Barcelona has never been a racing circuit where there have been great Formula 1 battles. The design of the track is such that it usually shows the attributes of a car rather more than the skill of the driver. In the old days, one got used to seeing grids that were team by team by team. It is a good place for testing, but the races were not often spectacular. Overtaking was not impossible, but you needed a big car advantage to get ahead of a rival.

Eighteen years ago I wrote a race report from Montmelo which ended with the following sentence: “But for all the celebration at Benetton – this was only the team’s second ever 1-2 finish, after Japan 1990 – the race was eminently forgettable and very dull to watch. “Who won the race?” said a fellow pressman 90 minutes after the race had ended, as he tried to focus on writing a report. It had been that kind of an event.”

Nine years later, in a report called “The train in Spain”, I concluded the following: “If the Spanish GP did anything, it alerted the F1 world to the fact that even at a track where overtaking is usually possible, there wasn’t any.”

One year I recall all the red top newspapers in the UK decided that Formula 1 must be boring after one of the Barcelona races. Today they are all squawking about tyres. It is this week’s squawk. Lewis Hamilton did not do very well and so they have all got together and decided that “the story” is the tyres. And, believe me, this I how they do it. They work together so that no-one can be accused of missing the story. It is like the wagon trains forming circles when the Indians attacked. It is self-preservation.

The point that they are all missing is that we had action all the way through the race and while they may have found it all rather too confusing, it does not mean that Pirelli does not know how to make tyres. It is quite the opposite in fact. The Italian tyre company deliberately builds tyres that fade because they want to show their expertise. The F1 teams asked for better racing, after the boring Bridgestone “concrete tyre” era, and this is exactly what Pirelli has delivered. Designing tyres that fade at the right point is not an exact science, as we know some cars are harder on tyres than others. But teams that complain only complain because their cars don’t work on the tyres. So today we have lots of whingeing from Red Bull and Mercedes. Hmmm… I wonder why? This is how F1 teams operate and one should ignore them. We did not hear Red Bull whingeing about the tyres after Bahrain, did we? The reality is that the team does not really appear to understand how to make them work. This is presumably why they have recently taken on a Sauber engineer called Pierre Waché, who they seem to think was the reason that the Swiss team was so good on its tyres last year. Waché is a former Michelin engineer who was in charge of vehicle dynamics at Hinwil.

Ferrari pinewood derbyI truly believe that whatever the rules of the competition the same teams will be at the front, whether they are building soap box racers or Formula 1 cars. This has actually been proved a few years ago at the French Grand Prix when a “Pinewood Derby” was organized in the Paddock Club. The Pinewood Derby is a competition developed by the Boy Scouts of America to teach youngsters basic carpentry skills and to promote father-son relationships. Each year around two million cars are built from regulation blocks of wood, four plastic wheels and four nails, which act as axles. In the F1 version there were a total of 15 entries, eight from Formula 1 teams and seven from the Boy Scouts. The FIA’s Charlie Whiting was the official starter. The urge to compete was such that the Ferrari team produced some spectacular cars using the latest technology, including CAD-CAM design and manufacture, heavy-metal ballast and carbon composite fins. Not surprisingly one of the Ferraris won (just!) but to show just how much they cared, even the then Technical Director Ross Brawn turned up to help out. The three Ferrari “Pinewood” cars (there was a T car as well) are worth an absolute fortune now. They are almost unique.

The top teams win because they are cleverer than the opposition and have the resources that they need. The battles between them ebb and flow, but the same organisations are always there or thereabouts. Occasionally one will fade or a new challenger emerge.

There are some who think that the tyre rules today are a little too much. I disagree. I think that Pirelli deserves a huge pat on the back for producing tyres that make for interesting races. We have had five races this year and each has its own very distinct story and this is the kind of uncertainty that makes for great sport. Those who say it is too artificial should take note of the fact that the top four in the World Championship standings are all former World Champions, proving that it is the best drivers who emerge, no matter what the circumstances. I would question the tyre compounds a little more if there were winners so unlikely that the races had become contrived, but I do not believe that is the case.

Yes, it is a balancing act and it is hard to get it perfect, but Pirelli has done a great job.

Better still, the company is staying alert. After the race in Spain Paul Hembery tweeted the following: “A popular winner. Nando in Spain. Not our best race, we aim for 2 or 3 stops, never 4. Been too aggressive, so will need to have a rethink for the rest of the season, certainly in time for Silverstone, maybe Canada.”

This is exactly the kind of tyre manufacturer a modern racing series needs.

205 thoughts on “Choices

  1. I’m a little flabbergasted with Mercedes having missed the mark again with their cars’ tire management. Although who could’ve predicted McLaren having such a botched design either!?

        1. They clearly lack both. Jenson’s never been a clear leader in my humble opinion. That’s not to detract from his clear talent, after all when everything’s working for him he’s superb. It’s when everything’s not quite rosy that he finishes 12th and moans about his team after the race.

          P.s. do him and the mexican get on?

      1. I agree with your sentiments regarding team spirit but leadership has to be called into question. 1998 was the last time they won the constructors championship. I would love them to win again but with 2014 looming on the horizon what chance of them winning another soon Joe? Doesn’t seem likely under current management.

    1. Surprisingly it’s a whole new car this season from McLaren, not an evolution of last year’s. So they have made a rod for their own back (plus new ones for their suspension). They have thrown away a year’s chassis data and started from scratch.

      1. Sometimes a whole new car is a good idea (see Mp4/19B vs MP4/19A or Mp4/20A)

        Sometimes its a bad idea: See MP4/18A/X.

  2. ‘Never 4′? Well it was four at malaysia and he didn’t say this, because all the focus was on team orders after the race. You can’t say that it is fine because the top 4 in the championship are all world champions. that’s because they’re in the best cars. If they were in Williams’ would they be at the front? No. The bottom line is racing is false at the moment. I want to see competition, not a soap opera.

      1. So who from the back will be making their way forwards in the next couple of years in your opinion Joe?

        1. Very few – same as it’s always been…the top teams haven’t really changed in 25 years, with only Williams falling away and Red Bull floating to the top, and that took well over a decade to achieve.

    1. Malaysia was a wet-dry race with everyone making extremely early stops to change to slicks, so not a relevant comparison in this case.

  3. The larger conversation, of course, is the one where rabid fans who advocate “ultimate highest bleeding edge technology should be the only rule in F1” talk to those who, you know, want to avoid sleeping through the show. And of course, the former crowd talking to those who actually want to run a series on a budget that makes money instead of losing money.

    F1 did, and does, limit technology, since its inception. And it should limit technology, for the same reason that it is limited in every other series, from the local dirt track on up — safety, cost, and “the show”. Fans who get all hyped up about F1 being superior ’cause they are bleeding edge need to understand that there is a business to this thing, and without that business, there will be no race. And perhaps also realize that there is fun to be had, and money to be made, with some pretty primitive (by comparison) technology.

    1. How much do you not want to be sitting on a plane next to one of your “former” fans? I’m a bit of an F-1 “anorak”, but even I understand that while cutting edge is great, I’m not the one paying the bills. So many great series have tanked because of “technology wars”; think CanAm, GroupC/IMSA GTP, even CART (IndyCar is nothing like CART was back in it’s heyday). They all featured cars that were cool to look at, fast while standing still, but the format became unsustainable. F-1 has come close over the years, something that Max Mosley, for all his faults, was spot on when he railed against spending money. (Of course, it could be said that some of his constant rule changes to prevent teams from spending too much money ironically cost the teams a ton of money.)

  4. I completely agree Joe and I’m sure that the clever folk at Pirelli will have a look at this and adjust their approach. I wrote that I was disappointed with the race but then again I’m a fan of Lewis in particular. Seeing the front row fall back in the way that they did just seems odd. Not sure if this has happened before. The fact that they are changing the tyres is an interesting point. The boys at Lotus would quite rightly be unhappy about that as it appears that they have an advantage. Could play out well for Lewis though and I suppose that won’t be a bad thing. Thanks.

  5. Could not agree more.

    I just read what Red Bull owner had to say. Obviously politics and perhaps put out there to pave the way for an exit by Red Bull from F1 at the end of the season? They will argue the brand wants true racing, its stitched up to help Ferrari, no real racing bla bla, when in reality their chances of success will be less next year onwards with more emphasis on engine vs. aerodynamics and Red Bull and best try and go out on a high?

    1. Who cares if Red Bull leaves? It is a drink manufacturer. Someone sensible would buy the team.

      1. I don’t care and let us hope it would be someone sensible, preferably a Honda and NOT a Telmex or the state of Venezuela/Russia/China!

      2. Mr Mateschitz’s comments did look (to me at least) a little like a man looking for an exit strategy.

        1. Well, given that he is funding two teams, Toro Rosso basically only being funded because they need somewhere to park their driver program F1 graduates, I cannot see both teams continuing for ever. Sooner or later the marketing benefit will diminish.

