Exclusive interview with Pirelli's Paul Hembery

Exclusive interview with Pirelli's Paul Hembery

7 December 2012 – Following on from a thrilling title showdown in Brazil, GPUpdate.net sat down for an exclusive interview with Pirelli's Motorsport Director, Paul Hembery, to discuss the season from a tyre point of view, the higher levels of degradation we can expect in 2013 and just how long the company intends to remain in Formula 1...

Before we get into the serious business Paul, let's talk about those cowboy hats in Austin. The podium ceremony was certainly a popular one with fans...
It was something different! To be honest, it was an idea I had and together with a couple of colleagues we evolved it. We needed to make it a surprise by not telling anyone. It was a one off, so it won’t happen again and it won't happen in Austin again, but it was something that we thought would be fun. It sort of matched the feeling of the event and the way Austin got behind their Grand Prix. We thought it was fun.

We witnessed a truly fascinating title battle in 2012. Did the best man win?

Vettel claimed the 2012 title
Over a 20 race season it’s going to be the best man who wins, there’s not really much left to chance over 20 races. You obviously get races where somebody gets a rare reliability issue or has a crash, but over 20 races it’s always going to be the best team. It’s not just the driver as there are 600 or 700 people behind all the top teams. The driver is one element and behind them there’s a huge team making a great car. I would say the best driver and team won, yes.

We saw seven different winners from the first seven races. Was it a surprise for you, as Formula 1's tyre supplier, to see such an unpredictable start?
I guess it was a surprise in some ways because in reality the performance of the cars became much closer together. With the blown diffusers and the flexible noses that went away at the start of the season, which were there again at the end of the season, the performance of the cars closed up and often in the second stage of qualifying we would see one second between 16 cars. If you take the previous year, there was often half a second to eight tenths between the first and second cars. That was a very significant change, so every small detail had a very significant impact on performance and that created a very interesting and stimulating start to the season.

From a tyre point of view, how satisfied are you with the 2012 campaign?

At the start of the year, the changes we made to the tyres meant it was more difficult for the teams to get the maximum performance out of their chassis and tyre package. I wouldn’t say it took them a while to understand the tyres, but they maybe couldn’t get the car to do to the tyres what they wanted at a certain point. That changed over the season; they had some big temperature imbalances from front to rear but by mid-season towards the end of the year they dominated that.

From our point of view, we felt that we added our little bit into that mix with the rule changes to create a much more competitive Formula 1 at the start of the season. As we went through the season you saw the teams with larger resources starting to pull away from the others a little bit and at the end of the year became rather dominant. We were probably a little bit conservative with some choices at the end of the season, but that’s always easy to say afterwards as we make decisions a few months out.

Going forward we know that if you give teams a challenge, whilst they might complain at the outset, the pragmatic side of the chief engineer is that as long as they have the same challenge as the team next to them then it’s up to them to be the better engineers and get the best out of the package. That’s a pleasing aspect and, although we all like to say it every year, I think we saw one of the most exciting F1 seasons in recent times. Clearly with eight different winners and a season that ended at the last race we did have a very, very strong F1 season.

The first 2013 specification tyres were rolled out in Friday practice at the season finale in Brazil. How has the feedback been from teams and drivers so far?

It was only a limited amount of driving and it was on a green track as well, but overall it pretty much matches what we saw in our own testing. They didn’t try any of the new compounds, it was the existing Hard tyre that they used, but it showed us that the improvements we were looking for we could find. Some found more, some found less and some didn’t find anything so it was a bit of a mix throughout the field.

I think it allowed them to get an idea of the direction we are going in and the main point was that it didn’t dramatically upset the balance of the car or at least in a way that they couldn’t change with normal developments to maximise it for next season.

Jenson Button expects higher tyre degradation and a wider operating window with the new 2013 rubber. Does this match what you have been aiming for?
That’s pretty much it. There’s a more rapid warm-up and more temperature going into the tyres, basically because they are working harder and because we’ll have a bigger footprint in cornering. With the changes we’re making to the compounds we’re trying to bring back some degradation levels, because quite frankly at the end of the season we were in negative degradation and maybe not where we were asked to be. We were maybe repeating some races from the past where we were down to one pit-stop and I’m not going to say it was too easy, but teams were dominating the situation.

We saw a few people saving tyres in the final phase of qualifying this season. Looking at the future, are there any more plans for a dedicated qualifying tyre?

