So here we go again.
F1 legend and current Mercedes F1 Team chairman Niki Lauda calls this season’s Pirelli tires “absolutely stupid.” If qualifying results were an indicator of success in 2013, Mercedes would be dominating Formula One. Both Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, however, are with good reason downplaying their chances of victory in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, despite locking out the front row and earning the team’s third successive pole position. Only one race has been won by the pole-sitter out of four GPs this year — defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel at the second event in Malaysia — as tire management has taken precedence over lap speed. “We have to remember Bahrain,” Rosberg warned, referring to his race there three weeks ago when he went from leading the field early on to eventually finishing 9th due to excessive rear tire wear.
The idea that the world’s elite open-wheel racers must (literally) drive slowly just to make it to the next pit-stop window perverts the character of the sport. Yes, conserving tires has always been one of the arts a GP driver must master. Yet this year’s F1’s directive that Pirelli manufacture extreme degradation into their F1 tires has elevated the show over the sport. Worse, they’ve changed the nature of race strategy to put a premium on pushing at exactly the unpredictably “right” time in each stint, else face the prospects of tires “falling off the cliff.” Red Bull has been applying pressure on Pirelli to produce harder tires, feeling that an inherent car advantage the team enjoys is being disguised by having to compromise the car’s pace to work best with the tyres.
Q: What are the biggest obstacles?
CH: They are black and round — and called Pirelli. And whoever masters and understands these tyres best and most consistently will emerge [victorious] at the end of the year.
Red Bull seems to have the best understanding of the aerodynamics of its car — and particularly the Coanda system that uses the exhaust gases to enhance rear downforce. The RB9 has been designed around using the Coanda to the best effect. Sebastian Vettel adapted his driving style to go with it but the current Pirelli tires do not like to brake and turn at the same time. In sum, tires are defeating engineering and driving expertise in the guise of more “exciting” races.
“It is a different type of racing because it is a matter of achieving longevity with the tire and ultimate pace is not the crucial factor,” says Horner. Indeed.
Radio commentary 2: Pitwall to Lewis: ‘look after left rear, look after left rear’ Lewis replies ‘i cant drive any slower!’ #tyredisaster
— trevsooncome (@thirteen49) May 12, 2013
Oh great, and then 2 world champions wheel to wheel and Seb told NOT to race…This isn’t what I want or think F1 should be.
— Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) May 12, 2013