  6. I tend to agree with most of your assessment Joe. The cream always rises to the top no matter what. Five world champions in the field, two in Webber and Massa who could have been; at least four teams currently with a genuine chance of winning a race this season (I still include Mercedes in this group), tracks of varying characteristics which suit some better than others – of course there will be different winners.

    Whilst in this case, the tires may have gone off sooner than intended, I would rather this type of race than a procession where the pole sitter is almost guaranteed to be the winner. We have one of those races coming up next too for the “good old days” brigade.

    Having said that though, there is a case to be made for slightly more durable tyres with India 2012 being a reasonable template to aim for. A slightly larger, less temperature sensitive operating window for the tyres, slightly more durability and you would shut up 90% of complainants.

    As for the nonsense of the race being too hard to follow, I managed to follow it reasonably easily without the benefit of watching it due to being stuck on a rig in the middle of Australia. All I had was the FIA live timing screen and the #f1 twitter feed going.

  7. The voice of reason!
    This article should be printed in every newspaper/magazine or news website even remotely related to f1 just to stop the constant whining about the tires.

    Right now there is a lot of intrigue and proper developing news stories going on. Will Kimi be consistent enough not just to finish on the podium every race, but also win them? Will Alonso maintain such great push to victories? Will Red Bull stop war of words and actually fix the cars problems? (Their comments are especially annoying since they are still leading both championships) When will Mercedes drop the efforts for this season and concentrate entirely on the 2014 car?
    There is so much more to it that just the black stuff.

    Joe, keep up the good work. This blog is becoming the only source of proper f1 news on the web.

  8. For the life of me I cannot understand why a tire manufacturer, who afterall is in the business of selling ostensibly durable, well-performing tires to consumers, would want to build racing tires that self-destruct after a few laps. What kind of publicity is this?? It would be like Honda building racing engines that, if one is lucky, could be nursed through a 90 minute race before going KABOOM on the cool-down lap. From a marketing/business point of view this makes ZERO SENSE. Best of luck to Pirelli in their quest to make themselves a global “laughing stock.” I must admiti it’s quite the unique marketing strategy…I’ll stick to my high performance Bridgestones, thanks.

    1. The answer is clearly explained in the blog item. If they can design very specific tyres for F1, they can design very specific winter or summer tyres. It is counter-intuitive but logical.

      1. I’m not sure if the average joe watching or perhaps just hearing the press about the tyres going off would get that or bother to think that much about it. They have done what they have been asked so I feel a bit sorry for them getting a lot of stick for it (although I think they are slightly too quick wearing).
        Unless it does change by Silverstone and they stop getting criticism I can’t see them continuing to spend millions on being in the sport and getting negative publicity all the time

    2. Joe and I do agree here. And it happens in all major motor sports. Last year I talked to Firestone in IndyCar, and they were miffed over drivers complaining about tires. They commented that Indy officials specified the tire characteristics, and that’s what they provided. Had IndyCar asked for different characteristics, Firestone would’ve built a different tire.

    3. But that’s exactly how engines used to be engineered, when it was a new engine for every race (and practice/qualifying session)! And of course, now the only difference is they explode after 4-5 races, not one.

      1. And you saw the same effect with the cars themselves when we shifted to counting all of the races towards the championship. Before that change, cars frequently failed in races, because it was worth the gamble to build a more fragile but possibly faster car. Since then, they rarely do so, because gathering points in every race is so important.

        Engineers tend to design to what they need to achieve.

  9. I totally agree Joe.

    I’m fed up of everyone moaning about the tyres. I’m of the view that it’s not the tyres it’s that the cars that aren’t designed optimally for them.

    The reality is that it is possible to design F1 cars that are easier on the Pirellis (see Lotus for details) and it’s up to these apparently clever F1 engineers to work out how.

  10. Todays tyres are much better that several years ago, they make the racing more interesting. The Bridgestones were too robust, remember Vettle doing a race when his single pit stop was on the penultimate lap, it was a mockery. Todays statement from red bull saying that ‘F1 today is not racing’ is true- for them it is marketing!!

  11. Everything in F1 is tied down to a set of entrant-agreed rules: same engine specific outputs, same fuels, same aero – all except the tyres which are ruled by the supplier. So it’s no longer racing at the pinnacle of technology – just a tyre-race lottery. Whatever next: a lucky-dip for selecting which tyres teams get to use at each race? It would be no more or less arbitrary than we have now. And the more the situation is allowed to exist, the more the ‘product’ moves away from a recognizable connection with what you see on your road car; can you imagine agreeing to buy 24 sets of new tyres a year for your Golf just because they are called Pirelli?

    1. “So it’s no longer racing at the pinnacle of technology…”

      And it hasn’t been for decades, if ever. See my comment on guys like you needing to talk to people who have budgets, are concerned about safety, and want a good show.

    2. No. If it was a lottery, each driver would be given *different* tyres. What actually happens is that they are all given the *same* tyres, and have to manage them as best they can.

      Think of it as a sort of test of the skill of the engineers and drivers. A bit like a competitive championship.

      And the tyres are not ‘ruled by the supplier’. Don’t be daft.

    3. If it was a lottery, we wouldn’t have the 4 current best drivers in the top 4 spots in the championship..

    1. It is not just about set-up, it is about design. It is about driver skill. It is about what racing is about!

      1. Racing is about strapping yourself in a car and aiming to pass the person in front of you. The crew’s job is to design and setup a fast car for you to do so.

        I don’t believe the engineers in the F1 paddock are idiots, so how did 82% of them miss the setup AND design so badly? Only 3 cars on the track yesterday showed a clue for what they were doing and aiming to go fast: Alonso, Raikkonen, and Massa. The 2 Red Bulls were best of the rest and they were 20 seconds clear of 6th.

        I did love Lewis Hamilton’s mid-race quotes though from the radio for humor purposes:

        After Maldonado went by – “We just got passed by a Williams.”

        in response to crew telling him to slow down to conserve his tires – “I can’t drive any slower.”

          1. It appears that 2013 F1 racing, supposedly the peak of the motorsport world is about racing against yourself. Keeping to the plan defined before the race, such that you can make it to your next pitstop window and forget about actually trying to keep up with and maybe even pass the faster car in front.

            Apparently, F1 needs to be relevant to car manufacturers to attract them into the sport. How are tyres that fall apart after a few laps relevant to the fans and the manufacturers?
            It may be good from a PR perspective for Pirelli, no such thing as bad publicity etc, but does everyone look at a tyre falling apart and think ‘I really must pop online and buy a set of Pirelli’s (which are usually one of the most expensive brands..) ? I know I don’t. Never have and probably never will unless they were much cheaper than an equivalent brand.

          2. “The secret”, said Niki Lauda, “is to win going as slowly as possible”. This remark is sometimes attributed to another and even greater racing driver, Juan Manuel Fangio. Racing is about winning!!!

            1. A great man once said “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning’s winning.”

        1. Did anyone else than Lewis have to go ‘that slow’ because of his overheating tyres?
          Vettel said “obviously we do something to make the tyres wear more”. Make more stops, then.

        2. Look at 2011. How did everyone bar Vettel “get it wrong”? They didn’t, Vettel in that RB7 and RBR simply outdid everyone that year. So well in fact, they could orchestrate Webber’s one and only win in the final race to give him some motivation for the coming season and relegate Alonso to 4th place by 1 point.

          “82%” didn’t get it wrong. The others (Ferrari/Renault/ even RBR despite their complaining) have simply done a better job. Luck plays into that as well and lucky for them, unlucky for others. The season is still young.

          Seriously though, all this ranting by everyone is annoying. Whats the difference between having a car that has a tire advantage and one with an aerodynamic advantage ?

      2. Hamilton destroyed his tyres to a degree that he didn’t finish in the Points, despite driving a car fast enough for a front row lockout. Is he really such a bad driver? Or is it contrived?

        1. Racing has always been about looking after the car and the tyres. To finish first you must first finish…

    2. 9 out of 11? Force India is doing good. McLaren and Williams aren’t floundering because of tires. Marussia has improved a ton.

      As far as I’ve noted from press articles it’s REd Bull (who are leading both championships) and Mercedes having problems with the tires.

  12. Like you Joe, I live in France – Michelin country. I have just been to my local garage to get 4 Yokohama 048s swapped for my track car. The old tyres were shot after quite a few trackdays. The guys in the garage all laughed when they saw them, but said ” at least they weren’t Pirelli”

    I have bought two cars while living here, a Porsche and an Alfa. Years ago, I would have expected both marques to be shod with Pirellis; both came with Bridgestones, I guess their involvement in F1 effectively overcame any natural resistance from buyers.

    If Pirelli were as smart as you say, they should have extrapolated the data from 8 days of winter testing to the likely track temperature yesterday. Remember they were running the two hardest compounds at the weekend. Tyres that fall apart in front of a worldwide TV audience are likely to generate negativity in the longer term.

    Cars lapping little faster than GP3 cars and slower that GP2 are clearly not at the pinnacle of motorsport. If Red Bull cannot get their collective heads round the problem, the problem may be insurmountable. The red tops are right to point out that if the first and second fastest cars can only finish sixth and twelfth and drivers are then complaining about only driving at 70% it is simply a nonsense. Yes Fernando and Ferrari did the best job yesterday, but it was at the expense of a descent race, drivers just keeping to their preordaned deltas and waving faster cars past.

    If it is absolutely desirable to have multiple tyre changes, then simply change the regs. I want to see a faster driver pressure the car in front and take risks, braking later. KERS and DRS should tend to stop races being processional,. All I ask is that Pirrelli be allowed to produce some slightly more durable tyres and not become an even greater laughing stock than they are today.

    1. Pirelli top management are way smarter than the guys in your local garage. That us why they are in the jobs they are in.

      1. Smarter at analysing spreadsheets, placating shareholders, blue sky 360 degree brainstorming, climbing the greasy pole. I’m sure they know more about dealbroking andbranding. Rubber? Maybe…

        1. They clearly got their collective heads together to coin the phrase “It’s the same for everybody” . Unfortunately, after only 5 races, everyone is breaking ranks. The tyres are a joke, something needs to be changed and urgently.

          What we are witnessing is not motor racing by most people’s standards. If this sort of thing went on at a minor race, without diamond screens and live timing, nobody in the grandstands watching the race would understand what was happening.

          F1 needs to be the pinnacle of motor racing, not something completely different. The fact that TV and the world’s press are there to explain what is happening should not change the basic principles.

          The fastest driver/car starts at the front of the grid and usually has the best chance of winning the race.

          1. nobody in the grandstands watching the race would understand what was happening.

            I really don’t get this. At the Barcelona race, I called the end result after lap 18 or so as being Nando followed by Rai and Massa or Massa and Rai. I don’t see what’s hard to follow here really. Basic arithmetic shows fairly quickly who will have to stop how often and remembering that stopping is about 20-something seconds can’t be that hard?

            Now if you said cricket was incomprehensible, that would actually make sense.

      2. Doesn’t matter if they are smarter, the ones in the local garage are the ones who buy the tyres.
        This just doesn’t look good for their product.
        I think they have done a great job in going against the traditional approach of making the best tyre to make things more exciting, but I just think it has gone too far. I hope they do improve them as they have said they would for Silverstone.
        I totally understand the skill of preserving tyres but it is one skill of many needed to win a GP, I don’t think it should be the main one as it just isn’t exciting “I can’t go any slower” isn’t something F1 fans want to hear and casual F1 fans will understand

    2. Using this logic people buying AMG Mercedes road cars would expect them to chew through their tyres in ten minutes. Most people know there is a difference between a company’s f1 programme and their road one. Some are saying that casual observers may associate Pirelli with poor quality. i would argue that anyone who is that casual an observer won’t even know any details other than Pirelli is the logo that appears on the winner’s cap.

  13. thank you for providing the depth and perspective to this really big show that is too silly to concern myself with at times.
    your story telling is first rate and demonstrates that by using collaboration an effective team effort can produce any number of results which challenge people of all ages to enjoy the daily choices we must all confront in order to grow as mature adults in my opinion.
    well done sir.

  14. I agree, mostly, with your analysis. But what’s going on with all the recent tire delaminations? That should really be worrying Pirelli, both from a technical racing viewpoint and the bad consumer publicity aspect.

    1. I think the steel belt design is a real revelation – a tyre that doesn’t blow out – that’s marketing!

    2. Paul Hembery explained this in the last week or so. I’m paraphrasing, but basically the carcass is much stronger, so that in the case of a puncture, instead of the whole tire blowing apart, only the outer casing comes off.

  15. Aren’t you in the least a bit suspicious about all those ‘cuts’ appearing on tyres, Joe? Why are we not hearing more from you F1 journos on these issues, which could potentially have a grave impact on safety? What happened to the ‘investigations’?

    It’s happening a bit too much to still speak of coincidences, its like the tracks are strewn with tyre cutting debris this year if you believe everything Hembery says. He’s always so much on the defensive at the slightest hint of criticism I doubt he ever speaks fully candidly about such issues.

    Aren’t F1 journos supposed to dig into this kind of story instead of just taking the guy’s word for it?

    1. There have always been punctures in F1. It happens. With these cars when there is a puncture the treads come off. The belts are still there. Who has crashed because a tyre problem?

        1. I think you may have missed my point. The sport was not using modern Pirelli tyres from 2013 in the 1970s, so you cannot pluck examples from then to try to prove your point.

    2. “its like the tracks are strewn with tyre cutting debris this year”

      Well they are every year. It’s called carbon fibre.

    1. That may be your opinion, but the PR people at Pirelli do not seem to be thinking the same way way as you do.

  16. Next year’s FA Cup Final is to be played wearing flip flops. It’s the same footwear for all the players, and allows Nike to show their expertise at making unsuitable-for-the-purpose equipment. That logic reminds me of Les Dawson playing piano.

      1. That *was* my point. Nike are very good at making football boots, but, for the sake of the show, will make flip flips. Pirelli can make good tyres, but, for the sake of the show, make crappy ones. Les Dawson was a good pianist, but for the sake of the show….

        I thought F1 was competition, not Light Entertainment.

        1. Well, if the FIFA chooses to have Nike make flipflops to spice up the show, or to avoid spiked boots hurting other players, then we will have them. Actually remember that ball with a strange trajectory a couple of years back, (the Jabulani – that was a very similar situation.
          In the same way the teams, and the FIA asked Pirelli to do something different, and Pirelli have done a great job at it, even despite very limited ways of even testing the tyres they develop before they are used.

    1. Yes, but the teams are allowed to design their own socks which will help to make the flip-flops work better for their players…

      That’s the logic. The tyres may degrade, but they’ll degrade faster if the car isn’t designed to help prevent wear.

  17. Pirelli should allocate Bridgestone-like tyres for the next three races (which as Hembery said would probably favour Red Bull.) After three processional races and Vettel wins, let’s see what the Pirelli critics have to say.

      1. Ahh, if only they still were, Joe. I really miss having fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. Why did they stop that? Surely, it’s more environmentally friendly.

        1. Would you really want your food anywhere near things as unsanitary as the Red Top Tabloids, the D**ly Expr*ss or the D**ly M**l?

          I know I wouldn’t.

    1. The last time I read anything about this area of F1 governance, Pirelli’s tyre supply contract was due to expire at the end of 2013, and had not been officially renewed. If all that happens after races is Pirelli being slammed from all quarters for it’s tyre behavior, they might just decide to spend their resources on something else. They didn’t come into F1 to collect negative publicity.
      Before anybody starts bloviating about how other tyre companies are waiting…would you agree to supply the entire field in F1 from 2014 when you don’t even have the ability to track test your 2014 tyres in 2013 under the conditions in which they will have to operate from 2014 onwards,, and you have no recent construction or operation data from F1?
      If there is no replacement lined up for Pirelli, somebody needs to seriously consider duct-taping Christian Horner and Deitrich Mateschitzs’ mouths shut. Right now, they are coming across as a pair of colossal whiners, and they are pissing off Pirelli.

      1. If this is thereaction by the teams and press, Pirelli (and whoever else may be tempted) may see the F1 tyre supply contract as a poison chalice.

        I can’t remember whether or not Michelin declined to tender for the F1 contract last time around. If so this may be the pattern for the next time it comes up for tender.

  18. I just thought of something. If it had rained a bit more during the first 5 race days we would not be talking about tyres! Bernie get out the sprinklers and let it rain 🙂

  19. Here, here Joe. It’s great to see an F1 pundit who doesn’t subscribe to the groupthink. The 2013 race was quite interesting as races at Circuit di Catalunya go. The cream is rising to the top this year (look at the Drivers’ Standings) and I think the teams should work harder to understand their rubber and spend less time moaning and manipulating the media!

  20. Spot on Joe. As for people saying that they shouldn’t make tyres that don’t go the distance and that they wouldn’t do that with engines – you people have very short memories or you don’t know the sport very well! There used to be more ‘booms’ during a Grand Prix than in a song by Baldrick! I say bravo Pirelli!

  21. More worrying than the attitude of the red tops are the comments of the specialist magazines, which also seem to be harking back to some non existent golden era when everyone could race without thinking about the tyres, and everyone had such fun. If they were not whinging about tyres, it would be gearbox or engine restrictions.

    It is a shame that the team with allegedly the best designer and fattest budget try to dress this story up as though it had nothing to do with engineering and everything to do with luck. What utter rubbish! The teams had a taste of the new tyres last year, and went on to design their cars accordingly. It is a technical challenge, both for the engineers and for the drivers. Some of the teams are embarrassing themselves for not understanding it, as are a good number of journalists.

