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. Wednesday 23 July 2014

  2. Official: Mexico confirmed for 2015 season 22:14

    Official: Mexico confirmed for 2015 season

    During a press conference in the country on Wednesday, organisers of a new race officially announced that Mexico will return...

    F1
  3. Video: Ferrari looks ahead to Hungary 18:05

    Video: Ferrari looks ahead to Hungary

    Ferrari Technical Director James Allison looks ahead to this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

    F1
  4. Lotus already well into design of 2015 car 17:22

    Lotus already well into design of 2015 car

    Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester has confirmed the Enstone team is already "well into the design of next year's car"...

    F1
  5. FIA confirms minor changes at Hungaroring 16:05

    FIA confirms minor changes at Hungaroring

    The Hungaroring has been tweaked ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix. The alterations see new debris fencing...

    F1
  6. Pirro named driver steward for Hungary 15:25

    Pirro named driver steward for Hungary

    Emanuele Pirro will be the FIA driver steward at the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend, carrying out the task for the eighth...

    F1
  7. Toto Wolff injured in cycling accident 14:24

    Toto Wolff injured in cycling accident

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has suffered a fractured shoulder, collar bone, elbow and wrist ahead of this weekend's Hungarian...

    F1
  8. Mallya: More podiums possible for Force India 14:05

    Mallya: More podiums possible for Force India

    Force India boss Vijay Mallya is confident his team will be able to get more podium finishes this season. Sergio Pérez...

    F1
  9. Video: Force India drivers on Hungarian GP 13:30

    Video: Force India drivers on Hungarian GP

    Force India drivers Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez preview the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix.

    F1
  10. Magnussen wants problem-free weekend 13:17

    Magnussen wants problem-free weekend

    McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen has said he is hoping for a weekend "where everything comes together" in Hungary. Danish...

    F1
  11. Albers: Caterham making progress already 12:35

    Albers: Caterham making progress already

    Caterham Team Principal Christijan Albers believes that the squad is already making progress under its new owners. Tony...

    F1
  12. Lauda apologises to Montezemolo and Ferrari 11:54

    Lauda apologises to Montezemolo and Ferrari

    Niki Lauda has apologised to Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo after his blunt description of the team's 2014 Formula 1...

    F1
  13. Lotus: We want to keep Grosjean in 2015 11:07

    Lotus: We want to keep Grosjean in 2015

    Lotus Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi has said it is the outfit's "intention" to retain Romain Grosjean next...

    F1
  14. Bottas: Hungary not best circuit for our car 10:12

    Bottas: Hungary not best circuit for our car

    Valtteri Bottas has admitted he might struggle to get on the podium again this weekend in the Hungarian Grand...

    F1
  15. Mexico Grand Prix set for F1 return in 2015 09:52

    Mexico Grand Prix set for F1 return in 2015

    Mexico will return next season, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed. According to reports by Forbes,...

    F1
  16. Mark Sutton: Story behind the shot - Germany 09:00

    Mark Sutton: Story behind the shot - Germany

    Especially for lovers of motorsport photography, GPUpdate.net is this season running a feature series entitled Story behind...

    F1
  17. Exclusive interview with Paul Hembery 08:00

    Exclusive interview with Paul Hembery

    Pirelli faced one of its biggest challenges since returning to the sport this season, having to adapt its products to...

    F1
  18. Hungaroring memories: Hill's first victory, 1993 05:00

    Hungaroring memories: Hill's first victory, 1993

    Take a look back at the 1993 Hungarian Grand Prix, when Damon Hill claimed his maiden Formula 1 victory.

    F1
  19. Tuesday 22 July 2014

  20. D'Ambrosio joins Dragon Racing team 16:27

    D'Ambrosio joins Dragon Racing team

    Jérôme d'Ambrosio has completed Dragon Racing's line-up for the inaugural Formula E season. The 28-year-old Belgian, who p...

    Formula E
  21. Vergne to demo Red Bull F1 car at Assen 16:20

    Vergne to demo Red Bull F1 car at Assen

    Toro Rosso driver Jean-Éric Vergne will showcase a modern Formula 1 car at Assen next week. The Frenchman, contesting his...

    F1
  22. Hembery wants to keep Bahrain on test calendar 15:08

    Hembery wants to keep Bahrain on test calendar

    Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery is still hoping that Bahrain will be able to host a portion of pre-season testing...

