Formula 1 tyre manufacturer Pirelli has predicted another big reduction in lap times for the 2018 season.
The company is expanding the line-up of compounds it will be offering to teams this year. It's adding a new superhard option at one end of the spectrum, and a hypersoft at the other.
However neither will be appearing in the first four races of the season. Pirelli announced on Friday that the tyres available to teams at Baku will be the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft tyres.
Last year's line-up included the medium tyre, but no one used that compound in the race. Pirelli's director of motorsport Mario Isola admitted that the company was offering softer options in general in 2018.
"Last year we were quite conservative," Isola told RACER magazine. "We moved all the compounds one step softer and we added the hypersoft.
"The hypersoft is really, really soft. It's a bit extreme but we wanted to have a compound like that.
"We are now trying to understand where to use it. We would need a bit more data on this. Probably Monaco will be the first race where we consider the hypersoft."
The Baku tyres are the same as Pirelli is bringing to the season opener in Australia. The medium compound will be offered at Bahrain along with the softs and supersofts. And for China, teams can choose from medium, soft and ultrasoft tyres.
Drivers automatically get one set of each available compound. They then make an individual selection for the rest of their 13-set weekend allocation. A set of the softest compound must be held in reserve for use in Q3, and two different compounds must be used in a dry race.
Overall, the softer tyres should mean that cars are able to go even faster this year than in 2017, when many circuits saw new track records.
"There is the natural development of the cars because there are no big changes in terms of technical regulations," Isola explained. "On top of that you should consider we are going softer to most of the events.
"The estimates from the teams are roughly one second per lap as an average from the end of last season to the beginning of this season.
"In the first half of the season we will probably have the biggest difference compared to last year," he added. "Last year we changed the approach from Silverstone onwards. Spa was already aggressive, Suzuka was an aggressive choice.
"In terms of performance I believe 1 or 1.5 seconds is a reasonable number."