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Pirelli announced that they would be bringing the Medium and Hard compound tires to the Spanish Grand Prix as well as the Canadian Grand Prix and that has Lotus F1 technical chief, James Alison, convinced that the Italian tire maker is playing it conservative. Alison told Sky Sports F1:

“Pirelli look a few races ahead at a time and give us the compound selections for the next few races based on what they’ve learnt so far in the year.

“So for Barcelona, for the first time in a long time, we’re not taking hard and soft we’re taking hard and medium. We’re taking the same selection to Monaco that we normally do, soft and supersoft, but for Canada again we’re getting a medium when previously we would have expected a soft.

“So it’s going a bit more conservative. I think they’ve had a few people in their ear about maybe taking it a step too far and they’ve gone a bit more conservative than we might have expected.”

No surprise as some of the teams such as Red Bull, have been asking for a re-think and re-craft of the 2013 compounds due to high degradation rates and durability. Pirelli has been asked by Formula One to create a high degradation tire to add tactical elements to the racing but some teams feel this year’s compounds have gone a step too far.

As for Lotus F1, they would rather see the Soft compound as they were one of the few teams that seemed to excel on the yellow-marked tires. As some argue the tires are too progressive and impact F1 too much, other teams do well on them and this have given fans a two-sided argument for Pirelli to manage…change the tires to be more durable or leave them the way they are. A difficult position for Pirelli to be in and manage the expectations.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • hobo

    I’m not a fan of this sliding of the expected compounds. If it were to keep things fluid and some races used softer compounds and some used harder, okay. But sliding multiple races to harder compounds when we haven’t even reached the midpoint of the season smacks of favoritism. I don’t think the compounds or allocations should be changed for any team. But if you are still going to change them, change them so that the field can catch up not so that the championship leaders can run away.

    I’ve had Pirelli’s back to this point because I like the precision they’ve brought to the design of their different compounds. But if they keep favoring Red Bull at the expense of the field, I’ll have to write them off as pawns.

    • So Pirelli should stick to their original plan, come what may, and let the teams adapt to them? I tend to think they would normally do that but Lewis’s delaminated tire has me concerned that even Pirelli may have thought they were too aggressive. Just a hunch.

      • UAN

        It may be that the soft compound was too aggressive. From my understanding (I forget the source, but it was a player with one of the major teams), teams really didn’t get a handle on the tires last year, Pirelli just became more conservative in their choices – just later into the season then this year.

        The delamination incidents (Massa also had that iirc) certainly didn’t help – though those were with the non-soft tires, so go figure if that played a role.

      • hobo

        I don’t think the tire supplier (in this case Pirelli) needs to play deaf and dumb to their customers, but I also think changing things at the behest of one or two teams looks bad, even if it isn’t nefarious.

        Until the delamination is shown to be a problem with the tires, generally, I don’t think they should be changing compound design or allocation. Note that it was one tire. Last I heard Massa’s were due to debris. Note also that Merc’s have been hard on rear tires since Merc bought Brawn, so maybe this is a Merc + Pirelli issue. That remains to be seen, but even if it is, that sounds to me like a Merc problem.

        We have yet to see a significant and repeated construction issue over multiple seasons. Preferences for degradation, stress graining, performance “cliffs” aside, they haven’t had a safety issue thus far. If this turned out to be a general safety issue, then I would agree with you that they should address it. But it seems like they are bowing to pressures. My 2¢

        • Rapierman

          One case of the tread coming off is one too many. If you want to drive down the road with treads that have a habit of coming off, be my guest. I’ll be in this other car with quality tires that don’t put me in danger of wrecking, thank you very much. >:-(

          • hobo

            By that rationale you won’t have any tires because all tires can have, and I would wager have had, production flaws at one point or another. Nothing is perfect and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous at best.

            As I said, if it is an underlying design issue, fix it. If it is something else—a production flaw on that tire, debris, an issue with the Merc—then changing the compound or construction of the entire tire line would be overstep in my estimation.

  • Rik

    Why can’t they just use one compound for the race weekend, be it SS, S, M or H.. Let the teams race it and that’s it make the best of it and in the case of the SS give the teams enough tires to race when knowingly they are going to last 5 laps at best. So there might be 10-12 pitstops per race.

