Was it that long ago when tire makers about burst with effort to make Formula One tires that were faster and longer lasting than the other guys? Back then it was Goodyear that couldn't be beat, but today we have a tire monopoly in F1, with Pirelli returning in 2012 as the sole supplier of all things round and black.
This year have changed in response to rules changes designed to reduce downforce gained by "blown exhaust" energy. Thus, the new Pirellis are squarer, with less rounded sidewalls, and generally have softer compounds.
Actually, there are six Pirelli F1 tires, the supersoft, soft, medium and hard slicks, the full wet Cinturato Blue and intermediate Cinturato Greens. Pirelli is resurrecting the Cinturato name for 2012; it's been a Pirelli nameplate since the 1950s.
The color denoting the compounds are larger for easier identification.
It's the soft, medium and hard dry tires that are getting the squarer profile this year, but all the dry tires are getting new compounds. The new formulations are designed to narrow the gap between each tire step. Last year the average gap between the dry Pirellis was between 1.2 and 1.8 seconds per lap; for 2012 the goal is to reduce those to between 0.6 and 0.8 seconds.
And in marked contrast to the earlier days of getting a Grand Prix tire to last as long as possible, the 2012 Pirellis have been specifically designed to degrade at specific, predictable rates. The idea is to make more interesting racing by forcing different tire strategies on the teams.
Pirelli developed the 2012 tires at its research center in Milan, Italy and in free-testing periods at several Grands Prix last season, along with a private test session and the young-driver test last November. In all, 6000 tires were consumed in testing.
The new Pirellis debut in anger February 7 at Jerez, Spain in the first official 2012 F1 test session.