  22. Action all through the race? Really?

    Sure there were a few people breezing past each other using DRS, but that’s about as entertaining as watching an overtake on the M25.

    Ok there were lots of worried radio messages from the pitwall, and there was some strategy dilemmas that held some interest – and don’t get me wrong, I love that side of F1 – but the problem this Sunday was that that is pretty all there was. And I tune in, mainly, to watch brave people driving dangerous cars as fast as they dare. That is not what I saw yesterday.

    In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw that. Certainly not this year. It’s just been people driving to pre-calculated lap times – aside from a rare few moments when they get approval from the pitwall to push.

    I remember in 2009 Rubens being told to “give us three qualifying laps” and yesterday we heard Lewis having to tell his team “I can’t drive any slower”. I know what I want to be watching.

    The problem with F1 for is that drivers are simply having to be totally risk-averse. Go for a slightly risk overtake and you’ll ruin your tyres, defend hard and you’ll ruin your tyres (and he’ll get you anyway with an extra 20km/h in a unspectacular DRS pass). Drivers just have to drive around at the 70-75% pace dictated to them by the team’s computers.

    I don’t know if you don’t actually get to watch the races Joe, although I’m sure they’re infinitely more entertaining in the flesh and blood (can’t wait for my trip to Singapore in September!). But honestly watching F1 on TV at the moment is dry, clinical and as dull as old dishwater.

    1. ‘And I tune in, mainly, to watch brave people driving dangerous cars as fast as they dare. That is not what I saw yesterday.’
      Exactly. I do too, when I am able to, if it’s on the beeb. I don’t tune in to watch drivers nursing their tyres or letting someone past because they have less drag. Bore off ! Why do they need to have ‘drag reduction systems’ in the first place ??

      1. Because the last thing everyone and his dog complained about was the lack of overtaking. All the people who are apparently dead keen on just seeing drivers go flat out and don’t care about overtaking were strangely quiet at that point…

  23. The U.S. TV commentary team — which is not having a particularly good year in my opinion — suggested that Barcelona represented a paradigm shift in Ferrari’s (and by extension, if it works, everyone else’s) approach to the tires. Their theory was that Ferrari has just decided to go full out, non stop, with little regard for wearing out the tires, and box as often as needed. Don’t shoot me, I’m just trying to paraphrase their argument.

    Any thoughts?

    1. I was pretty surprised by that during the broadcast, and thought it sounded like a desperate attempt to weave a narrative that wasn’t really there. And I agree, the commentary has been lacking, Diffey is nowhere near as good as Varsha was.

      1. Not just Diffey and Buxton, though. Matchett has said a number of completely wrong things this year (although Hobbs is pretty much his enjoyable self). I understand that pit strategies in the second half of a race can be confusing, but they’ve been doing a terrible job with the analysis on several occasions.

    2. I actually thought that analysis was quite daft (to use an English phrase). Ferrari used the same strategy that a large majority of the field used. They just have a better car at this point (or for that track).

      I think if any team decided to ignore the tires and just go full out, they’d quickly destroy the tires and get dropped. I think Will Buxton was over-interpretting results without taking time to analyze the situation.

        1. Yes, but Lotus has been doing that. They are easier on their tires, so they can stay out longer.

          Will Buxton’s hypothesis was that Ferrari were ignoring tire wear and just racing flat out, making as many pit stops as needed. I don’t think the data shows that (which was my point about the majority using four stops), and I’m not sure that Kimi’s strategy has much bearing on the Ferrari hypothesis.

          By the way…I’m not sure if you have seen the U.S. coverage, which Mr. Raymond was reffering to, so these comments may not entirely make sense without that context.

  24. Like everyone else, I’m sick of talking about tires. I don’t want them to be a part of the story, unless there is competition among manufacturers, which isn’t going to happen. I didn’t like the “race” yesterday; it seemed more like a time trial event. This year, Pirelli tried to stay ahead of the learning curve of the teams and went too far. It’s hard to believe they would be happy with the PR they’re getting — a casual observer would conclude that “Pirelli sucks” and never understand the brief they are working to.

    1. Me, too. The teams are made up of super smart people being challenged for innovation and invention, as they should be, and none of us knows what is going to happen.

  25. Totally in agreement, we didnt know till very late in the race if Kimi or Fernando would win,persuing different strategies in different cars, or if Massa could catch them, surely that is racing at its best and pinnacle. And it looks like Nico could have had a much better race had Mercedes picked the right strategy for him, does make you wonder what they were doing for two days of practice though other than ensuring a front row lockout so the big Mercedes boss could stand at the front of the grid….As for Red Bull I guess their problem is they dont want to or cant easily dial the aggressiveness of the car back, so would rather complain they arent winning by blaming others, such is F1, at least some teams are honest enough to admit theyve got it wrong. I just hope Pirelli stick with the approach they are following and arent swayed or pushed into going back to what we used to have.

  26. Better tires would provide more racing period. If you liked the first lap then why not want a full race of it? Indycar’s race in Brazil was way more competive and intertaining.

    1. Yes, but you only get the first lap’s racing because everyone is close to each other. They get spread out over the race, unless there are factors such as changing fuel loads, tyres wearing out etc etc that bring them back together again as they apply different strategies.

  27. Right on, Joe. I thought the Ferrari strategy was great–go fast, use lots of tires, make as many stops as necessary. I also found myself keeping track of who had stopped when and what did it mean that they were close together on track but one had fresh tires and the other did not. Why is 4 stops automatically too many? NASCAR could have fewer stops–just let them have a larger gas tank–but pit stops can be part of the deal. I know the calculations show a slower paced 2 stopper may be quicker on occasion than a fast 3 stopper–isn’t it a good thing different teams have different approaches, depending on the car and track? Anyway, in fairness, maybe the soft tire is a little too soft–but otherwise, the whole deal looks good to me.

  28. I’d be very interested to hear what Mr Mateschitz has to say on the matter of budget caps. Discrepancies between budgets at the front and back of the grid have a far greater falsifying effect on race results than tyres, yet Red Bull seem to be intransigent on their right to spend what they like. What is more false? A team winning because it spends twice as much as it’s rivals can or a team that has engineered a solution to a “problem” that applies equally to all entrants? Perhaps he would be happy if they could persuade Pirelli to sell them some Bridgestone style hard tyres so they can run in a class of their own like early 2000s Ferrari.

    Will Buxton wrote a good piece on tyres after the Grand Prix yesterday. Essentially arguing that Ferrari won be caused they raced hard on the tyres they had rather than trying to eke out a race on one less stop.

    Red Bull seem to be getting a little too big for their boots (tyres?). As if 3 years of spending a large budget wisely entitles them to the same or greater status as teams with a proper history like Ferrari, McLaren or Williams.

    If you really care about the show Mr Mateschitz, then get behind a sensible RRA. That is the only way to see who is the best and ensure fair racing. In reality, as all teams, Red Bull only want fair racing when the landscape is fairer to them.

    1. Aargh, auto-correct. “Be caused” in my previous post should have been “because”. Apple, much like some team owners, always thinks it knows best!

      Continuing the theme though. Formula One is much like Animal Farm when it comes to some being more equal than others. In this instance and with apologies to Mr Orwell, it’s “four stops bad, two stops good”.

    2. Red Bull’s car design and aero philosophy, from what I have read, has been optimized in the recent past for the creation of downforce. Their car has never been quick in a straight line, in fact I remember it being about the slowest in a straight line at some tracks in the last 3 seasons. That fundamental design concept, I am guessing, is why they are in trouble right now…they are wearing out the tyres rapidly due to the loadings in the corners, while other teams (like Lotus and Ferrari) who have less downforce but have well-balanced cars, are using superior straight line speed to compensate for the lack of grip in the corners, and are putting less load on the tyres as a result.
      Red Bull probably feel they have more leverage to get the tyre specification changed since they run two teams, and, to be realistic, Toro Rosso is a money drain for Red Bull. The only reason they still own the team is for giving their driver program graduates F1 seat time. I suspect that if in-season testing was allowed again, they might offload Toro Rosso rather quickly. They did build that team up again after the “yes they are allowed…oops no they’re not” fiasco over customer cars a few seasons ago.
      I am sure that Dietrich Mateschitz is wearing out Bernie Ecclestone’s ears right now. However, I agree with the comment that Red Bull are getting a bit pushy in this context. With Pirelli’s contract due to expire at the end of this season, I think F1 has to be careful about not alienating a supplier of a key component for racing. After all, F1 pissed off Michelin a few years ago, they need to remember that before piling on Pirelli.

  29. To an extent, I agree with your point. However, I don’t agree that these tires are good. I’m not bashing Pirelli. They’ve made the tires they were asked to make, props to them for that. But, for me, this is not what F1 should be about. Obviously technology is always an issue, but in this case, I believe the tires are artificially limiting the racing.

