MAY 27, 2011
Analysis: Pirelli's supersoft unlikely to dictate Monaco
If the first day's running at Monaco is an accurate barometer, suspicions that the debut of Pirelli's supersoft compound tyre could turn Monte Carlo strategy on its head, appear to be unfounded. Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery answered questions after the first day of practice.
Q: It seems that the supersoft tyre is lasting much longer than you thought?
A: Well, there you go! We don't always get it right because we're coming to circuits that we don't know a lot about, and the supersoft is meant for street circuits and we've only tested it on full-scale permanent circuits. There was a question mark in our minds. We knew it would give a good performance boost but it's hard to know the absolute performance. In the afternoon session it sometimes looked like two seconds between the two tyres but I think looking through the field the difference is 1-2-1.5s more realistically. It's hard to tell how hard each driver is pushing on a circuit like Monaco. You have to look at the tyre sidewalls and see if they've been rubbed at all on the walls or not!
We did see that the tyre had good degradation - we didn't want it to last too long, but long enough. If you had a situation where it was too stable and lasted a long time, they'd be doing multiple pit stops to take the performance benefit, but that doesn't look to be the case.
We were also pleased that the soft tyre was working very well in the morning with the long runs. The expected life is 30 laps, maybe more, so from that point of view two stops would look realistic, which was what we thought before the event.
Q: Are we looking at a situation where a car kind to its tyres, like the Sauber, may even do a one-stop race?
A: That was mentioned to me earlier and I haven't studied all the data yet but I think that might be a little bit too ambitious. But it's not far off. They are going to have to use the supersoft and I don't think they'll use it in qualifying. I think if I was in Q2 I would have a real go at trying to overtake the first runners by having an extended first session and then try to put the supersoft on at the end when you've got a light fuel load and some pace. With track position so important here, I think some of them might have to adopt some very different strategies and not just go with the flow.
Q: What sort of stint length would you expect from the supersoft at the start of the race versus the end?
A: There's actually quite a lot of degradation, quite a bit of time loss, which is actually good because that then forces you to get onto the soft, which is what we wanted. I know some people ran to more than 15 laps but it's not a wear issue with it, it's actually a performance issue, and so the crossover point is rapid.
Q: Do you expect the top 10 all to qualify on the supersofts?
A: I would think so. It's also going to be one of those races where overtaking is at a premium and so they are still going to want to be as far forward as they can be, at least within their group. I think pole, clear track -- it's the same Monte Carlo from that point of view. People will want to have that position, and probably the prestige as well.
Q: How soon could the crossover be between the supersoft and soft times?
A: I haven't got all the data yet but I know after 15 laps it was looking like 4s between the start and end of the stint. It seemed to be quite a big drop. The softs were running six or seven laps before seeing peak performance and the supersofts two, possibly three laps. The warm-up, surprisingly, was a problem here with 42 degrees track temperature, which is pretty much as high as we've had barring Malaysia, when we had one session at 50 degrees. The warm-up was taking two, maybe three laps on the supersoft and six of seven on the soft. But it's quite common here, they've got low downforce and the cars are sliding around.
Q: Were the drivers getting two quick laps out of the supersofts?
A: It did look like two. Maybe a tenth or two difference between their fast laps but they were getting two runs at it, which was good as well.
Q: How have the marbles been?
A: They've been fine. I looked on the start/finish straight and you can only see a few in the tunnel, which is fine. Because the corners are slow, I guess the abrasion is low and that goes in line with the fact that the tyres aren't wearing a great amount.