Ferrari tests new Formula 1 rain tires: Pirelli solution found for rain races?

Pirelli is looking for new ways to improve the performance of its Formula 1 tires. The planned test with Ferrari at the Circuit Paul Ricard includes two intensive days of testing: one day on a dry track, one day on an artificially watered track. The slicks test will focus primarily on the softer C5, C4 and C3 compounds. The focus is also on determining the structure of the tires for next season.

After the dry tires for 2025 have already been diligently tested and Pirelli has worked on the overheating problem, the second day of testing in wet conditions is far more important in the eyes of Simone Berra, chief engineer at Pirelli Motorsport responsible for the tire development program. According to the manufacturer, there is still a greater need for improvement with the rain tires.

Future of Pirelli rain tires: New compound, new profile – but not until 2025!

“We are testing both – the full wet and the intermediate. But the priority is on the full wet. We want to improve performance on wet roads. We know that the rain tyre suffers a little too much from overheating at the moment and that its performance drops quite quickly due to the elimination of the heating blankets, which we have done without since last year,” said Berra, identifying the weak points of the rain tyres.

“Basically, we are working on the tire compound, but even more on the tire tread.” Optimizing the tread pattern is an important measure to deal with the overheating problem. “Because if the tread blocks move less, they generate less heat,” Berra explained.

Pirelli is also aiming for improvements for the intermediate tyre, which can be used on wet or drying tracks without standing water: “We also have a plan for the intermediate, which mainly involves a new compound. Our aim is to remove the heating blankets from the intermediates as well, so that both Tires can be used in wet conditions without heating blankets.”

Despite intensive work and further development, Berra did not give any hope that there would be new rain tires before 2025: “I think it is difficult to think about an earlier introduction because we can only do limited tests in wet conditions.” The Pirelli chief engineer nevertheless remained optimistic: “If the test results are encouraging, we will of course try to introduce this specification as soon as possible. But at the moment it is mainly intended for 2025. That is our goal.”

Tire choice in wet conditions: Intermediate is trump – rain tires useless?

Full wet tyres are hardly ever used anymore anyway. Either the conditions are too wet, so that the Formula 1 cars do not run at all due to safety concerns, but races are postponed, interrupted or even abandoned after two laps behind the safety car. Or the ground effect cars dry out the racing line relatively quickly, so that the intermediate tyres can be fitted. Due to the large performance difference between intermediates and rain tyres, the teams prefer the green marked tyres whenever possible. There is therefore a serious interest in making the full wet more similar to the intermediate.

Intermediates vs. Full Wet: F1 teams usually prefer the versatile green tyre with its wide working range and crossover window, Photo: LAT Images
Intermediates vs. Full Wet: F1 teams usually prefer the versatile green tyre with its wide working range and crossover window, Photo: LAT Images

“That’s something we’re thinking about at the moment and the FIA ​​has also thought about having a wet weather specification that could be a compromise between intermediates and rain tires. We would like to bring the full wet specification closer to the intermediate specification,” said Berra. The rain tire is by no means to be completely replaced by the intermediate: “At the moment we have to keep both specifications. There are no plans to have just one specification.”

Despite all the striving for the ideal tire performance, safety should not be forgotten, Berra stressed: “We would like to achieve better performance. But of course, for safety reasons, we also have to cover situations in which there is a lot of water on the track. So we have a limit for the rain tires that we cannot exceed by going too far towards intermediates. In some cases, for example, there may be a high water level in sector 1 and a much lower water level in sectors 2 and 3. For safety reasons, it must be guaranteed that there is no aquaplaning in sector 1.”

Fix poor visibility caused by spray: Pirelli tires are not the problem!

A lot of effort has been invested in improving rain tire technology in recent years. However, the rain issue is still a hot topic, particularly because of the safety-relevant factor of visibility in the rain. Due to the strong spray that modern Formula 1 cars generate when driving in the rain, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold races in heavy rainfall, which is frustrating not only drivers and teams, but also organizers and fans. The FIA ​​has designed a spray protection system, but decided not to use it after the tests in Fiorano. The idea of ​​covering the Formula 1 tires for sessions in the rain is therefore off the table.

“It’s a difficult topic anyway, to be honest. We know that the test with Ferrari in Fiorano didn’t go great. The result of the test tells us, the FIA ​​and the teams, that tire covers don’t solve the problem,” Berra summed up. The tire is not so much the problem, but the spray problem stems primarily from the car itself. The underbody and diffuser are responsible for the spray problems that have become more common in recent years.

The modern Formula 1 cars stir up a veritable wall of water - for the pursuers, the visibility is catastrophic, Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
The modern Formula 1 cars stir up a veritable wall of water – the visibility conditions are catastrophic for the pursuers, Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

While the FIA ​​is still working on a solution for better visibility in wet conditions, the task for Pirelli is clear: “Of course, with the wider tires we have to displace a lot more water compared to before – i.e. 2016 and before – to achieve the same performance. The tires must drain this amount of water to avoid any risk of aquaplaning.” Accordingly, there is a limit to tire development – namely that of aquaplaning. Pirelli cannot ignore this, Berra made clear. The rain issue therefore remains a challenge for the various players in Formula 1.

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