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Analysis: Alain Prost's simple plan to mix up F1 tyres doesn't play well with Pirelli

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Analysis: Alain Prost's simple plan to mix up F1 tyres doesn't play well with Pirelli
Apr 24, 2017, 1:33 PM

Four-time Formula 1 champion Alain Prost's idea to allow teams to combine different tyre types on the same car has been met with scepticism by Pire...

Four-time Formula 1 champion Alain Prost's idea to allow teams to combine different tyre types on the same car has been met with scepticism by Pirelli Racing Director Mario Isola. Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Prost said, "Let the drivers put together their own tyre choices from the five different compounds and assemble 13 sets according to their wishes.

“I would also remove the rule that you have to drive two different tyre varieties. If you want to drive through a hard tire without a pit stop, please [do],” he said.

The suggestion was first floated in early April by Prost and would allow, for example, a soft tyre on the left-front, and a hard tyre on the opposite wheel. This would result in varied strategies and greater room for error, perhaps increasing the amount of overtakes in a race.

Currently the rules state that only four tyres of the same compound and in set numbers as prescribed by Pirelli may be used.

Pirelli's Isola replied after the Bahrain Grand Prix to say that the idea would bring an element of monotony into F1, and would be too difficult to implement. "If you take the toughest tyre in a race, you could endure almost the entire distance,” he said to Auto Motor und Sport.

Hypothetically speaking, he gave a situation where Supersofts would be used on the front wheels and Softs on the back: “On the front axle you would have much more grip than behind. This inevitably leads to great oversteering and slipping.

“It would be incredibly hard for the teams to balance the two axles. What we could do would be [to have] different mixes for the front and rear of the same tyre type,” Isola continued.

Car performance order

JA reported in March that the lack of overtaking is a serious threat to F1, with just five in Melbourne this year compared to 37 the previous year. As a result, Pirelli is being asked to review its tyre selection.

A processional race is predicted for the Spanish Grand Prix in May as Soft, Medium and Hard tyres are the choices, and no team will use the Hard tyres, so strategies will be similar. Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas managed 20 laps in testing on Ultra-Softs – using softer compounds than those prescribed for this year's race would help to avoid the cars finishing in car performance order, as they would on the harder compounds. There is plenty of evidence that only the top three teams with significantly more downforce can 'switch on' the harder compound tyres, so this exaggerates the gap between front and back of the field even more and offers no chance for a midfield team to score a podium through bold strategies.

This season, Pirelli's tyres degrade at a slower rate than in 2016 and there's less of a difference between compounds in terms of wear rate. In short, tyres with the same names as last year are a couple of steps harder this year. And when cars are on different strategies, especially with the softer compounds, overtaking is far more likely, as we saw in Bahrain.

Add to that the widely reported turbulence in the wake of the cars in front, and it's understandably difficult to swap places on track this year if the right combination of factors is not in play.

Isola said to Auto Motor und Sport, "We must reduce the delta between the individual mixtures. At the moment, the time difference between medium and soft is too great. We must increase the delta between Supersoft and Soft and Ultrasoft and Supersoft."

He spoke after Pirelli conducted their first tyre test for the 2018 rubber in Bahrain last week, in which Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel drove 130 laps on different tyre compounds. Further tests will be conducted at Barcelona in May 16-17.

Do you think that there is a lack of overtaking in F1? Does Alain Prost have the right idea or is Pirelli on the right track? Comment below or on Facebook.  

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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation