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 30 July 2016

  2. 12:46

    Follow qualifying for the German GP!

    F1
  3. Leclerc gets GP3 grid drop for impeding 12:18

    Leclerc gets GP3 grid drop for impeding

    Ferrari youngster Charles Leclerc has been handed a three-place grid penalty for impeding Trident's Giuliano Alesi during GP3…

    GP3
  4. Hamilton avoids penalty, Mercedes fined 12:16

    Hamilton avoids penalty, Mercedes fined

    Lewis Hamilton has avoided a further reprimand, and penalty, following his unsafe release during German Grand Prix practice…

    F1
  5. Hamilton called to stewards over pit release 11:23

    Hamilton called to stewards over pit release

    Lewis Hamilton has been summoned to the stewards over an alleged unsafe release by Mercedes during Saturday's final practice…

    F1
  6. Grosjean set for five-place grid penalty 11:06

    Grosjean set for five-place grid penalty

    Romain Grosjean will take a five-place grid penalty at the German Grand Prix, with Haas forced to change his gearbox following…

    F1
  7. 11:04

    German Grand Prix: Full Practice 3 results

    F1
  8. Rosberg completes practice clean sweep 11:03

    Rosberg completes practice clean sweep

    Nico Rosberg completed a clean sweep of free practice sessions by topping FP3 for the German Grand Prix, in front of Mercedes…

    F1
  9. 09:52

    Follow final practice for the German GP!

    F1
  10. 09:22

    Latest GP3 photos: Saturday at Hockenheim

    GP3
  11. Albon extends lead with Hockenheim pole 09:21

    Albon extends lead with Hockenheim pole

    ART Grand Prix's Alexander Albon increased his GP3 Series lead to seven points by clocking the quickest time during qualifying…

    GP3
  12. Ferrari must 'pull together' after Allison exit 09:02

    Ferrari must 'pull together' after Allison exit

    Jock Clear says that Ferrari must "pull together" in the coming weeks and months if it is to overcome the recent departure of…

    F1
  13. Vettel, Gutiérrez lined up for Pirelli wet test 08:32

    Vettel, Gutiérrez lined up for Pirelli wet test

    Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Gutiérrez have been tasked with trialling Pirelli's nascent 2017-specification wet tyres at…

    F1
  14. Whiting wants all drivers to sample halo 07:12

    Whiting wants all drivers to sample halo

    Charlie Whiting, the FIA's Race Director, is keen for all Formula 1 drivers to sample the halo device, prior to increased…

    F1
  15. Video of the Day: Hülkenberg drives W 25 05:36

    Video of the Day: Hülkenberg drives W 25

    Ride onboard with Nico Hülkenberg as he drives the Mercedes-Benz W 25 from 1934 at Hockenheim.

    F1
  16. Friday 29 July 2016

  17. 19:32

    Latest GP2 photos: Friday at Hockenheim

    GP2
  18. Giovinazzi excluded from GP2 qualifying 19:31

    Giovinazzi excluded from GP2 qualifying

    GP2 title contender Antonio Giovinazzi has been excluded from the results of qualifying at Hockenheim after his Prema-run…

    GP2
  19. 17:02

    Latest F1 photos: Friday at Hockenheim

    F1
  20. Vettel positive but wants 'steps forward' 16:57

    Vettel positive but wants 'steps forward'

    Sebastian Vettel described a positive opening day of practice in Germany but still feels that Ferrari needs to make significant…

    F1
  21. Mercedes moved to prevent Hamilton penalty 16:09

    Mercedes moved to prevent Hamilton penalty

    Mercedes says it acted to remove any risk of Lewis Hamilton being handed a reprimand over track limits during German Grand Prix…

    F1
  22. Button cleared after precautionary checks 15:37

    Button cleared after precautionary checks

    Jenson Button has been cleared to compete in the remainder of the German Grand Prix weekend after he required a precautionary…

    F1
  23. Sirotkin edges Gasly for Hockenheim pole 15:29

    Sirotkin edges Gasly for Hockenheim pole

    ART Grand Prix driver Sergey Sirotkin claimed his third GP2 pole position of the season as he edged series leader Pierre Gasly…

    GP2
  24. Ricciardo: Red Bull/Ferrari battle 'close' 15:10

    Ricciardo: Red Bull/Ferrari battle 'close'

    Daniel Ricciardo says the battle between Red Bull and Ferrari at this weekend's German Grand Prix will be "close", given…

    F1
  25. Button goes to hospital for eye check-up 14:49

    Button goes to hospital for eye check-up

    Jenson Button has gone to hospital for a "precautionary check-up" after experiencing an eye irritation during Friday afternoon's…

    F1
  26. 14:33

    German Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  27. Rosberg stays ahead in second practice 14:32

    Rosberg stays ahead in second practice

    Nico Rosberg kept his place at the top of the times during Friday's second practice session for the German Grand Prix, ahead of…

    F1
  28. Red flags in qualifying to stop improvements 13:09

    Red flags in qualifying to stop improvements

    Formula 1 qualifying sessions are to be red flagged immediately in the future in the event of double yellow flags being waved…

    F1
  29. 12:52

    Follow second practice for the German GP!

    F1
  30. Vandoorne downplays Manor speculation 12:20

    Vandoorne downplays Manor speculation

    McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne has played down talk that he could replace Rio Haryanto at Manor from the Belgian Grand…

    F1
  31. Video: Classic Mercedes at Hockenheim 11:02

    Video: Classic Mercedes at Hockenheim

    Nico Rosberg, Pascal Wehrlein and Nico Hülkenberg drive three legendary Mercedes cars at Hockenheim.

    F1
  32. 10:33

    German Grand Prix: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  33. Rosberg leads Hamilton in first practice 10:31

    Rosberg leads Hamilton in first practice

    Nico Rosberg edged out team-mate Lewis Hamilton during Friday morning's first free practice session for the German Grand Prix…

    F1
  34. 08:52

    Follow first practice for the German GP!

    F1
  35. GPDA chief Wurz 'surprised' by halo delay 08:34

    GPDA chief Wurz 'surprised' by halo delay

    Grand Prix Drivers' Association Chairman Alexander Wurz says that he is "surprised" by the decision to delay the introduction of…

    F1
  36. Hülkenberg confirms Force India stay 08:00

    Hülkenberg confirms Force India stay

    Nico Hülkenberg has formally confirmed that he will remain with Force India into 2017, for what will be his fifth season with…

    F1
  37. Formula V8 3.5 to link up with WEC in 2017 07:44

    Formula V8 3.5 to link up with WEC in 2017

    Formula V8 3.5 will act as the support category to the World Endurance Championship from the start of the 2017 season…

    FV8 3.5
  38. Video of the Day: Being a race engineer 05:22

    Video of the Day: Being a race engineer

    Former Olympic rower Tom Stallard talks about his switch to F1 to become Jenson Button's race engineer.

    F1
  39. Thursday 28 July 2016

  40. 19:02

    Latest F1 photos: Thursday at Hockenheim

    F1
  41. Formula 1 agrees to free up radio rules 18:45

    Formula 1 agrees to free up radio rules

    Formula 1 has agreed to relax its much-criticised radio communication restrictions from this weekend's German Grand Prix…

    F1
  42. Formula 1 votes against halo for 2017 18:02

    Formula 1 votes against halo for 2017

    Formula 1 will delay the introduction of increased head protection until the 2018 season, with it agreed at the latest meeting…

    F1
  43. Hamilton feels he is 'still behind' in standings 16:45

    Hamilton feels he is 'still behind' in standings

    Lewis Hamilton says he feels as though he is "still behind" Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in the championship standings…

    F1
more news