It won’t happen next year. Maybe going forward, if we renew our contract for 2014, then it’s something we could offer. At the end of the day it’s down to the teams to decide. The qualifying format is actually a good one - it works very well. The only area it doesn’t work is if we do have people saving tyres which as a company we get criticised for. Our view is we’d prefer to find a solution to that; it could be extra sets of our existing product or preferably from our point of view to produce a qualifying tyre. It would put a little bit more spice into it. It's down to the teams and at the moment they feel that even when cars aren’t running it creates a tactical interest and it’s not an issue.

Our view, because unfortunately as the tyre manufacturer we get the criticism, is that the fans want to see people running and they don’t understand teams not running in qualifying. It was less prevalent this year as the cars were so close together and you really needed to run because with two tenths you could make up maybe four or five positions. It forced people out because row position is still very, very important in F1. From that point of view, it probably wasn’t such an issue compared to last year.

You mentioned Pirelli's Formula 1 contract, is there any more news on a renewal?

We’ve always said that we saw it as a medium term project. If in the next months, and I guess it will be decided early next year, the sport feels that they would like to keep us and the economic conditions remain affordable then it is something we would be keen to do. But you only know that when you go forward; we’re like every automotive company as we have positives and negatives all around the world - Europe in particular is a very tough market for everybody. Fortunately we have a global presence and other markets are managing to sustain business performance levels.

But you never know, the longer it goes on maybe we’ll fall into a really black hole and it may be that we can’t afford to go on. That’s something we’ll hopefully understand over the next few months, certainly at the moment the Pirelli board is very happy with the performance of our presence in Formula 1. We would like to continue.

And finally, will you be using a new car for testing in 2013?
If we’re testing next year, whilst we need to do some work on our wet tyres, it doesn’t really matter that we carry on using the same car as we did this year. Though, I would say that going forward for 2014 the test car probably becomes less relevant as the cars are going to be so dramatically different. However, for some of our compound work the 2010 car is more than sufficient. What really needs to happen for 2014 is that we’ll do more and more work on simulators, so there’ll be more virtual testing.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Saturday 4 July 2015

  2. 17:41

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday at Silverstone

    F1
  3. McLaren reprimanded for tyre breach 17:33

    McLaren reprimanded for tyre breach

    McLaren has been reprimanded by the stewards after it fitted the wrong tyres to Fernando Alonso's car during British Grand Prix…

    F1
  4. Ricciardo struggles in low-speed corners 17:11

    Ricciardo struggles in low-speed corners

    Daniel Ricciardo pinpointed a lack of grip through Silverstone's low-speed corners after qualifying 10th for the British Grand…

    F1
  5. Kirchhöfer fends off Bernstorff for victory 17:07

    Kirchhöfer fends off Bernstorff for victory

    ART driver Marvin Kirchhöfer resisted a late charge from Arden rival Emil Bernstorff to claim victory in the first GP3 race of…

    GP3
  6. Verstappen bemused by lack of pace 16:19

    Verstappen bemused by lack of pace

    Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen was left bemused by a lack of pace as he was unable to progress through to the top 10 shootout…

    F1
  7. Räikkönen: Ferrari not slipping back 16:14

    Räikkönen: Ferrari not slipping back

    Kimi Räikkönen insists that Ferrari is not slipping back, as both he and team-mate Sebastian Vettel were beaten by the…

    F1
  8. 15:46

    Latest GP2 photos: Saturday at Silverstone

    GP2
  9. Sirotkin cruises to emphatic maiden win 15:42

    Sirotkin cruises to emphatic maiden win

    Rapax driver Sergey Sirotkin ended Stoffel Vandoorne's string of Feature Race wins by cruising to victory at…

    GP2
  10. Massa pleased to out-qualify Ferrari 14:57

    Massa pleased to out-qualify Ferrari

    Felipe Massa expressed his satisfaction after Williams outpaced Ferrari in Saturday's qualifying session for the British Grand…

    F1
  11. Hamilton hails 'special' Silverstone pole 14:47

    Hamilton hails 'special' Silverstone pole

    Lewis Hamilton spoke of his delight after beating Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to pole position for his home race at…

    F1
  12. 14:14

    British Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  13. Hamilton beats Rosberg for home pole 14:06

    Hamilton beats Rosberg for home pole

    Lewis Hamilton overcame the threat posed by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to take pole position for the British Grand Prix…

    F1
  14. 12:55

    Follow qualifying for the British GP!

    F1
  15. 11:06

    British Grand Prix: Full Practice 3 results

    F1
  16. Hamilton quickest in final practice 11:04

    Hamilton quickest in final practice

    Lewis Hamilton set the pace for this first time this weekend during final practice for the British Grand Prix, half a second…

    F1
  17. 09:48

    Follow final practice for the British GP!

