The 2016 F1 season will prove a “lot more interesting” than last year, Pirelli chief Paul Hembery has predicted.
The sport enters the third season of its current turbo engine era with teams still searching for a way to topple Mercedes, who have won 32 of the 38 races since the rules were overhauled in 2014.
F1 history has shown that the performance of teams usually converge the longer a regulation era continues, and with the technical rulebook fundamentally stable for 2016, there is a widespread expectation that Ferrari will step up to challenge the world champions on a consistent basis.
One of the changes aimed at spicing up races is the addition of a third tyre compound per weekend and Hembery reckons the fact teams now have greater freedom in this area will help improve the spectacle – particularly in the season’s early rounds.
“I don’t think at the start of the year you’re going to see the same as normal, he told the Sky Sports F1 stage at the Autosport International show.
“I’m quite sure, and rumour has it, that some of the decisions by the teams for the start of the year are going to be interesting. So that’s quite exciting.
“You’ve got Ferrari who are talking a strong game, so we have to hope they really will deliver and give Mercedes a battle. You’ve got Haas coming in who are again suggesting they’re confident to be right in the midfield. And you have to hope people like Williams are going to be in the mix again.
“So we’ll have a season that is going to be a lot more interesting than we had last year “
With longer lead times required for Pirelli to manufacturer and ship the various tyre combinations requested by teams, selections for the first two races have already had to be submitted – more than a month before their 2016 cars hit the track.
The Italian firm have already confirmed the supersoft, soft and medium compounds will be brought to the opening four rounds in Australia, Bahrain, China and Russia. Hembery reckons there will be “quite a few surprises” as teams attempt to find the best combinations for the car and tyres.
“If you take a team like Haas coming in to the sport, they’ve got less data than everybody else, so for them I’m sure it’s quite a difficult decision to make going into the season,” he said.
“But our view is that during the year there will probably be a lot of normalising between the teams where the choices will become rather similar as the season goes on.”
And while the complexity of the new tyre ruling has provoked concern in some quarters, Hembery added: “Essentially it allows teams to make a choice away from what we’ve have chosen in the past if they feel that with their chassis they can go a little bit more aggressive and go to maybe the softer compounds and get a longer stint out of them compared to another team.”