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F1 Opinion 23

Too much emphasis on Pirelli tyres

Poor old Pirelli. They’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

It was asked to make racing tyres that wear out more quickly, to spice up the show, and it delivered. That was a brave decision from a manufacturer of tyres for road cars. When you fit Pirellis to your hatchback, you want them to last as long as possible.

For a while, everyone seemed happy, impressed even, at the speed with which the company had got to grips (sorry) with the challenge of producing tyres for Grand Prix cars. We became used to a multitude of pit stops and ever since, the talk has been of nothing but tyres with various colours of writing on the sidewalls.

opinion  Too much emphasis on Pirelli tyres

In the heat of the Bahrain desert last weekend the ‘tyre-talk’ reached fever pitch.

How many pit stops? How many laps would they last? Who had saved the most tyres for the race? Who was on softs, who was on mediums? And so it went on, ad nauseam, through the whole weekend at Sakhir. Frankly, I didn’t want to hear another word about tyres for at least three weeks.

Michael Schumacher, plodding round outside the points, seemed to agree. Or was I the only one who agreed with him? No matter, the man who has won the F1 World Championship seven times spoke out about the durability, or woeful lack of it, after the race. OK, you could say that if he’d won the Grand Prix he probably wouldn’t have delivered this speech. But that is hardly the point. What’s at stake here is the very essence of Grand Prix racing, what we expect of the sport’s highest level, and whether we are satisfied with the spectacle.

opinion  Too much emphasis on Pirelli tyres

From the drivers’ point of view, it is not so much the spectacle that matters, but the challenge of winning a 90-minute race in the most sophisticated racing car in the world. Schumacher says the ‘tyre situation’ is no longer worthy of Grand Prix racing, that the races have become tyre-saving exercises, a kind of interrupted endurance run. Looking at the activity in the Sakhir pitlane, I had to agree with him.

Are they racing flat out? No, they are not. Are they using the full potential of the cars? No, they are not. Occasionally we are seeing the right tyre on the right car on the right day, and it wins. More often we are seeing absurdly rapid degradation, yet another pit stop, and another short sprint before the next set wear out. The Mercedes may not be the most efficient user of rubber but I do believe that Schumacher is making a wider point.

opinion  Too much emphasis on Pirelli tyres

Over the years I have not often agreed with Michael Schumacher. And I have at times been dismayed by his tactics on track. But this time I believe he has a good point to make. Surely we want to see a race that is not governed by tyres, that is run without constant interruptions for rubber. There is a balance of course and we should not return to rock-hard tyres. But Grand Prix racing must now take a step back, review the rate of degradation, and settle on a less extreme strategy for mixing up the order. We want racing on the track, not in the pitlane, please.

Add your comments

23 comments on Too much emphasis on Pirelli tyres

  1. Masta Kink, 27 April 2012 08:40

    Both you and Michael are absolutely right…it’s all become a bit artificial with the tyres…by the way, may I correct the grammer in your opening statement, referring to Pirelli…..I believe you mean…’ They are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t ‘…Journalists these days have a nasty habit of referring to everything as ‘it’, thereby being unable to differentiate between the car and the company, as both are now referred to as ‘it’……A company is a collective noun…therefore ‘they’, and the car is an object….therefore ‘it’….there is a reason for these things…!! Apologies for this outburst, but it has been gnawing away for several years…..May i also say that I thoroughly enjoy your chairmanship of the podcast, and also your articles in the mag……do please try this small grammatical adjustment to make a dedicated reader even more happy…….!

  2. Terry Worth, 27 April 2012 08:55

    Sometimes I think MotorSport mag is only happy when you’ve something to moan about.

    The racing this year has been epic. Tell me another season where the racing has been as close and unpredictable. What do you want? Schumacher is doubtless wishing tyres were built to his specification like he was used to at Ferrari (and which further dimishes his achievements in my mind). Racing has always been largely about the tyres – that’s why there was so much testing from the late 60′s onwards. Ok there was a tyre war then, but even so the tyres are the only things that keep the car on the road – of course they’re important.

    At long last F1 has woken up to the fact that it is supposed to be entertaining. If you don’t like that and just want to wonder at the technology of it all, go visit NASA or something.

  3. hamfan, 27 April 2012 10:06

    Yes, Rob, yes.

    There was another thread on this subject yseterday – my own opinions are there, so won’t repeat myself here. BUT, what I would say is that on the German coverage on RTL Schuey was MUCH more scathing in his own language than he’s come across in English over the past couple of days. Nico too. And Lauda (who kind of has the EJ job for them).

    This comedy tyre stuff can only be ‘liked’ by clowns with the attention spans of gnats – the type who’d want F1 to look like an arcade game, perhaps. It’s hard to believe many real fans, those with an appreciation of F1′s history, can feel really happy with it. They should try a season with just DRS and KERS but proper durable tyres and see how it goes. My bet is there’d be enough overtaking to keep the fidgeters happy, but not so much as to make every race a joke.

  4. Ross Neilson, 27 April 2012 10:45

    Well done Rob on looking at this issue from another angle instead of just dismissing Schumacher’s remarks as sour grapes.

    Overall Pirelli’s contribution has been excellent and we should thank them for that. However it’s a delicate balance and I think the tyres have now become too much of the equation.

    We want to see drivers such as Lewis Hamilton going as quick as they can, not hamstrung by the need to save their tyres – at least not to the extent he has to now.

    I remember towards the end of the turbo era poor Gerhard Berger having to watch the fuel meter all the way to the flag just to ensure a finish, and wondering if he could have challenged the McLarens more were he allowed to go flat out.

    Tyre management is one of the many qualities a driver needs, but it should not be the foremost one – that should be their raw pace, and we should be allowed to see it unleashed.

  5. Lewis Lane, 27 April 2012 10:52

    For me, tyre conservation has always, and should always be a part of the driver’s craft, so comparatively short life tyres that have to be nursed are only part of the issue. The main issue as i see it is the number of pit stops it induces. Although pit work has again, always been part of the game, it seems that races are being won or lost from the “prat perch” (as i once heard it described), and the drivers are driving around following instructions to a certain extent. Overly simplistic i know, but that’s my gut feeling. Pit stops either have to be limited (one a race?), or slowed possibly by limiting numbers of crew working on the car, or by massacreing the pit speed limit so multiple pit stops become a final rather than first option. Alternatively we could go back to one set per race. For me, a tyre should ideally lose all grip about 3 laps from the end; if it goes the distance, then conservation becomes a removed skill. The gamble of running non stop should be there to add some uncertainty, as racing should always be on track rather than in pit over F1 distances. The sheer numbers of tyres involved are indeed farcical, but it does seem that Pirelli can’t win whatever they do, and one wonders how long they’ll put up with it… The racing has been great this year, however so the balance is getting closer, and we shouldn’t complain too much about what we’re getting!

  6. C C, 27 April 2012 11:46

    I’m not sure i fully agree. The way F1 is now, is that we are lacking variables to make the racing interesting and stop it being a stalemate.
    The cars are practically identical at the sharp end of the grid, there are no missed gears, engine blow outs, different lines through corners, drifting, sliding..etc to the extent that the Driver can’t really make a huge difference as once was the case. The only variable left to play with due to all the above variables being a thing of the past, are the tyres.
    Tyre Management has always been a part of F1, as has old rubber v’s new rubber, Mansell & Senna at Monaco or Jerez anyone?? So its no different. Schumachers era of blasting 200km’s at a qualifying pace was good, but often led to complete stalemates as everything was completely predictable and could be modelled to the nearest 10th of a second, lap by lap – only Murray made it sound exciting. Pirelli just need to refine it a bit, thats all.
    Lets not alter F1 based on what happened on that Cap Park of a Track in the desert…..
    MotoGP this weekend – much as i love F1, MotoGP now has the European core and personalities that F1 used to have. Shame for F1, great for MotoGP.

  7. Gromit801, 27 April 2012 15:34

    A quote by WWII USN ace Jimmy Flatley would be appropriate here. Getting tired of the complaints by pilots of the Grumman F4F’s shortcoming against the Mitsubishi Zero, he wrote, “We need to stop complaining about what we don’t have, and do the best we can with that we DO have.”

    Drivers, quityerbitchin. Go race. Show us what YOU have.

  8. Ray T, 27 April 2012 15:41

    “There is a balance of course and we should not return to rock-hard tyres.”

    Why not. Rain races are exciting, low grip is exciting racing.
    Bernie had a Bernie Brain Moment™ a few years ago suggesting sprinklers and passing short cuts. DRS gave us the fake passing shortcuts, harder rubber would give us wet-like physics.

    Michael needs to finish ahead of more cars before he has any credibility.

  9. Wisemaker, 27 April 2012 16:26

    I agree with Rob. If F1 wants to throw away tires, just have Pirelli bring a single compound and let the drivers throw thumbtacks on the track during the race. The net result will be the same as what we are watching now.

    I’m in favour of what Pirelli are trying to accomplish, but they are some distance from balancing the equation.

  10. Rick 911, 27 April 2012 19:07

    Too many gimmicks in F1 it seems. Fast wearing tires and artificial pit stops is a big one.

    We are in an era of too much grip. I don’t see the challenge in stomping on the brakes coming in to a turn or likewise “pedal to the metal” on exit.

    Restrict tires to one supplier only; allow only one compound, and reduce the tire footprint to the point at which driver skill is challenged and showcased; that is, make the driver “drive” the car.

    Might this have other benefits? Like making 18,000 rpm engines that produce 1000 hp, and all the micro-aero tricks redundant? We can only hope so!

  11. Paul Sainsbury, 28 April 2012 10:37

    I totally agree with you Rob, and I am SO relieved that someone else feels the way I do!

    The current situation is a farce, Brilliant drivers can’t show their talent, and ‘journeyman’ drivers are having a field day. It needs to be sorted out, and fast.

  12. John Saviano, 28 April 2012 18:56

    I think I’m in agreement with most posters here. The “tire situation” has become too important. I’d prefer harder, longer wearing tires … maybe even not having tire stops (thanks goodness refueling went away). I don’t like these artificial enhancements.

  13. Peter Bowyer, 29 April 2012 11:18

    This is somewhat contradicting Nigel Roebuck’s thoughts eleswhere… However I don’t see a major problem in making the racing more difficult for the drivers, and managing the tryes is certainly good for the spectators.

    The only problem with these quickly wearing tyres is the disparity they cause for those cars who don’t make the front line in Q3. This then gives a distinct advantage – as Nigel has pointed out – for the chaps who qualify on row 6. It is now a disadvantage to get through to Q3 and not hit the front – giving an edge to those slower cars who weren’t quick enough to make it into Q3.

    There is a simple solution to this inequity – allow those who reach Q3 an additional set of tyres and so the top ten quickest cars still potentially remain the top ten quickest cars.

    All of the drivers still have to manage them and so it is, in theory, fair to one and all. However the present system creates all sorts of interesting results where some of the lower placed teams can score impressive placings – but it is not really fair to penalise those teams in rows 2-5 on the grid by allowing those placed on row 6 to leap ahead because they have more tyres.

  14. Frank Butcher, 29 April 2012 15:13

    Schumacher is right; do you want GP racing, or merely GP passing?

  15. Jonesracing82, 30 April 2012 12:00

    i’d much prefer what we have now over the Bridgestone days….
    having said that, 2 rules i’d love to get rid of, the top 10 tyre rule and the 2 compound ttre rule, let everyone choose what they do and it will open strategy options, as it is, everyone is locked into pitting basically at the same time as they have to start all on the same tyres

  16. rob widdows, 1 May 2012 14:56

    Yes, apologies, I do know my English grammar, and I think you’ll find the wording above has now reverted to my original text. Mistakes can happen when a small staff is coping with both magazine and website!
    No, I do not wish to moan, and certainly Motor Sport is not in the business of finding stuff to moan about. In fact I was simply offering a very personal point of view as I am just a bit tired of alll the tyre talk before, during and after the races. I realise how important the tyres are, they always are, but perhaps there is such a thing as too much focus on the various options of rubber.
    Anyway, a good debate, and many thanks to all who have joined in. In passing, I should say that Gary Anderson, a quite outstanding addition to the BBC TV team this year, pointed out that Schumacher had his own private supply of tyres when he raced for Ferrari, his tyres not being available to other teams.
    Enough said.

  17. Masta Kink, 2 May 2012 08:00

    Cheers Rob….may I say, I have been an avid reader since the re-launch in 1997, and the mag just gets better and better..this month’s feature on 1962 was brilliant…the Southgate and Boutsen interviews both fascinating….great stuff, anything ’50′s, ’60′s, and early ’70′s gets my vote….keep getting the grammar right, and perfection will ensue…!

  18. rob widdows, 2 May 2012 11:14

    Hello Famous Corner at Spa-Francorchamps
    Thanks for your encouraging note on the “re-launched” magazine. No offence taken at outburst last week. I too am irritated by sloppy ‘media English’, and I was a little alarmed at (belatedly) seeing what had happened to my text. But hey, we work as a team, and we win and lose together as they say in football. Next time it might be my mistake and – as dear Alan Jones observed – always be fair on the way up as you never know who you might meet on the way down!
    Anyway, quite enough on this. Back with a view on Mugello testing at the end of the week.

  19. Paul Hadsley, 2 May 2012 17:22

    Micheal Schumacher’s idea of racing was 2 or 3 qualifying laps after his closest rivals pitted to ensure he passed them in the pit lane.
    I got tired at the amount of “overtaking” in his era that was simply a car racing down pit lane trying to beat a car coming down the start finish line.

    For me, Refuelling was the blight on F1, and it was a blight for far too long. It took tyres out of the equation, when the tyres were grippy it didn’t matter because the car was fat with fuel.
    When the fuel came off, it didn’t matter because the tyres had gone off, the cars were never at their full potential back then either.

    Now at least I have my desire for on track overtaking satisfied, already in 2012 we’ve had some classic moves that just wouldn’t have been possible in the preceeding era.

    Formula 1 is always going to be a compromise of some kind, especially in the era of rev limiters, gearboxes for 3 races and far too much dependence on aerodynamics, but at least in
    2012 it is finally back to being a compromise worth watching!

    Maybe Micheal should stay home and watch some of his old races on DVD if he is getting nostalgic for an era that is thankfully past us now.

  20. Wheel Nuts, 3 May 2012 11:48

    Instead of having single centre spindle wheel nuts I would like to see the cars having wheels akin to road cars with at least 4 wheel nuts – one of which should be a locking nut (with the key kept in the glove compartment in front of the driver). That would encourage longer use of the tyres and make the pit stops a bit more entertaining, especially the McLaren fiascos!

  21. Carlos Sanchez, 4 May 2012 12:34

    Well, at least Pirelli is coherent with their products on the market. Great performance which does not last…
    And even more specifically, their performance is very focused on the type of tyre and it’s intended use. Whereas the competition (Michelin, Good Year, Bridgestone at all) makes better overall tyres for a wider range of conditions, as one is prone to encounter in general, and as I’ve found out on my own experience, and pocket.

  22. R.E.B, 4 May 2012 13:10

    The management want F1 to be mass market entertainment because they simply cannot make the kind of returns they require by just appealing to purists. They need to have a “spectacle”. Even if that spectacle is hoplessely contrived and phony to the knowledgable F1 fan, this does not concern them because they are outnumbered by the uninformed who will be excited by its unpredictability. Adjust the rules so as to make all the cars as similar as possible and the only variable left is tyres. How long before we have all teams running an FIA sanctioned car onto which the teams simply add thier own aero packages?

  23. Mrs Gail J Gray, 27 October 2012 18:14

    I cant say if you or your company has done a survey on Michael retiring again, i hate saying goodbye to a great sportman like Michael, i have known him since 1991 and he is the only driver i will miss, we have been so close with our friendship it is like losing a your brother, but i wish him and his family a happy healthy future and hopfully he has found peace and happiness at his retirement.

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