    I don’t remember the exact specifics (race/year), but compare several years ago Ross Brawn telling Schumacher he needed to run 20ish qualifying laps in the race (and Schumacher doing it) versus Hamilton saying, “I can’t go any slower.” To me, I’d much rather watch a driver pushing the limits of traction and using all his skill to keep the car on the road, than a driver forced to stay within the limits of the tires and unable to push without destroying them. (And, yes, there are obviously always limits that cars/drivers have, but to me, the current limits are not the right ones). I want to see a driver using his skill to control drift in a corner, not milk tires to a delta and eek out one more lap.

  30. Great article.
    For me, double-decker diffuser or engine mappings+blown diffuser is also artificial racing (only the stress is put in the aero). And in that case, some teams had an advantage over others, and it was way more expensive to catch-up.

    In this case, with these tyres and the DRS, all are on equal terms. Same tyres available, same “passing technology” for all teams. The agreed on that (though now are complaining…)

    I wonder how many fans want to go back to the procession era…

  31. Sage like words as always Joe. Personally I think the only driver on the grid who understands the Pirellis is Kimi. He understands that everyone is in the same boat and it’s better to stop moaning and just deal with it, which he’s doing rather splendidly.

    1. Yup per Kimi fans, “Kimi understands everything”. As a bystander, I have never understood, how this know it all driver doesn’t understand, not to be a jerk to “paying fans” and how his loyal fans justify when their driver acts inconsiderately outside the 90 minutes of racing.

  32. Very sensible article. Good you refer to the boring races we used to have in Barcelona many years ago. I was amazed by the many negative comments from fans/tv viewers today on the Internet. People seem to have short memories or are new to the sport. They should value the unpredictability and excitement we now have and which the sport was missing so badly years ago.

  33. I enjoyed the end of the Bridgestone-era. Overtaking used to be about skill. Now it’s about DRS and tyres.
    Yes, apparently, the best will be best even if they would prepare donkeys for donkeyracing. The question is: would I watch it? No.

    1. Yet you watched the Bridgestone concrete tyre era when great drivers used to get stuck in the midfield because of aerodynamic turbulence from the car in front. I don’t get it.

  34. How many of the tyre criticisms translate as “Since F1 begun in 2007 the driver hasn’t been this bad performing, I hate the stupid tyres.”?
    Thankfully most of your readership appears largely literate and aware of more than six years of racing, but that ‘reasoning’ is what I see and suspect a lot of the time. I wonder if the Italian, Spanish and Finnish press are as critical of the tyres as the others.

  35. Thank you, Joe! This is pretty much exactly what I’ve been trying to get across to people. Nice to see journalists like you and Will Buxton giving a much more realistic view of what’s going on in F1 at the moment!

  36. I love Joe Saward.

    As far as im concerned, F1 is about being the fastest man to complete 305km using equipment that is available. Lets have a look a drivers standings, it says it all. 4 World Champions at the front and only Button is missing for obvious reasons. But in Chinese GP it was 5 WC in top 5. Coincidence? I don`t think so.

    I love Formula 1 2013 even if it requires a fair amount of concentration to read into the race properly. For me exciting racing is not only about wheel to wheel action. I was thrilled all the way through Spanish GP. Thats why F1 is so interesting, because it takes time and knowledge to understand it fully.

    Thank you Joe Saward.

    Yes, i will subscribe to GP+ as soon as I find sufficient money 🙂

    1. “…using the the equipment that is available”. exactly. 2013 is thinking persons racing for the teams and the fans.

  37. Joe, I think the point of view you put forward makes sense… but only if you accept most of what’s wrong with the racing side of F1.

    First, they regulated the horsepower race out of existence… which transferred all the expensive talent to chasing aero. Now that they’ve largely regulated the aero arms race of out of existence (which is fine with me), they’ve invented the concept of intentionally-bad tyres as the only means of providing something that vaguely like racing. Except that actual racing is no longer permitted.

    Given that that’s the model they’re using as an excuse for a car race, I completely agree that Pirelli is doing a good job of what they’ve been told to do.

    What I don’t understand is why they don’t try a more honest approach to approximating what one might call actual racing… one that permits drivers to compete on the basis of something more than just driving to whatever level of intentional-slowness their tyres demand.

    In the past, Mario has said the answer is to have more hp and less aero. Do that, he says, and of the drivers who have a good car, the one who is best at going fast will win. What’s wrong with that?

    1. If there’s nothing wrong with Mario’s recommendation, why not follow it?

      Things have now reached the point where teams now must spend their zillion dollar budgets figuring out how to best cope with tyres that are designed to wear out after 35 miles. Given F1’s claim to technological excellence, what’s the point of that?

      Face it, the main thing *racing drivers* talk about on the radio is whether or not they are allowed to go fast… and 5 times out of 6 the answer is “No.” This is the pinnacle of racing? Really?

      1. Yes. It is. If you think there is anything more advanced I’d love to hear about it. Racing is about more than just going fast.

        1. Saying racing is about more than going fast is a paper tiger. Of course racing is about more than just going fast.

          But when the *normal* state of affairs is that racing drivers are repeatedly told that they are not permitted to go fast, something’s wrong.

            1. Fair enough.

              If we were talking about LeMans, I’d agree with you. But we’re not.

              I don’t think I’m being a Luddite when I say that F1 should have some room for guys racing each other flat out. Not necessarily the whole time, but it should not be verboten. It’s reached the point where it’s become effectively banned 97% of the time. IMO, this means of avoiding a procession has gone too far.

              Do you have a problem with Mario’s recommendation? If not, would you prefer the current bad-tyres formula or his idea?

  38. People always say that it is difficult to compare one era of F1 with another – and I’d generally agree. However, the only common factor that unites every era of F1 (certainly whilst I have watched it) is that there are “fans” who moan.

    Too little overtaking! Too much overtaking! The races are always decided in the pits due to refueling! Bring back refueling! F1 should be the pinnacle of technology! Even a robot could drive these cars! etc. etc. etc.

    Go and watch something else then.

    I feel sorry for Pirelli – they’ve done what was asked of them – and I hope they don’t walk away/get forced out at the end of the year.

    I just can’t believe that so many people have such short-term memories. Typically, before this era of F1, you’d get three fantastic races a year (normally one would be Canada, the other two would be wet races). You’d get a few more that were watchable. The rest – *nothing would happen* – and that was during a tyre war!

    I remember (vaguely) one Spanish GP when the only thing that happened was Michael Schumacher ran Nigel Stepney over. Can’t even remember the year.

    As for Red Bull – your car is being limited by the tyres you say? Okay – well then you should be in the easiest position that you can drive whatever lap time is needed to win without any effort. Team Radio: “We need three 1m 35’s please”. “Okay – now a 1m 34 please”. Surely no problem if you have such a fast car.

    But you were very slow in Spain? Maybe you need to re-think your suspension? Just a thought.


  39. I agree with most of what you say. I certainly don’t subscribe to the view that Pirelli are stupid etc

    However, I do think they have gone too far particulary yesterday and China. I agree with what Hembrey says we aim for 2/3 stops. That to me should be the aim then I think everyone will be happy. Well apart from the losers!!

  40. Like an F1 car ( or life in general ), its about balance. You don’t want to have tyres that last 60 laps, you don’t want tyres that last 15 laps. You don’t want to take tyres out of the equation, you also don’t want them to be the whole equation.
    Like most fans, I do believe it has gone a little to far. However, as you often state Joe- us average fans who have not attended every race over the last 20 years know sweet FA about anything- However, I do believe that when the two best minds in F1 ( A.N and R.B ) as well as numerous other genius engineers struggle to find or even get close to the secret of getting these tyres to perform and that failure to solve this issue starts to outweigh the other aspects of their engineering then maybe even someone as knowledgeable as yourself will have to listen.

    Can you name any other time in F1, with all its rule and technical changes over the years, when the fastest car in a single lap performs so badly over a race. Its balance , we don’t want precession and we don’t want lottery.

    Not knocking Pirelli though, Its seems they are prepared to listen to the fans and the teams and change as required.

    1. F1 cars are 90% dependent these days on aerodynamics. Engines are basically irrelevant. Is that right? The balances need to change and maybe if they do, tyres can play less of a role. F1 is all about the best engineers finding the best compromises.

  41. Hi, Joe.

    Sorry, but just agree to an extent. Since the middle 70’s we’ve seen tires destroyed for several reasons, but delamination in what starts to be regular basis tends to look like the tires have some problem that goes beyond the degradation (wich is not a issue for itself, but just the kind of rules that suit now the larger part of the crowd). Besides, isn’t accurate to say that RB didn’t complain after Bahrain, because Dietrich Mateschitz gave an interview in an Austrian or German newspaper (can’ remember now) the week before the last one, where the complaints where exactly the same.

