• Paul Hembery exclusive Q&A Part Two

'We're not quitters'

ESPN Staff
July 22, 2013

In the second part of the exclusive interview, Paul Hembery explains Pirelli's concerns from 2013 and its plans for the 2014 season

Paul Hembery on Silverstone issues: "It happens every now and again, you know? It happens at all levels" © Getty Images

We saw problems at Indianapolis with Michelin even when there was unlimited testing, has Pirelli been harshly criticised recently?
It happens every now and again, you know? It happens at all levels. F1 is more visible but we see things going on in all sorts of places; we're involved in 256 championships this year and you see a bit of everything when you're going around the world. It's a tough life for a tyre maker because you don't always have all of the information.

You previously said about someone else perhaps coming in, is that a concern for you that another tyre manufacturer could be being lined up?
I don't know to be honest! I'm sure some of the company would be glad if they did actually; some other mad person coming in and working in these ways! But no, we've said we want to stay in, we want to make sure that we rectify some of the issues of this year of which one was our own making, many others weren't, that's for sure. When things are tough that's the time that you keep going. We're not quitters and we will make sure that we keep working hard and doing the best that we can for the sport.

As things stand today at the point we've got to and the amount of effort you've put in to be in a position to continue next year but have not had that reciprocated yet, what would you say is the likelihood that you'll be here next year?
Oh we're pretty sure. We do have long-term arrangements with FOM and the majority of the teams so it's getting there. So I believe we will be, unless the sport doesn't want us and it changes its mind, I have no idea! But we are trying to do the best we can for the sport within the restraints we've got.

You joked some board members might be happy if someone else stole the contract, how has the feedback been towards the way this year has developed and the press that Pirelli has got?
I think for a large part of the season - and let's take out Silverstone from that - then we feel it's been very unjustified a lot of the comment and it's made a lot of people unhappy. People have wanted to use our name and sully our name for their own personal gain and that's unacceptable. But anybody seems to be able to say anything today in Formula One, there's no check and balance, people aren't looking at the bigger picture and there's too much self-interest. That's something that people really need to have a good hard look at because there might be a lot of people looking at the way that we've been treated and thinking 'We don't want a bit of that, imagine us in that situation'. So you have to be careful, we're a big company and as I say we want to stay in Formula One, we're trying everything we can to do the best job we can but we'll be around. In other forms we've been involved in motorsport for 110 years - that's longer than any of the Formula One teams - and we'll be in motorsport probably for another 100 years when they've all gone, so we'll carry on.

Paul Hembery believes Pirelli has found itself in "a battle between the teams" © Sutton Images

Do you think the teams have collectively used you as a bit of a scapegoat at times for their own failings, problems and inability to agree on things?
I wouldn't say scapegoat. We've certainly ended up in a battle between the teams - we think unwillingly - which has been a bit bizarre when they've all got the same tyres. That has been a little bit strange.

How have you found the job evolving personally? You're often a big name in the FIA press conference, is this what you expected when you first entered the sport?
No, I don't mind going to the press conferences; the company asked 'Can we try and explain things and be open?' but unfortunately that's been abused somewhat. We don't mind being as transparent as we can be trying to explain what we're doing and why we're doing it, but this season as I say for a variety of reasons has gone a bit astray. I still enjoy going to GT racing and rallying and other forms of motorsport because people seem to be smiling a lot more!

On the approach to next year, do you think you need to have more of a say in the tyres you're asked to produce? The teams asked for rapidly degrading tyres when you first arrived and now sometimes the tyres are criticised…
Yeah we're looking at tyre sizes. We might need bigger diameters, wider tyres; from what we've seen so far there's probably a good reason for maybe changing those things. We'll probably go very conservative year next year if we can - we say conservative but we might find that there's so much torque that it becomes aggressive from this year's conservative - but we do believe that with all the changes that the teams are going to have it's probably a year for us to stand back and let them deal with their new challenges until maybe everything settles down.

Is that also an opportunity for you to show you can produce whatever is requested rather than just rapidly degrading tyres?
Yeah! We can do that, we know we've got a few things available that the teams if they'd tested properly would have had by now just to give them a bit of variety. I think for some it would have been a bit too conservative but when you go to more conservative it's what you see after 35 laps it's not maybe the absolute time. You've got to look at the overall time when you're doing a lot of laps, so we can do that. We can do whatever they want really, but as I say I think next year will be a year for standing back because you don't want to throw in tyres with the confusion of maybe teams trying to master the new powerplants.

Paul Hembery says teams have been seeking clarification from the FIA over future Pirelli tests © Getty Images

Will next year's in-season tests help do you believe?
At the moment absolutely not, no, because they're vehicle tests. I'm not sure where it comes from but people seem to think that just because a car is going round a track it's a tyre test - if you put one compound on a car it's a good tyre test - but it doesn't work like that. A tyre testing session is very different. If you take a three-day test, you take 14-20 specifications, you do short runs, long runs, back-to-backs, go back to references; that's a tyre test. You can't do that with 11 cars and you don't do it by just doing five laps on a Friday morning. So our very needs are very different to what the teams' are.

I think we'd want to go with a 2014 car wet testing before we get in to the season, we'd want to go to Silverstone again before we actually race there; we don't need all of them but with a car. But of course there's this great paranoia that somebody is going to gain a benefit and maybe they will on the car - maybe we're underestimating that - but we have certain needs as well and if the paranoia leads to us doing nothing then that's not acceptable.

Do you think you'll get the chance to test a 2013 car again this year after what happened with Mercedes?
We are asking for it…

Have you had positive feedback about that?
Mixed. We've got a couple of teams maybe interested in running a 2011 car doing 1000km, which is good, but I think the big thing is we'd like to get the 2013 car run. We wanted to stay on in Brazil actually because Brazil is very good for evaluating tyres. We also wanted to go really to Bahrain in say December to get another evaluation on compounds. The cars are obviously not the same as 2014 but if the most extreme performance we've got at the moment is the current car then that's what we'd like to do.

And how's the feedback been from the teams following what happened in Paris and the fallout? Pirelli was also reprimanded; have any requests you make been treated differently?
Yes and no. Everybody wants to write to the FIA to make sure what we're doing is correct, but I don't think there's any other great difference.