New Pirelli F1 tyres in testing on a 2015 Mercedes mule at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi on 29 November 2016. Picture: Pirelli

Birmingham, West Midlands - Formula One fans can expect to see fewer pit-stops in 2017 and faster, more aggressive-looking cars, says Pirelli motorsport head Paul Hembery.

"Degradation levels will be reduced substantially compared to the past," he said at the Autosport International show on Thursday, "And the gap between the compound levels will be much reduced.

"So I think the strategy elements that we've seen in the last seasons will be greatly reduced, with fewer pit-stops, following a trend that we've seen actually over the past two years. I'm quite sure we'll see a lot more one-stop races."

The wider 2017 specification tyres are expected to have about 25 percent more grip, more thermal stability and last longer than their quick-wearing predecessors that forced drivers to pit as the tyres' performance tailed off.

The 22 drivers averaged two pit-stops a race in 2016, with that number rising to three in China.

Different challenge

Hembery said some of the prototype 2017 tyres used in early testing during 2016 were so conservative they could have lasted three Grands Prix, unlike the softer 2016 compounds that often barely made it into double figures on the lap count.

While such poor durability was a step too far, Hembery recognised there was still a risk that the new tyres would be criticised as much as the old.

"It'll probably go the other way," he smiled, "and you'll be asking 'How does Pirelli feel now that the racing is boring, there's no overtaking and no pit-stops?'."

"We've already written that script, I think, and we'll see that coming...but for six years what did we were asked to do. Now we've been given a different challenge and we're trying to meet that.

"I'm absolutely sure we will see things we want to change during the year."

The 2017 tyres have yet to be run on the latest cars, which will be unveiled in February and could be five seconds a lap quicker than the ones Pirelli gathered data with in 2016; the first pre-season test in Barcelona is eagerly awaited.

Hembery warned that the jury was still out on whether reality would match the simulations and it might take some races for a clear picture to emerge, probably at the third race of the season in Bahrain.

He added that if the new aerodynamics – with wider wings – reduced turbulence for cars behind, that would help improve the racing and allow more potential overtaking.

The flip side was that more corners would be taken flat out, making it harder to get close enough to try a move.

Aggressive looks

The bigger tyres will also throw out more spray in wet conditions, worsening the existing visibility problems highlighted in Brazil in 2016 – although that race will also go down in history for Red Bull teenager Max Verstappen's mastery of the conditions.

From an aesthetic perspective, however, the wider tyres are already winners and Pirelli are happy with the amount of tyre testing they can carry out after years of calling for more.

"Every photo we've released, if you read the comments people make, there's not one negative," Hembery said. "Everybody loves it and they are saying it looks aggressive, it looks dramatic, it looks sportier, more aggressive as a product.

"Visually, this is one of the steps Formula One has made that is absolutely in the right direction. Just need to add a bit of noise."

The V6 1.6 litre turbo hybrid power units introduced in 2014 are still significantly quieter than the old V8s, despite efforts to make them louder.

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