    1. The week before was after China when they did not win. Red Bull uses the media as a weapon to try to solve its shortcomings. That is Total War. It is propaganda.

      1. Sorry again, my mistake, just read about it the week before the last, and didn’t notice that. Yes, it is propaganda. It is also a stake too big not to fight for it with nails and teeth, if i may say so. 

  42. I have always been against the elements introduced in the recent years in F1 that have promoted artificial racing in an attempt to woo the casual fans by “Spicing up the show.” As such I am not a big fan of the artificial aids like KERS, DRS zones. Compulsion to switch between two tyre compounds during the race and also the recent mandate to Pirelli to manufacture marginal tyres that will result in more overtaking (and pit stops) have not appealed to me either.

    However, I do agree to the case made by this article. The rules are identical for all the teams and drivers and Pirelli has delivered what FIA, FOM, and Overtaking promotion group ( formed by F1 teams, including FOTA members) asked the French manufacturer to deliver.

    So the teams and the media should stop whining and get on with the show.
    The issues that we encounter in the current regulations, should be kept in mind when setting up next regulation changes.
    Of course, every solution has its own inherent problems, so as always Caveat emptor .

  43. Before I comment “intelligently” … please ask the question when is the 1st time a team get’s exposure to the technical details for a tyres from Pirelli? Is it the actual race? Do they have an opportunity to plan for the next race tyres? Or is it a lottery when they get there?

  44. I’d like to make a point about drivers “not being able to drive absolutely flat out” which is obviously true, but I invite my fellow blogfollowers(!) to consider some F1 history here.

    Not too many years ago, if you drove 100% flat out for a whole race your car inevitably broke, so if you were clever, you drove as fast as you could reasonably while caring to preserve the mechanical life of the car or engine. (Lewis’s understandable frustration at not being able to go any slower is nothing compared to how he may have felt 30 years ago if his car kept blowing up if he pushed it too hard!)

    Not too many years before that, you rarely drove at 100% anyway because of something even more important – your life, as I believe the great Fangio alluded to on several occasions.

    Frankly, I found the more recent Bridgestone-tyred 100% Grand Prix sprint races tedious – because the guy with the fastest car is almost always going to win, and if he’s got the fastest car this week, he’ll have it next week, etc. There were no other variables thrown in. Now, we have the interesting situation of the fastest car(s) being not so good on their tyres, so drivers and teams have to think outside the box more to gain an advantage. And yes, it is the same for everyone…

    The only annoying thing about watching the current F1 is there’s never a moment when I can nip out to make a cuppa! Yesterday I was late leaving for an important memorial service because I couldn’t stop watching the race. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Fernando had it in the bag near the end, but I just could not be sure.

    1. I take all of the above in but Fangio’s famous race in 57 couldn’t happen in this era. Where he took on man and machine. Also in previous era’s the limiting factor wasn’t manufactured like they are doing now with the tyres.

      I just feel the balance is slightly wrong.

    2. Nick – spot on. Prost was another proponent of this approach. Didn’t serve him too badly, did it? People have very short memories. lot of casual fans sticking their oar in here I suspect

      1. Prost adopted that approach against a charging Senna or Mansell. In this era even the recognised smoothest driver out there Button looks lost at times being forced onto a 4 stop strategy when daring to race his teammate in Bahrain.

        I can assure you and if you read the comments closely the majority of people think what we are seeing is to far fetched and I dont believe they are casual fans. I used the Fangio example above. Let me try Mansell against Piquet at Silverstone in 87. Another classic battle. The point I feel is nobody minds 4 stops but the fact that even with 4 stops a driver is still driving to a limit is just too much.

    3. The difference is that up until now F1 was about taking everything to the absolute limit. Engines were not designed to break in order to spice up the show, they broke because they were at the very bleeding edge of development and having their necks wrung.

      I don’t see how the current form of racing, where some drivers don’t bother to go qualifying, and most of them seem to just drive their own race to a delta time determined by the rubber, hoping when it all shuffles out they end up in a decent position is any more exciting than before. Sure, we might not know who is going to win but we wouldn’t if they drew straws or sprinkled marbles on the track at random but is that really F1?

      I saw an interview with Lewis Hamilton and DC in which DC mentioned the strength required in the drivers’ necks and Lewis replied that it wasn’t so important these days as they were driving well within the limits of the cars and so it was no longer that strenuous. Surely something’s wrong when the drivers are driving so comfortably inside their ability?


  45. I agree with everything you are saying Joe, but I think it probably went a bit too far in Barca. It’s not a great look when you have Vettel jumping out of the way and not fighting Raikkonen for P2.

    1. This is what Hembery said… I take the point, but I don’t mind four stops. Others do. My view is that If you know what you are watching, it’s fabulous. If you are watching casually you need good explanations. I still lap chart and I am never bored by F1.

  46. You’ll have to pretty old but before wings and underbodies there was real GP Racing ( Really … honest) and strangely the reports of races (if my memory serves me correctly) were very similar to today’s reports of races (perhaps not of tyres falling apart) but certainly there were cars with wonderful suspension and drivers who had wonderful skill and touch who dutifully won races because they were using those 4 patches of tyre correctly like the Ferrari and Lotus on Sunday – How absolutely wonderful to get some of these races back again and not be dependant on minutia of aero changes to win races.

    1. The genie of aerodynamics is out of the bottle. You cannot put it back…things change and everyone must adapt or become irrelevant.

      1. Absolutely right.

        The aerodynamic effects can be made smalller, but there will always be some benefit and teams will push as hard as they can against the limits of the rules. Especially teams with as much intelligence, resources and money as F1 teams.

        1. OK – but a good point about tyres always having been a factor. Jack Brabham won at least one championship race over Stirling Moss by making his tyres last while Moss had to go in and replace his…’59 British GP?

  47. Yeah I can’t wait to watch Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso trundle around Monaco at about 75%. That’ll be exciting!!

    Seriously, the ’10 Bridgestones were fine, all F1 needed was DRS. I want to see Hamilton at 100% around Monaco, wringing the neck of his car for 70 laps. I don’t EVER want to hear another radio message telling him to slow down. It’s a joke.

    We’ve had some great seasons on tyres that allowed drivers to push for an entire race (07, 08, 10). This is F1 racing, not endurance racing.

    I agree that Pirelli shouldn’t cop the blame for this because they’re only doing what they’re told.

    1. But F1 has *always* been like this. There was a very brief period in the early 2000s when cars were very reliable, tyre and fuel stops were permitted, and the races really were flat-out sprints from start to finish. Remember how exciting that period was? Other than that, this is Grand Prix racing, not a Formula Ford sprint, and managing the car to the finish has always been part of a champions skill set.

    2. It’s only because we hear the radio messages that we know the drivers are driving to a delta. I defy anyone to be able to tell a driver is driving to a delta time otherwise. They still bomb past at 180 mph plus

  48. This year’s Spanish grand prix was a very dull affair, even though we had position changes throughout the race. There was no drama, no fight for the positions. I think Rosberg was one of the few that held out for a fight the most, the rest were succumbed too easily as there was more value in protecting the tyres versus holding your position.

    I love what Pirelli has done to spice up the racing, but I think they need different type of rubber for different tracks, they need a durable compound, which the hard tyre is not proving to be, as well as a tyre that falls apart. They have 4 compounds to get right, perhaps they only have 2 right. I think restricting them to producing 4 compounds across 19 tracks is quite tricky.

    They need a durable compound that can be pushed hard for 20 laps at a place like Barcelona. We need the teams to shift their focus from tyre preservation to a race strategy that allows team to mix their options on performance on the limit as wel, as a preservation phase.

    I think it is a fine tuning of an already working formula. At this moment they have let Barcelona over exploit the concept. Work in progress.

      1. I’m glad you were Joe. I wish it could have offered more drama, I think the commentators from sky put their boot into the racing that day and of course the audience will be influenced by what they say. Martin Brundle was complaining the cars were too far off the pace, of course that is going to upset your enjoyment of your race as you pay attention to the lack of car movement and dancing around on the limit. I think he called it too pedestrian if I recall correctly.

        Had he not mentioned it would everyone be complaining so much? Ditto for other coverages.

        I think the race played out strategically similarly to past races this year, no real suprises there. it was good to see Alonso win, you couldn’t be sure he was to win before the race. But just the lack of animation of the cars and not much fighting, it just looked like the drivers were giving up positions too easily, not fighting as they feared tyres would go off. Look at Perez on Button at the end of the race. Not a complaint, Pirelli are still doing right, they just need to tweak it.

  49. Great write-up Joe.

    You’re absolutely correct on all counts. Not often I say that, but you deserve full props.

    Brings back recollection of my own pinewood derby car – made oh so many years ago.

    1. maybe this should be F1’s slogan and it should be on their website so all fans can understand this.

      1. Maybe, but it’s equally true of all sports – all are run to an arbitrary set of agreed rules, within which as Steve says one strives to be the best.

  50. I too remember the Schumacher in red era. I remember the racing being shockingly dull, especially in Spain. Domination by brute force of spending, special tyres to suit one team, and endless laps around Fiorino between the races. Even Spain of all places was quite watchable this year. I keep reading moans about 2013, but it seems pretty good to me, and I’ve been watching since the late 70s.

  51. I agree the tyre situation in both the tyre war and the hard Bridgestone era was not very exciting…but we have gone too far. Joe, you are effusive in your praise of the current tyres, but the fact is the cars are being used way under their potential.

    The fastest race lap was six seconds slower than pole. Now in the days of qualifying tyres and engines, I’d understand that, but no changes are allowed to the cars.

    Six seconds between best race pace and cars ultimate potential? Let’s compare that with other formulae’s difference between Qualifying and Race:

    LMP1 Spa 0.8s
    LMP2 Spa 1.1s
    DTM H’heim 1.5s
    BTCC Thruxton 1.3s
    F1 Spain 6 seconds!

    Surely, that is too big a gap and highlights a real problem?

    1. I said in the piece that perhaps it needs tweaking, but that Pirelli is not only open to it, but also looking for it.

    2. But what exactly is the problem? Can you see the difference? Do the cars look slow to you?

      I’m not necessarily saying there isn’t a problem, but a large gap between qualifying and race times isn’t a problem in itself. It is if reduces the spectacle or somehow makes the racing boring.

  52. “Couldn’t stop watching”. In Spain. I used to find it very easy to stop watching dull Spain GPs back in the Schumacher domination era. Can’t quite remember the golden era some people want to hark back to. The thing in Spain used to be that whoever got pole won the race, almost every year. This year, the guy in 5th place won, with some great driving. You weren’t sure he was going to win til the end, and the pole sitter came 6th. In Spain. Excellent!

  53. Yes, Pirelli have done a sound job of building to specification and shouldn’t be harangued for that.

    Yes, the cream will always rise to the top and the teams have built to an arbitrary ruleset (explicit, the rules, and implicit, circuits on the calendar etc.) for decades.

    No, I personally don’t fully enjoy the current state of F1 racing as I think the FIA have over-shot the mark in creating action. It’s a little like banning goalkeepers in football : Manchester United will still win, lots of goals will be scored but something of “the beautiful game” would be lost as teams hoof the ball in from 50 yards.

    No, I don’t mind that drivers aren’t driving at 100% for all the reasons better explained by other commenters above.

    No, I don’t mind how many pitstops the drivers do.

    Yes, this is just my opinion, speaking as a fan in the white, male, middle class, 25-34 demographic. I genuinely struggle to keep track at times.

    No, you don’t have to care, I only state it to provide a single data point, a “vote”.

  54. In 2010 in Canada, after refueling had stopped, and races were almost at the zenith of their “we’ll all stop once, and finish in our grid positions era” F1 turned up in Montreal and for some reason that I am not aware off, the concrete Bridgestone tyres went off, and we had the perhaps the best dry race we had had in years. At the time after almost a decade of processional racing, and numerous TV segments about “dirty air” it was a shot in the arm and I for one thought it was the future, and most people watching would have compared it favourably against what had gone before and for the rest of the season.

    Now here we are less than 3 years later, and we have race after race that is exceptional, unpredictable and yet still with the best drivers rising to the top. I am grateful to Pirelli for having the courage to try something and be prepared to get it wrong and try something else.

  55. I have just one answer, Austin, only one stop and one of the most beautiful race of the last years, great battle for the first place, other great overtaking moves all around the track and with tires that could last.
    With the tires this year, I’m not sure Austin will be more exciting, especially if the drivers have to drive very slowly and can’t be close to other cars laps after laps.

  56. I still love the F1 as I did all other years since I started watching halfway the 80’s, and I will always love it for being the pinnacle of Motorsport and the whole show it is.
    Although I certainly miss the goosebumps the old V10/V12 gave me.

    But as much as I love it, it was never nice to see the processions in former years, Although even then we had many excited races too. The new Pirelli tires have certainly provided more track action and position changes, and the DRS system helped solve the problem of being stuck behind a slower car in front.

    But with every advantage there are always some disadvantages.. As much as I love F1 I don’t ever get excited seeing a car pass another one because its advantage of DRS or tires with a half a second performance gap. That has nothing to do with racing.
    Seeing Alonso position himself in the second corner of the first lap to get a better exit to the long right hander and passing Hamilton and Raikonnen (?) on the outside, now that is racing!

    So I guess every era has its positives and its negatives. It is what it is.
    Certainly the Pirelli tires have contributed to the excitement, but hearing a team saying to its driver not to fight for position is not right either.

  57. Id like to point out how many stupid people there are watching Formula 1 complaining about tyres. Look at the past 14-15 years.

    Ferrari had a special relationship with Bridgestone. Didn’t Ferrari get some beneficial tyres over the rest of the Bridgestone users? Weren’t Bridgestone dominant over Michelin? Didn’t Bridgestone complain in 2003 about Michelins tyre treads expanding under heat? Didnt Michelin kick up a special relationship with Renault and do the same as Bridgestone did for years?

    From Bridgestone being THE tyre to be on, to Michelin being THE tyre to be on. That right there was tyres influencing racing; if you were with the right manufacturer you suffered. Look at Hungary 2006 for the wet tyres; Michelin had the top 7 or 8 positions, because it had a far superior wet tyre.

    Then we move onto Bridgestone. The constant complaints about boring processions, no overtaking… DRS wouldn’t change those years or help overtaking.

    Another example is 2008; wasn’t Hamilton called a tyre-killer, suffering punctures throughout the season? Then we goto Monaco 2009; I remember Vettels green-walled soft tyres lasting just 8 laps in that race and making a train that only Jarno would be proud of.

    I see many people say ‘oh the tyres are too important/nobody makes a car around the tyres’. I cant help but be completely flabbergasted. From my knowledge of watching since I was 11 (2001), I was always under the impression that teams factor the tyres into the car design. Whether it was the close relationship with Michelin or Bridgestone characteristics, whether it was to try and get heat into the tyres easier (something Button struggled with the front left or front right in 2006).

    Whether it was the tyre strategy, how long you can draw out the white striped or green walled tyres of Bridgestone, when to use them, how to get the best out of them.

    I recall 2008 and Brundle commenting at magny cours I believe that Alonso had unlocked the key to getting perfect cycles into the tyres on the warm up lap; speed up then brake hard, speed up brake hard. No need to weave because that didnt work in getting the tyres warm correctly.

    Tyres are THE one thing that makes the car have contact with the road. I was always under the impression that teams factor in the tyres and tyre behaviours heavily. 2011; Ferrari struggled with the harder compound, 2012 they fixed that with the car, using former Bridgestone engineer Hirohide Hamashima. Its a political ploy by RBR and Mercedes, who kill their tyres and dont like losing.

    So many idiots following their words blindly. I cant believe people found Sundays race confusing. It was crystal clear who was doing 4 stops from the start (Alonso), who was doing 3 (kimi) and who changed from 3 to 4 (vettel). All you had to do was see who pitted when; Alonso was lap 9ish, then lap 22ish. 13 lap stint, 4 stop. Kimi pitted around lap 17 didn’t he? 3 stop.

    I cant believe the amount of Idiocy I see when people calling for bridgestone procession because ‘it was real racing’. Yeah, because in a sport where teammates are discouraged from racing and overtaking, B-teams let suppliers past without a fight and cars decide not to chase after another and just bag points to play it safe, is a sport about going all out 100%. F1 has never been like that.

    Whether it was Turbo’s, Tyre’s, Engines or fuel. Driving according to preservation has always been in F1’s DNA for aslong as I remember. All those people moaning about downforce being kind and theres too much of it, these tyres punish excessive downforce and now we want to ban them!

    I find it telling that Andrea Stella said Alonso doesn’t drive to a lap time, he drives to how he feels the tyres and what he believes he can do or get out of it. Maybe teams should stop trying to make tyres last longer and focus on actually taking the life out of them and doing more stops.

    I dont care if its 3 or 4 stops. I find it mightily entertaining. Some teams dont like not being able to do a computer simulation, drive to the simulation and know they will win the race. How is that racing then? Thats driving to a delta, knowing what lap to stop on, exactly how many stops and what pace you will deffinitely have. So very entertaining.

    Unpredictability is F1’s worst enemy. The refusal to change is laughable for a supposed pinnacle sport. Hell this is a sport who refused to go to 16-18inch tyres from Michelin because they refuse to change….

  58. Thank you, Joe.
    I was despairing at the reader rants on other blogs about Pirelli, with some even boycotting Pirelli products because they have ruined F1. Which, of course, misses the point so completely it beggers belief.

