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Formula 1: Pirelli Announces Tyre Plans for 2012

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2012

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 24:  Tyres are seen outside the Scuderia Toro Rosso garage during previews to the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 24, 2011 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
Peter Fox/Getty Images

Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has promised closer, more unpredictable racing for 2012.

The Italian company will continue to supply six different tyres, including the four dry-weather compounds—supersoft, soft, medium and hard—along with intermediate (for "damp" tracks) and wet.

Three of the slick tyre compounds have been altered to make them softer—the soft, medium and hard.  Pirelli promises greater levels of grip and a longer performance peak, but with the same overall tyre lifespan and the same deliberate degradation characteristics which the 2011 tyres had.

The tyres will have a squarer profile (less rounded "shoulders"), and the coloured markings on the sidewalls which allow fans to tell the difference between each compound have been made clearer.

Attention has also been paid to the lap-time differences between the compounds.  2011 saw a gap of up to a second-and-a-half between the two tyres which were supplied for each race.  Pirelli stated that they aim to reduce this gap to between six- and eight-tenths.

Pirelli chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera said in the press release:

After the positive experience of last year, the teams asked us to continue providing tyres with the characteristics that contributed to spectacular races in 2011.  And this is what we have done, optimising the compounds and profiles in order to guarantee even better and more stable performance, combined with the deliberate degradation that characterised the P Zero range from 2011.  We’re expecting unpredictable races, with a wide range of strategies and a number of pit stops: all factors that both competitors and spectators greatly enjoyed last year.

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 27:  Michael Schumacher of Germany and Mercedes GP makes his way back to the pits with a puncture during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 27, 2011 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The biggest difference we'll notice should be a more sudden drop-off in performance—referred to as "falling off the cliff."  A longer performance peak, but an identical lifespan, indicates this should be more noticeable than in 2011.

And the reduced performance gap between the compounds will hopefully allow for a wider variety of strategies.  Pirelli hope for at least two or three stops per race—2011 had an average of 2.25.

Last season saw the teams struggle early on with getting the tyre strategies right, but as they gained more information as the year progressed, the Pirellis played a smaller part, and most races saw everyone opting for similar strategies.

The aim this year is to keep the uncertainty going through all 20 races.  While F1 is filled with brilliant minds and extremely fast learners, the quicker drop-offs and smaller performance gaps could well make that happen.

Fans were divided over the issue of deliberately engineering tyres to fall apart quickly in order to create "excitement" in 2011. 

With this being pushed even further for 2012, the two camps will be even further apart.

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