Pirelli have admitted that a 4-stop strategy is too many stops for a Formula One race and most of Sunday’s runners did just that. Even a few 3-stop strategies were changed on the fly to a 4-stop tactic to stay within tow of Ferrari’s blistering pace. Now Pirelli seem keen to take a longer, in-depth look at their tire compounds and could have a new 2013 version for Silverstone.
Pirelli boss Paul Hembery didn’t stop there. The head of Pirelli motor port even leveled a finger at one team in particular telling the press:
“It’s rather bizarre,” Hembery added: “We’re only doing what we’ve done for the last two years and we don’t understand why you’re [the press] so excited.
“Unless you all want us to give Red Bull the tyres to win the championship. It’s pretty clear. If we did that, there would be one team that would benefit and it would be them.
“You have to bear in mind, if we make a change, we have a lot of teams who would be against it and one maybe for,” he added.
“I know if we make a change, I am going to have the podium people today in Spain aren’t going to be happy and then you’re going to be at Silverstone telling me we have given the championship to Red Bull. It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
It’s an interesting statement if you were a conspiracy theorist because Red Bull have ruled the roost for three years on the trot and this year they’ve seemed to have gotten it wrong in the way they manage the new, higher degrading and more sensitive tire compounds for 2013. One can almsot sense Hembery’s desire to keep Red Bull from getting a more complimentary tire to their RB9 chassis by singling them our in his commentary. That may, with all deference to Hembery, be born more from the pressure Red Bull is bringing to bear on the situation rather than a desire to see Red Bull out of the lead for a change.
The fact is, no matter how difficult Red Bull are finding the 2013 Pirelli compounds and construction, Mercedes is faring far worse but I’ve not read Hembery claiming a change in tires would hand the title to the Mercedes team. Paul seems to squarely be suggesting that Red Bull are the team complaining the most and if you were looking to mix things up a bit in Formula One, keeping the energy drink maker off the boil would be exactly what you want. As for Red Bull’s position, team boss Christian Horner isn’t quite as direct regarding Pirelli’s abilities or the teams desire to have a better tire:
“I think it’s too confusing for the fans,” Horner said.
“When we’re saying to Sebastian Vettel, you’re racing Kimi Raikkonen for position, but you’re not and don’t fight him, that’s not great.
“Pirelli are a capable company and they can get on top of it, but it’s a bit too much at the moment.”
Horner comes at the argument from a fan’s perspective of improving the value of the sport and making it less confusing over tires that are too aggressive. Horner’s opinion is not the sound of one hand clapping, however, as many drivers were bemoaning the performance of the Pirelli tire in Spain this weekend. Is this conspiracy theories at their worst? Suggesting that Pirelli have managed to bring a tire to the 2013 season that is more complimentary to Ferrari, Lotus and perhaps Force India while offering consternation to a team who have dominated the sport for long enough?
It very well may be conspiracy nonsense but keep in mind that the 2009 season saw a device called a dual diffuser that, quite honestly, skirted the rules so much it was all but banned until the F1 bosses saw that Brawn GP and Williams were the only teams to show up for the first race in Australia with the device and were clearly head and shoulders above the long-established big teams. This made for good drama and a good story line. It worked and Brawn GP secured the world championship after amassing enough points in the time it took the other teams to finally redesign their chassis’s and field a dual diffuser car. For the balance of the season they played defense and guarded an insurmountable points lead giving Jenson Button the Driver’s Championship and the team the Constructor’s Championship.
This brings us full circle back to the team that seems to be suffering the most from qualifying to the race. Mercedes struggled from the front row to finish mid-field and driver Nico Rosberg was 70 seconds behind Spanish Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. This didn’t include the first stint as Alonso remained behind Rosberg for the opening laps. Is it fair to change the tire compounds to accomodate teams such as Mercedes and Red Bull? Perhaps not says Lotus F1’s team boss Eric Boullier:
“People should ask the right questions. The question is not the tyres. If our car can do it, it is because we did something to our car to enable it to do it.”
Asked if he felt it would be fair if Pirelli made changes to the tyres, Boullier said: “In some ways it’s not fair, but we have to deal with it. Everyone has the same tyres.”
While making a tire that experiences a high level of degradation has arguably increased the entertainment value of F1, it has also stepped on the tail of safety with multiple delaminations that Pirelli insist are due to debris cutting the tire. That most likely is true but in the past, the tire has deflated, not completely delaminated with the air pressure still in the tire. This could be a very dangerous scenario and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was the latest recipient of the odd tire behavior in Sunday’s race.
Safety has trumped all pragmatism in F1 before and it will be hard to continue with the tire compounds Pirelli have offered for 2013 if the delamination isn’t solved. Having suggested as much, it will be equally difficult to return to a tire that favors the Red Bull chassis if you are currently enjoying higher TV viewing due to a team other than Red Bull dominating the series yet again. As for Pirelli, they will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. It’s the difficult position of a sole supplier to Formula One.