Pirelli's new super-hard tyre compound is unlikely to make an appearance next year and is only in place in case the performance of the cars proves to be higher than expected.
Formula One's sole tyre supplier is extending either end of its compound range next year, with the introduction of the hyper-soft as F1's softest compound and the super-hard as its hardest. All compounds will be made a step softer compared to this year's range in an attempt to induce a greater variation in tyre strategy after a series of one-stop races in 2017.
New aerodynamic and tyre regulations saw lap times slashed by as much as five seconds this year and by the time pre-season testing rolls around in 2018, Pirelli is expecting at least another second in performance compared to the end of this year. While Pirelli is confident it can will be able to go softer with its compound choices at the early races next year, it is holding the super-hard as an insurance policy in case it needs a harder option once development ramps up towards the end of the year.
"It is not really a compound we intend to use next year, it is a back-up compound," Pirelli's head of racing Mario Isola told ESPN. "We want to have it in the range because if, for whatever reason, we underestimate the rate of development at the end of the year and we will have it in the range if we need to go one step harder.
"At the moment we are planning to use from the hard to the hyper-soft."
Isola hopes the softer range of tyres will mean all three of the compounds brought to each grand prix will be viable options for the race. For the majority of 2017 the performance of the hardest compound in the range has proved too slow to be considered in race strategy, and Isola is confident that will change in 2018.
"We need always to consider the average and we never make a choice [of compounds] for top teams or teams at the back of the grid. We always consider all the package and we need to make a choice that is good for everybody.
"The target is to have all the three compounds suitable for the race for next year. So not one compound that is too hard and they just focus on the two softest. We want to have these three compounds chosen and usable during the race."