In an exclusive interview with us, Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director speaks about the 2013 season and beyond. He also reveals his passion for Rugby, fascination towards other Motorsports and a particular bad point about his job.
What are the major changes in 2013 spec tyres and can we expect the unpredictability like that of 2012?
All the constructions and compounds are new – in fact, these are probably some of the biggest changes that we’ve introduced since entering Formula One in 2011 – but at the same time I think the teams will have some idea of what to expect from us this year. There’s a more rapid warm-up and more temperature going into the tyres, because they are working harder with a bigger footprint in cornering. We’re trying to bring back some degradation, because last year we actually had negative degradation, with just one pit stop. So this year’s tyres will be a little more extreme.
What does the future hold for Pirelli and when are you expecting a decision on your future from the FIA? What will be the optimum time for them to announce their decision?
Hopefully it shouldn’t be long. We’ve always said that we saw Formula One as a medium term project. For everyone’s benefit this needs to be sorted out as soon as possible, in the first quarter of this year. If the sport feels that they would like to keep us and the economic conditions remain affordable then we would certainly be keen to stay.
Do you think tyre wars are necessary in Formula 1?
That’s quite hard to answer: it’s always more fun when you are trying to beat someone else rather than yourself. However, the strong impression we have from the teams at the moment is that there isn’t a huge appetite for a tyre war because of the current economic situation. And as a tyre manufacturer, when we’ve had competition, it’s hard to assess the extent to which your contribution to success is recognised. So there would need to be a strong argument for open competition again.
You have been criticized for being revolutionary in a bid to increase the excitement of the sport. If given an opportunity to go back, Would you change your approach to Formula 1?
No, I don’t think so. We wanted to do something to help the show a bit, but we also needed to make it very clear that the wear characteristics of these F1 tyres are completely different to those of our road car tyres because they are built to do two entirely different jobs. And I think we succeeded both in enhancing the show, and communicating our objectives, so in that respect there is nothing that we would have done differently.
2014 promises to have major changes in regulations. How hard is it on the tyres?
We’ve not had any advanced discussions about this, because as it stands our contract runs until the end of 2013 and until that is reconfirmed there is not much point in going into a load of extra detail about 2014. But it’s obvious that the cars will have completely different power characteristics, which will clearly have a profound effect on the tyres, as we would be dealing with a completely different set of vehicle dynamics. So it would be literally starting from a blank sheet of paper. I’m sure that if we were given such a brief we would be able to fulfill it, but first we would need to reconfirm our contract.
You have been criticized for being conservative in certain venues during the 2012 season. How would the 2013 season be in terms of your approach?
Much the same I think, but on the whole less conservative. That situation only arose through the teams really getting on top of our tyres towards the end of the season. We’ve been asked to stick with the existing parameters of four slick tyres, an intermediate and a full wet next year, and we’ll have new compounds and constructions. The differences are not major, but there will be some different characteristics and general improvements. So we’re hoping that our 2013 tyres will allow the drivers to showcase their talents in the best possible way once more and give them something to think about from the start to the end of the season.
The Previous Tyre suppliers have created some of the most durable tyres as it also affects the brand across the globe. You went on a different approach. Now after 2 seasons how has been the impact of Formula 1 exposure on Pirelli?
It’s been really good, as Formula One is a perfect match for us. We’re the acknowledged world leader in Ultra High Performance tyres, so F1 fits in perfectly with our sporting philosophy and emphasis on the very highest levels of tyre technology. For all those reasons, we wanted to be involved and we believe that so far we’ve seen a good return on our investment with an increased level of brand recognition.
What is your primary role during a Grand Prix Weekend?
As motorsport director, I take overall responsibility for the Formula One programme as well as all of Pirelli’s other motorsport activities. But there is a great team around me. We’re fortunate to benefit from some very skilled people at Pirelli and we make full use of them, even if I happen to be in the most visible role. During a grand prix weekend, I liaise with all the drivers and teams, as well as our headquarters in Milan, and there are also many media commitments, consisting of interviews, press conferences and functions.
In that crowded paddock, how many staff from Pirelli are present over the course of the weekend?
We take about 50 people to each race, including fitters, engineers, hospitality staff and management.
Is there any particular course that they need to undergo to join Pirelli or Formula 1 in general?
Like most Formula One teams, our people come from a wide variety of backgrounds and nationalities – we have 10 nationalities in the Pirelli Formula One team alone, speaking 14 languages – but one thing they all have in common is talent and dedication to what they do. All our engineers are highly qualified, but they have taken a number of different career paths to get to where they are now. Experience is just as important as education, but commitment is probably the key element, so there certainly isn’t just one obvious route into Formula One.
Which is your favourite holiday destination?
Holidays? What are those? There’s not always time: I didn’t actually have the chance to get away at all last year, but at the end of 2011 I spent some time in the Caribbean, which was fantastic.
Pirelli has been present in different eras of Formula 1. What do you personally think about the driving styles of this generation vs the yesteryears?
You really can’t compare different eras because the cars, technology and the events are so diverse. It would be like comparing parmesan to mozzarella. The one thing we can certainly say is that the challenge is different now, but that doesn’t make it any less complex.
When were you first introduced to Formula 1?
It was so long ago that I genuinely can’t remember! But I watched Formula One throughout the 1970s and 1980s and I’ve loved it ever since.
In the field of Motorsports, Does any other category excites you more then Formula 1?
The motorsport events I first watched were actually rallies – when I was growing up in England we all used to head into the forests to watch the RAC Rally at stupid times of day and night – but I’ve always been fascinated by Formula One, as well as other forms of motorsport, such as GT racing.
When you were young, did you had any aspirations of becoming a racer?
Not at all actually: I grew up wanting to be a rugby player. I’ve still got a huge passion for the sport now
Who was your role model?
From a driving perspective, when I started watching rallies, I always remember seeing MarkkuAlen and being amazed: he was probably the driver that got me hooked on motorsport. In Formula One, it’s fair to say that I admire all the drivers. When you’re in the privileged position of being close to the sport, it makes you appreciate their astonishing talent all the more.
In which country do you think the hottest grid girls are from?
Ha ha, good question…all of them!
You travel to many races along with F1 Paddock. How difficult is it to stay away from the family?
There are not many bad parts of this job, but if I had to pick one, I would say that all the travelling means that I don’t get to see my friends and family as often as I would like to. But that’s the same for everyone: many of our people are away for weeks at a time.
We feel that you have really attained a fan following over the course of last few years, Do you interact with the fans during the off season especially when they see you in person? Are you reserved type?
We’re just here to support the real stars, who are the drivers and the teams, so I wouldn’t say that we’ve built up a particular fan base. But it’s always nice when you meet people who appreciate our efforts.
What is the best advice would you give to young students who are eager to enter into the Pinnacle of Motorsport?
You need to have a bit of passion about it. I’d say hard work as well, but that’s obvious, and this job demands so much from you that if you don’t have the passion it would be very difficult to put in the hours and effort that is required. I would also say that you have to make yourself international. Motorsport is a global business, so you have to be willing to speak as many languages as possible and have a world view on everything: in terms of engineering, culture and business outlook