    F1
  18. FIA issues Copse track limits warning 09:34

    FIA issues Copse track limits warning

    Formula 1 drivers have been warned about exceeding the track limits ahead of Saturday's qualifying session for the British Grand…

    F1
  19. Kirchhöfer flies to pole at Silverstone 09:22

    Kirchhöfer flies to pole at Silverstone

    Marvin Kirchhöfer stormed to pole position for Saturday's first GP3 race of the weekend at Silverstone after setting two laps…

    GP3
  20. Lotus sets sights on battle for fourth 08:02

    Lotus sets sights on battle for fourth

    Lotus CEO Matthew Carter is optimistic that the team can overhaul Red Bull for fourth place in the Constructors' championship -…

    F1
  21. Mallya: Ecclestone needs to 'un-crap' F1 07:46

    Mallya: Ecclestone needs to 'un-crap' F1

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone should find a way to "un-crap" the sport if he feels that he doesn't have a good enough…

    F1
  22. Video of the Day: Hamilton in London 05:20

    Video of the Day: Hamilton in London

    Explore London with Lewis Hamilton as the Mercedes driver visits his favourite places in England's capital city ahead of this…

    F1
  23. Friday 3 July 2015

  24. 21:16

    Latest F1 photos: Friday at Silverstone

    F1
  25. Alonso braced for Q1 elimination 20:48

    Alonso braced for Q1 elimination

    McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso fears that it will be difficult to progress from the first phase of qualifying for the…

    F1
  26. Vișoiu docked three places for impeding 20:29

    Vișoiu docked three places for impeding

    Rapax driver Robert Vișoiu has been handed a three place grid penalty for the GP2 Feature Race after stewards deemed that he…

    GP2
  27. Williams drivers eye better one-lap pace 18:40

    Williams drivers eye better one-lap pace

    Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas are chasing improved one-lap pace after the first day of practice at…

    F1
  28. Hülkenberg: New car immediately better 18:05

    Hülkenberg: New car immediately better

    Nico Hülkenberg expressed his encouragement with Force India's upgrade package as he says he was able to feel the performance…

    F1
  29. Red Bull pair encouraged by upgrades 17:45

    Red Bull pair encouraged by upgrades

    Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo spoke positively about Red Bull's British Grand Prix upgrade package after Friday's practice…

    F1
  30. Hamilton happier with clutch set-up 17:27

    Hamilton happier with clutch set-up

    Lewis Hamilton expressed his optimism after reverting to an older clutch set-up during Friday practice for the British Grand…

    F1
  31. Rosberg praises team for turnaround 17:17

    Rosberg praises team for turnaround

    Nico Rosberg has heaped praise on his Mercedes team for repairing his car during Friday's opening practice session at…

    F1
  32. 16:46

    Latest GP2 photos: Friday at Silverstone

    GP2
  33. Sirotkin beats Vandoorne for maiden pole 16:43

    Sirotkin beats Vandoorne for maiden pole

    Rapax driver Sergey Sirotkin claimed his maiden GP2 Series pole position as he overcame the competition during Friday…

    GP2
  34. 15:36

    British Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  35. Rosberg stays on top in second practice 15:33

    Rosberg stays on top in second practice

    Nico Rosberg remained at the top of the timesheets during Friday afternoon's second free practice session for the British Grand…

    F1
  36. Mercedes reprimanded over car cover 14:55

    Mercedes reprimanded over car cover

    Mercedes has escaped serious punishment for covering Nico Rosberg's car after his practice stoppage at Silverstone, with the…

    F1
  37. 13:50

    Follow second practice for the British GP!

    F1
  38. Comtec to make return with Delétraz 12:38

    Comtec to make return with Delétraz

    Comtec Racing will make its return to the Formula Renault 3.5 Series at next weekend's round in Austria, with Louis Delétraz…

    FR 3.5
  39. Mercedes referred to stewards for covering car 12:34

    Mercedes referred to stewards for covering car

    Mercedes has been referred to the British Grand Prix stewards for covering Nico Rosberg's car as it returned to the Silverstone…

    F1
  40. 11:43

    British Grand Prix: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  41. Rosberg tops FP1 despite stoppage 11:34

    Rosberg tops FP1 despite stoppage

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg set the pace in Friday morning's opening practice session for the British Grand Prix, ahead of…

    F1
  42. 09:49

    Follow first practice for the British GP!

    F1
more news