Interview: Pirelli’s Motorsport Director Paul Hembery – F1 2015
By: Rodrigo Marbán in collaboration with Chris Severini.
Rodrigo Marbán (RM): What does a global sponsorship, such as Pirelli’s involvement in F1, mean for the company from a business standpoint?
Paul Hembery (PH): Pirelli is all about sophisticated technology and sophisticated Italian style, which goes hand in glove with what Formula One represents all over the world. Formula One is also the perfect showcase for our technical know-how, and a chance for us to really connect with the public by contributing to the spectacle of the sport, which is still one of the greatest shows on earth. Formula One has an incredibly high-end image in every country and the fact that we are such a well-recognised partner to the sport indicates the quality of our products at every level, both on the track and the road. So from a business standpoint it’s very useful as it reinforces all our key messages.
RM: How has technology developed by Pirelli allowed for more exciting Formula 1 races in recent years?
PH: Our tyres have promoted overtaking and encouraged the use of different race strategies, which leads to more exciting and unpredicatable racing. The Formula One teams are our most demanding customers, and that is what inspires us to deliver an outstanding product, every day, that benefits the sport as a whole. Before we came into Formula One, we often saw processions or one-stop races with minimal strategies. What tended to happen then was that the person on pole waltzed off into the lead and stayed there. Sometimes you’d even see a pit stop on the last lap or penultimate lap just to comply with the regulations. We provided an alternative when we arrived in 2011 and more people started watching Formula One again.
RM: Last year, Pirelli carried out a test with an experimental low-profile 18-inch tyre. Does it have any future in Formula 1? What are some significant differences in comparison to the current 13-inch tyres?
PH: In the end, we will do what the teams want us to do – so it has a future if they want, but probably not before 2017. In our view, the new tyres looked stunning when they were run as an experiment in testing last year. If the teams decided that they wanted us to proceed in this direction, we have the capability to carry on development in this area and come up with a production-ready version in a comparatively short space of time. There are some engineering challenges to manage with a tyre like this, but it’s nothing major and there are no issues that we have not dealt with before in other championships.
RM: Speaking about Mexico, our home country, the new layout of the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit is set to be one of the fastest in the Formula 1 calendar. What can we expect in terms of tyre choices for the return of the Mexican Grand Prix?
PH: It’s actually quite hard to say at the moment, because we’ve not seen the circuit. We’ve heard that the final layer of asphalt will be laid in May or June, so at some point after then we will take some asphalt samples in order to get a clearer idea of what is required in terms of tyre choice. We’ll also be talking to the teams to find out the results of their computer simulations, as well as running our own. Until we get all that information in, predicting a tyre choice would be tricky. We’ll consider the nature of the asphalt, the layout of the circuit, and the likely ambient weather conditions before we make the decision.
RM: Any message you would like to send to Formula 1 fans in Latin America?
PH: I really love going to Latin America: the scenery is stunning and the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming. This is a crucial market for Pirelli and we’ve got some important factories there, so it’s like coming home really. I think Latin America’s role in motorsport needs no introduction: the region has produced some of the best drivers in the world and at Pirelli we feel very privileged to be part of that story.
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