Barcelona,” Isola said.
“As usual, during the second week of testing, teams were sampling a wider range of compounds and targeting performance and race procedures in preparation for Australia.
"We experienced a bit of graining in cooler temperatures, which should disappear in warmer weather, and no blistering."
“It’s hard to get a precise read on degradation in these conditions. At the moment we’re seeing a gap of around 0.6 to 0.7 seconds between each of the compounds seen on track in Barcelona, which should translate to our target of about 0.9 seconds on a longer circuit in warmer weather.”
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing