Pirelli has promised Formula 1 fans that it will deliver more exciting racing in 2012 thanks to a more aggressive approach with its tire compounds.
At a season launch media event in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, Pirelli revealed that it was closing up the gap between compounds for the season ahead to ensure that drivers and teams faced a challenging time at race weekends. The change in strategy comes on top of tweaks to the construction of the tire – to make the profile squarer – which will help improve grip and handling characteristics.
Pirelli's president Marco Tronchetti Provera said: "These changes will provide more opportunity for passes, and help make a better show. Our tires will be a bit softer, which will add speed and show."
F1 teams will still use only four compounds over the course of the season, but the gap between the different types of tires has been closed up dramatically. While in 2011 there was often a 1.5sec lap time difference between compounds, for 2012 the difference should be less than one second.
Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery said: "We have had to make changes and the objective of those changes is to make the racing closer. There is a smaller gap in performance between the compounds. Last year the teams were making choices based on tires that had a 1.5sec difference. We have tried to get that down below one second and the aim is to have it at around 0.8sec."
The super-soft compound will remain essentially unchanged from last year, but the other three compounds have been made softer to close up the gap, with the hard compound the most different.
"In terms of performance [with the hard], we are dropping down 1.5sec per lap like-for-like compared to last season," explained Hembery. "The hard tire now will be close, if not slightly quicker, than the medium compound of last season, so it is a substantial improvement in performance."
Hembery said he hoped the closer gaps will get rid of the situation F1 found itself in last year, when the soft tire was so much better than every other compound and so became the most used compound at each race.
"We were going through races where teams would maximize use of the sets of the higher-performing compound, which were soft in 2011, and minimizing use of the hard or medium. From that point of view the second compound would not come into the strategy.
"We needed to do work on the crossover points and the durability – which is what we have done. We want a lower gap between compounds, with the slower tire slightly degrading slightly less. Then teams will have to make a decision on which tire to go with. Last year we made it too easy for the teams by using soft compounds at each weekend, so they based their weekends around that. This year we want to mix it up more."
Pirelli is hoping that its efforts will ensure that there remain multi-stop races in 2012, with the aim being for every event to have either two or three stops.
"We averaged 2.2 or 2.3 last year, and we are hoping for the same thing," said Hembery. "Some races were two, some were three – and three was proving to be the most popular.
"We felt that broke the races up in a nice way, and the public felt that three gave it a nice perspective. But we haven't yet seen the 2012 cars; we will see them in a couple of weeks. Rumors tell us the downforce will be less than last year, but we know in F1 reality can be different."
He added: "In theory, we should have some exciting racing, but maybe we have been too conservative or maybe we have been too aggressive. That we will not know until we get racing."