During qualifying for the last Saudi Arabian Grand Prix something quite curious was seen, and that is that several drivers set the fastest time with a used set of tires instead of new ones.
Sergio Pérez was the fastest of the session and, although he did it with newly released tires, his immediate pursuers were unable to improve the time.
Pirelli Formula 1 boss Mario Isola explained that this situation was due to the grip recovery characteristics of the 2022 compounds, something that could continue to be quite a challenge for the teams in Melbourne qualifying this weekend. week and the following.
Now the teams will have to find out during free practice at each circuit whether used soft tires can provide an advantage at the moment of truth or if it is like in the past where there was a big difference between a new set and a worn set.
This is just one of the aspects of the 2022 tires that teams are learning as they travel to a track on the calendar.
“In qualifying we’ve seen a couple of different situations,” said Isola after the weekend in Jeddah. “Some teams used two laps of preparation for the soft, and some used that soft rubber for the second attempt in qualifying.”
“If we look at last year, that never happened. The compound can recover the grip, because if it doesn’t, you don’t use it again,” explained the head of the Milanese supplier.
“It’s an extra element. How powerful it can be, it’s a bit early to tell, because we have different circuits with different characteristics,” said the Italian.
Isola believes that the used tires proved to be more effective in Saudi Arabia largely because they gave the drivers more confidence : “I think the soft tyre, when it was new, had quite a bit of grip, and that provided nimble handling.”
“These cars are quite difficult to drive, especially on a track with the walls glued together, you can’t make any mistakes,” he continued.
“A used tire loses its peak grip a bit, and it makes the rider’s feel better, therefore it’s a bit more progressive. If there is no real degradation of the rubber, they are more confident,” said the Italian. .
“Last year some drivers were able to go faster on a medium than a soft because they felt less movement in the tread. This season the used soft gave them that.”
“For that reason, some were able to do better times with a worn soft and not with a new one, but if you find the point with the newly released soft, like Checo [Pérez], the clock is there,” Isola said.
In Saudi Arabia, the soft was not used in the race, as those who progressed to Q3 were able to select the compound they wanted after the removal of the rule of starting with the tire with which they set the fastest time in Q2.
For the Australian Grand Prix, Pirelli has left a step between the medium and the soft, and from the manufacturer they believe that this could be a determining factor at the start of the race, since a difference of 1.2 seconds is estimated between each rubber.
“In Melbourne, we have C2, C3 and C5, it’s a big jump between C3 and C5,” he said. “And probably the C5 is a pretty aggressive choice, because from our testing last year, the C3 and C4 look similar.”
“We said, we’re going to test the C2, C3 and C5 to see if the difference is right between the compounds. The C5 for Melbourne is more like the Bahrain soft tire in terms of behaviour, with 1.2 seconds of difference per turn,” he said.
“If the soft doesn’t degrade in Australia, with this delta from the middle, maybe some might try to start on the soft.”
“If the tire is fast, but wears out, and the degradation is quite high, then the medium becomes the option for the start.”
Isola said the drivers were able to do the race in Jeddah on the hard tire because it stayed in good shape following other cars.
“They had the possibility to follow the others, to overtake, and when they lost position, they could attack again using DRS. Those are all tactical strategies when you have a tire that can give you the confidence to push again.”
The ability to fight is aided by the fact that tire lockups don’t seem to be as detrimental as they were in the past, when drivers had a flat and had to pit.
“Compared to 13-inch tires, the locks are doing much less tread damage,” Isola said. “It’s probably a combination of the design and the stiffness of the car.”
“If the car is quite stiff, you have similar load transfer. That means if you lock the tires without load, you do less damage.”
“It’s not just this, it also depends on the roughness of the track, the speed and the set-up, on many elements, but the reality is that blockages affect less,” he settled.