Pirelli tires at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2016. (Colors and compounds have changed since then.)
Photo: Mark Thompson (Getty Images)

After requests from Formula One and the FIA rather than a self-realization that its abundance of F1 tire names are ultra confusing and super difficult to figure out, Pirelli said it will “simplify” its system soon. But the plan is more like a facade of simplification, which just adds another layer of confusion.

Oh, well. Good try, Pirelli.

The deal, according to Autosport, is that tires will only have one of three names on a given race weekend, potentially as early as next season: hard, medium and soft. F1 chooses three dry-weather tire compounds for teams to use each race, meaning the hardest compound chosen for a given weekend will be the “hard” tire, and so on. That’s easy for the broadcast, but it hides the complex system lurking in the background.

Go ahead and brace yourself for the background.

All F1 cars run Pirellis, and these days, the number of Pirelli tires is climbing closer and closer to the number of cars in a field. That’s great for different track conditions and for the sake of car handling, but not so great for much else.

There are currently nine compounds in F1, all striped with different colors on the sidewalls, which makes for lovely rainbow photos—if the rainbow were a history book, where the only way you can learn about it is by memorization. It also doesn’t help when the stuff that has to be memorized, the names of the compounds, is just a bunch of arbitrary weirdness.

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Here’s the current lineup of dry-weather slicks Pirelli has, in addition to its two wet-weather compounds:

  • Superhard (orange)
  • Hard (blue)
  • Medum (white)
  • Soft (yellow)
  • Supersoft (red)
  • Ultrasoft (purple)
  • Hypersoft (pink)

The top of the spectrum is fine. The bottom is, well, super bad. Ultra bad? Hyper bad? None of those give any indication of actual ranking, making them easy to mix up for a casual viewer.

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Pirelli’s new idea to make things easier to understand means those compounds will take on different identities depending on which ones are chosen for which races, and Autosport reports that not only the names will be limited to three at races—the colors will be, too. Colors haven’t been chosen yet, but Pirelli boss Mario Isola told Autosport that Pirelli will still tell fans and media what the “real” compounds chosen for the weekend are.

Autosport didn’t say whether Pirelli will make the tire names in the background less confusing, like, oh, maybe doing a number system instead of an adjective system, but reported that Isola admitted tire tests will be a doozy with the new per-race system. From the story:

“At the tests all the compounds are available, because we need to understand how to paint the sidewalls at the test.

“During the pre-season test I can imagine that there will be some confusion! But hopefully we can fix it with races, where we have the three compounds.

“It is a complete change of approach compared to the past.”

Something like that.