We sat down with Mario Isola, Pirelli’s racing manager, to talk about his expectations for this new year and the fresh future of Pirelli within the Formula 1 competition.
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Mario, what are your expectations for this year?
Well, last year we decided to be a little bit more conservative because there was a rule change and everything was new. Besides, we had a different target, which was to have less degradation so the drivers could push more on the tyre and attack. However, for this year we’ve collected a great amount of data from last season, and we also have the chance of doing the test in a race car, which wasn’t possible the previous year. Furthermore, we introduced two new compounds for 2018 so the drivers can have more flexibility when choosing their tyres.
In terms of the number of pit stops, our goal is to have an average of two stops per race. Thus, we can have a more exciting show with more overtaking, since there will be more degradation. We’re working hard to find the right balance between a certain level of degradation and avoiding the overheating of the surface.
Does the halo have any kind of effect in terms of degradation?
Not really, the halo is changing the car, the weight, which has increased. But its influence on aerodynamics is not yet clear. Anyway, I don’t think it will affect the tyres a lot.
I do truly believe it is going to be quite an exciting season.
Pirelli has a contract with Formula 1 until 2019; would you agree with the sport having multiple tyre suppliers?
It’s not our decision. However, if the FIA wants to go back to that system, we would agree with that, but I don’t think this is the direction Formula 1 wants to take, mainly because the costs would increase. If you have more suppliers, you need to consider the development during the year, the tests… And one of the reasons many series prefer to have a single supplier is to reduce costs, as well as to limit testing and to provide the same conditions to everybody. I don’t think this is going to change in the near future.
What are your first impressions of the cars so far?
The tyres are different and so is the track (it has been resurfaced). The track is much smoother and we need to understand the level of grip, as well as the degradation. This is fairly difficult since we have a new range of tyres and, as I’ve just mentioned, basically a new track as well.
So far, Mercedes has been the dominant team; do you expect the same scenario for this season?
I think this year is going to be a really interesting one. Let’s hope we’ll have more than two teams fighting for the victory. We saw last year that Red Bull was very competitive at the end of the season… Now we have McLaren with a brand new engine, also Renault that is looking to improve a lot. So I do truly believe it is going to be quite an exciting season.