Even with the help of a press release from the Italian tyre giant I can see it is still confusing to many and so I thought I'd try and break it down into a more digestible format...
Pirelli will supply an additional slick tyre in 2016, increasing its offering from 4 to 5 dry weather compounds: Ultra Soft (Purple banding), Super Soft (Red banding), Soft, (Yellow banding), Medium (White banding) and the Hard (Orange Banding). These will continue to be supplemented by the Intermediate (Green banding) and Wet (Blue banding) weather tyres.
Leading up to each event the tyre manufacturer will designate three dry weather compounds that can be used at the event by each driver, allowing them to select 10 sets from their 13 set allocation. From this point forth I'll be calling these the "Selected Tyres"
The other 3 sets, made up of two compound choices, will be determined by Pirelli and CAN differ from the compounds given to the drivers to select. Two sets of the softest compound from the selection will be made available and one of the harder. One of the softest selections will be used for Q3 in qualifying. From this point forth I'll be calling these the "Control Tyres"
Sounds a bit confusing doesn't it, well that is because of the format issues and the way tyres are handed back to Pirelli at different points throughout a weekend. Of the thirteen sets available to the driver he must hand the following back:
- One set after the first 40 minutes of FP1
- One set at the end of FP1
- Two sets at the end of FP2
- Two sets at the end of FP3
At any one point it could be possible for us to see three different compounds in use. Drivers, even within the same team will be able to make their choice from the "Selected Tyres" from the three in the selection list, whilst Pirelli may choose altogether different "Control Tyres", although on safety grounds we'll never see the Ultra Soft and Hard compounds used at any event.
It's important to note that the "Control Tyres" are only chosen by Pirelli once the drivers/teams have made their "Selected Tyre" choice, this eliminates any chance of extreme strategy options being run by the drivers/teams and then blaming Pirelli for allowing it.
Pirelli chose the Soft and Medium for Melbourne in 2015 producing just a singular pit-stop for the entire field. Disappointing given their remit to produce races with 2 to 3 stops...
As such they'll look to be more aggressive in 2016 (and whilst I hear they'll only allow the Ultra-Soft on street circuits I hope this includes Melbourne and Montreal ;) ) hopefully (see previous caveat) giving the teams freedom to choose from the Ultra Soft, Super Soft and Soft. Then selecting either the Super Soft and Soft or Super Soft and Medium as the control tyres. This would open up the window in terms of strategy and also allows the teams to select the Ultra Soft as a one lap wonder tyre for qualifying. This could allow the weakest teams to challenge for Q2, the midfield challenge for Q1 and/or give us a superb battle for pole. Meanwhile for the race all of the teams will have undoubtedly used the Ultra for Q2 and have to start on those, forcing them into at least a 2 stop race...
The biggest problem with this format change is it really removes the Prime and Option tyre scenario we currently have, making it a little difficult to follow for those used to the current format. Whilst I understand why Pirelli have done what they have, as it is an attempt to spice up the racing and give the teams some of the control they wanted I can't help thinking there are easier ways to go about it, especially for the fans.
|Monaco 2009 - Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) on the option tyre (green band) battles with Nick Heidfeld (Sauber) on the Prime
When Bridgestone provided a Prime and Option tyre the viewing public were not aware of its potential and/or if the compound had changed from race-to-race, even though they were...
Whilst I admire Pirelli's transparency, for the sake of the casual viewer it may have been easier to just switch back to this method, with the decisions being taken behind close doors. Had they chose to do so, they could have just introduced a qualifying tyre and moved around the allocations to allow for it.