    Or, jut go back to the way it was before when the best car/driver raced as hard as was necessary to win the race rather than driving slowest means possible to save the tires to save a pit stop to hold up traffic forever to get a better finishing position. Currently the races are BORING with these tires and this is not racing it’s parading around hoping to squeak out an extra lap to gain a minute advantage… Did I say this was boring already?

    • hobo

      This is a common complaint, and my gripes with Pirelli above left aside for the moment, I don’t really agree with it. I get this is just a difference of opinion so I’m not saying you are wrong, Rik, but hear me out.

      Tires have always lost time over their life, perhaps now it is a steeper curve, but generally new tires are faster, and have been. And barring the seasons where tire changes were not allowed (which I detest only slightly more than I do no refuelling but I digress), it has been about managing each set for the given stint. Thus the idea is to drive your stint as fast as possible, that’s it. Sometimes that means attacking drivers in front, sometimes that means letting other drivers through because fighting them will lose you time. You are racing the clock as much as other drivers, maybe more. To which I would say, little has changed.

      I’m reminded of MSC’s win at the 04 French GP where he stopped 4 times to his advantage where his rivals stopped 3 times. Granted he had the ability to refuel so he could effectively go on 4 short(er) sprinting stints. That option has been taken away by the refueling ban, not by the tires. Fuel is decided at the start of the race, and I would wager that every car is underfueled compared to what they need for a full race distance at 100%. Maybe they would need an extra stop if they were pushing the entire time, but again that is a byproduct of fueling regs, and extra stops have always been a strategy.

      Last year we saw some teams effectively using strategies with fewer stops, and this year we’ve seen Lotus able to exploit their ability to extract more life from the tires.

      Tires, to me, aren’t the big problem. It is everything they’ve done prior to the tire change. Refueling ban, DRS, severe development restrictions, lack of addressing aero issues. The by-product is the increased sterility, in my opinion anyway.

      • Rik

        True there are other issues in racing and it’s not all down to the tires, however, a race tire that last 5 laps is not a race tire it’s a quali tire.

        Tires degrade, absolutely and understandably but the 5 lap, Vettel didn’t even get 5 good ones in China, that is a bit to short for a race tire. I feel to much of an emphasis is on the tires not the car/driver. MSC even commented that the day of racing are over and today we have the days of conserving.

        Fuel ban: It was gone for a long time and there were no problems. Senna years were exciting, lots of tire pitstops back in the day too but not as often as would be the case with today’s skins.

        I think they need a real qualifying again. Not this race fuel load, pace laps to burn off the fuel then run one good lap. The days of the forgone Senna or even the begging years for JPM were a great spectacle of themselves. Have a quali tire, that’s not going to ruin a budget as they already have the SS. Get rid of Parc Ferme rules. Set the car up to quali and then set it up to race. Not a real budget killer here either.

        There are things that can be done that do not affect the budget, which is the reason we have the rules today, and can increase the show. DRS seems like a cheaters way to pass, never liked it much. KERS is all good as long as everyone has it. F1 needs to race TECHNOLOGY advancements not technology descendant from the general public cars. Let the race teams decide what the cars should look like not the FIA. With the current rules there is no room for design freedom or innovation. This is why they have DRS, KERS and these silly useless race tires.

        • hobo

          I agree with most of your points, Rik, and certainly the overall point that advancements need to enhance racing not just “the show.” And there should be more freedom to design.

          A few points though. I don’t agree that Parc Fermé should be scrapped. That would inch us back towards the days were the teams with the most money would just produce qualy parts and then throw them away for race-spec parts. I think it serves its purpose.

          Also, the qualifying format you describe (race fuel) has not been around for a few years now. All qualifying is low fuel except in those cases where they send them out for multiple laps in the wet or the threat of rain, which is still relatively low fuel.

          Cheers.

          • Rik

            Yes but there are and always be teams with a bigger budget and it simply does not work bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator rather than encouraging the lowest to raise upward. Murussia and Caterham are and will always be smaller than the other teams so they just have to deal with it.

            Bernie wanted to give points/medals/awards for quali b/c it too can be a show within itself. Now with drivers not even taking a quali lap in certain sessions has made for a bore of an event for the day. The tracks pay Bernie big money and they need a good quali to draw paying crowds in order to pay Bernie. They are getting smaller turnouts when the quali is in its current format.

            Something needs to be done to make racing better not just cheaper.