Red Bull Racing has not been entirely complimentary about Pirelli in recent weeks, with Dietrich Mateschitz railing about the tyres after the Spanish GP. Now it looks like team boss Christian Horner is soft-pedalling a little bit more, presumably in an effort to stay sweet with the Italian tyre manufacturer. One can only assume that he feels that the team’s criticism of Pirelli could end up doing more harm than good.
If Pirelli does want other teams to test tyres in the months ahead, Red Bull is hardly likely to be top of the list at the moment (even if there is no advantage to be gained) and perhaps this explains why Horner has written to rival teams saying that “our protest is not against any third party supplier” and blaming Mercedes for having enjoyed “an enormous and unfair advantage for both performance and reliability” by testing.
This seems to be stretching the point somewhat as all the cars these days are incredibly reliable and for several years now track testing has not been necessary to achieve this. In terms of performance, it is arguable, but many in F1 believe that Mercedes was always going to be strong in Monaco.
Fernando Alonso said after the Spanish GP that: “They will arrive as favourites for Monaco. They’ve been on pole position for the last three races, they were on pole last year with Michael [Schumacher]’s lap, so it would be a surprise if they weren’t on pole position in Monaco. And as you said, it’s more difficult to overtake in Monaco, so maybe they can keep good positions for longer.”
This was backed up Kimi Raikkonen, not one known for his propaganda skills, who said: “I think Mercedes will unfortunately be pretty quick there and after that it’s difficult to overtake. The only difference that they have made against most of us is in the last sector [in Spain] where it’s tight, so you can really expect, from what they did last year and what they did here, that they should be pretty fast there.”
Red Bull fanboys will argue that the team does not need to make a fuss as it is leading the World Championships.
True, but the F1 cynic would say that perhaps it is because they realise that they should not be in that position and if Ferrari had not made mistakes (or been unlucky with the front wing breakage in Malaysia and the DRS problem in China) the situation might be very different and it is quite possible that in the next few races Ferrari will get things right and close the gap…
Fixing problems in modern F1 is not an easy thing to do and much of it is tyre-related. If the tyres are not changed then it is quite possible that teams that have not got it right will have to spend considerable time and money to solve very specific problems. The key to the Pirelli tyres is to get them operating at the right temperature, front and rear. Some cars do this well in qualifying, but not so much in the races. Others are the opposite. If the rears are too hot in a race, for example, then the tyres will degrade faster. One or two of the teams are believed to have trouble with hot rear ends, because of the braking systems. Temperature from the brakes soaking through the wheel rims and heating the tyres is not necessarily a bad thing if it is at the right level. This is why some of the teams have been looking at ducted hubs. However, if the air flows are such that they cannot solve the problem without major parts being changed one can see why teams might start arguing about the need to change the tyres.
The more noise made, the less likely people are to spot the truth… which (and I am only half-joking) might also, of course, solve the James Allison mystery as well.