    F1
  23. 14:09

    Photos: German GP in black and white

    F1
  24. Video: Pirelli's guide to the Hungarian GP 13:30

    Video: Pirelli's guide to the Hungarian GP

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli previews this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring.

    F1
  25. Giovesi joins Caterham driver programme 11:58

    Giovesi joins Caterham driver programme

    Kevin Giovesi has become the second member of Caterham's new driver development programme. The 20-year-old Italian, who...

    F1
  26. Tost: Kvyat is doing a fantastic job 10:52

    Tost: Kvyat is doing a fantastic job

    Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost has heaped praise on Daniil Kvyat for "doing a fantastic job" during the first half of his...

    F1
  27. Ecclestone: No doubts over Russian GP 10:16

    Ecclestone: No doubts over Russian GP

    Bernie Ecclestone says he has no doubts over the Russian Grand Prix following the MH17 tragedy. Malaysia Airlines Flight...

    F1
  28. Winners and Losers at the German Grand Prix 09:15

    Winners and Losers at the German Grand Prix

    Hockenheim played host to the 10th round of the season as Nico Rosberg claimed a comfortable victory, while Mercedes...

    F1
  29. Vettel out to keep up the momentum in Hungary 08:00

    Vettel out to keep up the momentum in Hungary

    Sebastian Vettel says he will work hard this coming weekend to "keep up the momentum" and get another strong result in...

    F1
  30. Pirelli expects usual two stops in Hungary 07:00

    Pirelli expects usual two stops in Hungary

    Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery believes teams and drivers will opt for the usual two stops in the Hungarian Grand...

    F1
  31. Hungaroring memories: Mansell secures title, 1992 05:00

    Hungaroring memories: Mansell secures title, 1992

    Relive the 1992 Hungarian Grand Prix, where Ayrton Senna won and Nigel Mansell finished second to secure the title.

    F1
  32. Monday 21 July 2014

  33. Formula E reveals Buenos Aires track layout 17:23

    Formula E reveals Buenos Aires track layout

    Formula E has revealed the track layout and location for the Buenos Aires ePrix, round four in the inaugural 2014/2015...

    Formula E
  34. Boullier: Useful clutch of points squandered 16:45

    Boullier: Useful clutch of points squandered

    Eric Boullier believes McLaren lost out on scoring a "useful clutch of points" in the German Grand Prix. Jenson Button...

    F1
  35. Video: Rosberg reflects on German GP win 16:00

    Video: Rosberg reflects on German GP win

    Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg reflects on his victory on home soil in the German Grand Prix.

    F1
  36. Horner wants clarification after brake change 15:13

    Horner wants clarification after brake change

    Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has asked the FIA to clarify why Lewis Hamilton was allowed to switch brake suppliers...

    F1
  37. Smedley: Both cars on podium aim now 14:34

    Smedley: Both cars on podium aim now

    Rob Smedley has said that Williams now wants a double podium finish in the wake of Valtteri Bottas' latest success in the...

    F1
  38. Hamilton: I can't focus more or work harder 13:55

    Hamilton: I can't focus more or work harder

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says he cannot do any more to win the title this season and that he is already giving...

    F1
  39. Video: Montoya, Aleshin crash out in Toronto 13:30

    Video: Montoya, Aleshin crash out in Toronto

    Footage of Juan Pablo Montoya and Mikhail Aleshin crashing out in Race 2 in Toronto.

    Indy
  40. Wolff: German GP results 'feels' like 1-2 12:48

    Wolff: German GP results 'feels' like 1-2

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said the team's double podium in the German Grand Prix 'feels' likes a one-two, given Lewis...

    F1
  41. Penalty point for Vergne after track limits breach 11:52

    Penalty point for Vergne after track limits breach

    Toro Rosso driver Jean-Éric Vergne has been given a penalty point on his licence following the German Grand Prix. Vergne...

    F1
  42. Button: I overreacted to Hamilton clash 11:29

    Button: I overreacted to Hamilton clash

    McLaren driver Jenson Button has backtracked on comments he made after he clashed with Lewis Hamilton in the German Grand...

    F1
  43. Kvyat: I saw smoke and flames in the mirrors 11:05

    Kvyat: I saw smoke and flames in the mirrors

    Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat made a dramatic and fiery exit from the German Grand Prix last weekend. The incident...

    F1
more news