Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tyre Swapping - The new trick

An interesting bit of news has been revealed by Adam Cooper, a renowned and keen eyed motorsport journalist. He has provided a twist to the whole Pirelli tyregate / testgate saga. His revelations have given us some insight into what Mercedes might or might not have achieved during the secret test at Barcelona.

The 2013 Pirelli steel belted tyres are 'handed tyres' which means that they are marked and intended for use on a particular side of the car. So a 'handed' tyre recommended for use on the right must ideally not be used on the left side of the car. These are similar to 'directional tyres' in the sense that altering their position on the car will mean they are not performing as they were designed to. 

We can confirm that some teams have been frequently swapping the left and right rear tyres, after having discovered that they gained and advantage in performance by doing so. Some teams might have even stumbled upon this solution as early as preseason testing. 

Even though the regulations do not disallow teams from 'swapping tyres' making this solution work is not that simple. It requires a lot of attention to the setup of the aero and mechanical components on the car to get the change to deliver positive results.

Apparently sources have told magazine SPEED that in Monaco, Mercedes used the swapping technique for the first time, or atleast it was the first time it was spotted. This leads to speculation that the Brackley based outfit tried this solution for the first time during their secret test at Barcelona.

While the tyre-swapping solution may have helped Mercedes in Monaco, it might not help them in Silverstone, even if the new tyres are introduced there. Although Pirelli insist that the change of compounds will not affect the competition, the main difference between the current and new compounds will be the belt, which will be changed to kevlar instead of steel.

According to Pirelli this will prevent delamination of the tyres. They have stressed that this is a safety issue, but anyone with half a brain will tell you that they are tired of the embarrassment of the media's portrayal of the tyre issues. Most people are of the view that the delamination is safer than a complete blowout of the tyre, as it allows the driver to get back to the pits without any risk of an accident. 

The main difference with the new spec tyres will be the fact that the kevlar-belted tyres are not 'handed', ie they are exactly the same on both sides and there is no advantage to be gained by swapping them from one side to the other.

Therefore, the teams that have been gaining an advantage by regularly swapping their tyres will lose that edge, which is why they are against any change to the tyres. SInce this is technically a change of specification of the tyres, it has to be cleared by all the teams.

None of the teams who have had the advantage will agree to the change since the original tyres work for them better than they do for Red Bull and Mercedes. Since Mercedes are widely perceived to have already run the new tyres, there is every chance that they could have gained an unfair advantage over the competition.

The other interesting bit is that Mercedes also allegedly tried and testing new components, such as a new gearbox with revised suspension geometry, on their car to iron out their issues with tyre management.

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