    I hope they will take note of your intelligent analysis.

  59. Congratulations Joe, a great description of how the media works theses days

    “””they have all got together and decided that “the story” is the tyres. And, believe me, this I how they do it. They work together so that no-one can be accused of missing the story. It is like the wagon trains forming circles when the Indians attacked. It is self-preservation.””””

  60. great post Joe. Thanks for the professional view Watched the race on Sky in the UK. and finally turned it off due to the hysterics of TV commentators who should Know better.. Agree with all the points you made

  61. Joe, thank God for your blog. I wrote about this myself in my own blog but given the swivel eyed ranting of the popular opinion-holders I was starting to wonder if I was taking leave of my senses. No matter what F1 provides, people will find something to whinge about. This era will, in time, be appreciated for the classic one it is.

  62. I don’t get it.
    In the 80s the engines were so fragile that the drivers that won championships did so because they were able to nurse their cars to the end while still going faster than others that did the same. So you had people like Lauda, Prost and Piquet rise to the top simply because they were quicker to adapt and smarter than others in saving the equipment during the race. They still had their cars break during the races but it happened less than with other drivers, so in the end of the year they had a good haul of points in the bag.
    The 80s (especially the mid 80s) were absolutely more about saving tires and the engine, and for a while limited fuel as well, than it was about going flat-out fast. And lots of people look back and say it was the best racing ever.
    Each era had its challenges regarding the cars, engines, tires, etc. And in each era it rewarded drivers (and engineers) that knew how to extract the most of what they were given to drive.
    Pirelli will change the tires a bit to reduce the number of pitstops by 1 per race in average I think, but I don’t think the pecking order will actually change much – at least not because of the tires.

  63. In Red Bull’s defense I would like to point out that they already complained about the tires in winter testing. Webber also complained about the tires after the 1-2 finish in Malaysia. Ofcourse one can argue that they just can’t get them to work for them but Vettel finished top 4 every race and leads the championship. So they are not that bad on these tires.

  64. Joe – what are your thoughts about what role tires should play in 2014 when F1 (probably?) becomes a power unit formula? I can’t help but think that a tire that performed (almost) invisibly (one and at MOST two stops required) would be best?

    The 5.5 second difference in qualy/race really is shocking.

    …..Anyway it looks like they’re going back to 2012 spec tires soon anyway.

  65. Oh look! Pirelli are backpedaling and we’re going to get tyres more suitable for F1 cars in Canada. Curious to see how the Everything-Was-Fine-In-Barcelona apologists brush that one away, since the Pirelli PR people know best, and F1 has been “weighted focus grouped” (wtf?), etc etc.

    Heaven forbid, we’ll be having competition between 2+ tyre suppliers next. In a sport!

    1. No, it is called fine-tuning the tyres. Barcelona was all right but the teams want maximum three stops. Pirelli is giving them that.

    2. With the tyre degradation format that Bernie and Pirelli started there can never be two or more tyre suppliers. It just would not work.

  66. This isnt about bad tyres, its about tyre management, some drivers are good and some not so good its a fine line. Cast your mind back to the 1980’s fuel management in the turbo era, no one was better at this then the professor, some are good at it some are not, simple.

    1. For at least the last 35 years in F1, driving success has been at least partly about looking after your car. There is a reason why drivers like Lauda, Piquet and Prost won so many races – they may not have been the quickest at every race, but they knew how to look after their cars and finish a race. We have an exponent of that right now in Kimi Raikkonen. Notice how little he is complaining about the Pirellis. His view is that everybody has the same tyres, so it is up to the team and driver to adapt. He keeps his mouth shut and drives fast and looks after the tyres.

  67. you have a problem joe ; you understand F1 , and [ almost ] always know what is going on , on and off the track
    but unfortunately F1 is no longer really a sport , it is a business , and if the racing is other than straightforward joe saward knows what is happening but joe public doesn’t , loses interest , and that affects the bottom line

    so I regret to say that money will continue to decide events and the press will look for anything to sell papers , remembering the old adage about never letting the truth get in the way of a good story

    I was following F1 before you were born , as well as I could at the time [ I never actually got to a race until 50 years ago ] ; I have met people who say they remember exactly where they were when they heard jack kennedy had been murdered ….I don’t , but I remember seeing my wife’s white face when she told me about jimmy clark

    so when I read people’s comments about the good old days with balls out racing and what it was like before the rubbish rules we now have , I want to puke

    it was never thus , at least if you wanted to live

    like everyone else , I have my ideas on what needs to be done , but vested interests would never agree to it

  68. I don’t know anything about Gary Anderson who writes for BBC Sports online, but what I just read from him is (almost) interesting.

    He says that, when comparing current Pirelli-shod performance to Bridgstone-shod performance, the contrast between the two when looking at the diff between fastest race lap and pole laps is not much, and that the diff between the pole lap and that driver’s fastest lap is even less.

    He seems to think this means all the noise about Pirelli’s bad tyres being a problem doesn’t amount to much.

    However, that comparison doesn’t really address what drivers are talking about when they say they’re driving at 80% of what the car can do, i.e., the fact that the driver can do a race lap not far off his pole lap should be no surprise.

    I wonder what Mr. Anderson would find if he compared pole laps with median race laps, as that would be much more telling. In the meantime, it seems like he designed his comparison to downplay the upset rather than to ask what might be an actually relevant question.

  69. r.shack , don’t understand your comment about a driver being able to do a race lap similar to qualifying …..empty tank and new tyres for qualifying and empty tanks and well worn tyres at the end of the race ? are you suggesting that drivers aren’t flat out in qualifying ?

    and in response to your question [ if joe permits , it is his blog after all ! ] I would suggest the following changes
    I partly disagree with joe that the influence of aero is too advanced to be undone …I think it can be further restricted ; if I understand correctly , 2014 regulations will only allow front wings that are somewhat narrower than at present , and there will be other limitations on air flow at the rear ; but in my view this is not enough because the front wings have effects other than aero ; so I would like to see a width limit of the distance between the inside edges of the front tyres , and at the same time no use of added pieces on the wing …why?

    at present drivers are inhibited from close racing by the fear of damaging their front wing , how many races have been ruined by just a small contact …and the corollary , someone touches your rear tyre with their front wing and the puncture ruins your race
    less punctures …I have no statistics to prove my theory , but have the firm impression that the number of punctures has increased in line with the increase in front wing aero developments over the last decade or so , at a time when you would have expected a decrease ..more complex wings , more shards of carbon fibre on the track , the source of virtually all deflations
    for many years now cars have had increasing difficulty in following closely and overtaking due to aero ….restricting the front wing would be of great assistance in reducing this effect , hopefully to the extent that DRS could be scrapped and we could see overtaking rather than drive by’s ; whereas KERS and it’s successors are genuine technical developments , to my mind DRS is completely artificial and ruins racing
    with the reduction in front downforce it would be necessary to further reduce downforce on the rear of the car to balance it ….a small swing back to the need for mechanical grip
    this would help narrow the gap between the big teams and the small , the big teams throw large amounts of money seeking small gains in front wing performance , the small teams lack the resources and this would help level the playing field
    the necessity of telling the tyre manufacturer to make marginal tyres to spice up the racing would disappear , better racing on harder tyres , with less marbles also helping; the reality is that for the current system to work correctly a wider range of tyres to cope with the different track conditions is needed , together with more testing in representative conditions ; anyone else been to pre-season in spain ??? I take my wooly hat and ski gloves , and I hear talk of jerez in january next year !! just mad , and although I would be the loser as I wouldn’t be able to travel to sunnier climes I am all for such a move ; maybe they should build a test track on the coast in southern morocco , send everything down by RoRo


    maybe I have the wrong idea here , but I have the impression that new racing tyres are deliberately not fully cured , and haven’t been for many years
    it seems to be done to give better performance when the tyre is first used ; in any case it seems clear that once the tyre has been run , no matter how lightly , the performance quickly drops away
    it will have escaped nobody’s attention that new tyres are made for each race , and all tyres , used or not , are returned to base and scrapped …you need all tyres manufactured at the same time
    this seems to me to be undesirable would be interesting to know how much of the marbles that so inhibit racing is produced during the period when the tyres are curing on track
    why not tyres that are fully cured ?


    I would ban these ; traditionally warming the tyres on track was part of the skill set of a racing driver ; ok , this would advantage drivers like alonso and disadvantage button , but so be it ; the importance of the car is now too great compared to the skill of the driver , the pendulum needs to swing back somewhat


    when I first started going to F1 there usually used to be 3 cars in a row , no staggered grids ; one of the complaints [ from RBR I admit ] was that grid position is no longer 80% of the race result ; well ,hooray for that is my attitude , although it looks like it will come back
    so why not have side by side rows , just 2 cars perhaps under modern conditions ; faster qualifying driver on each row would get the advantage of the clean side [ m.balestre has gone , hasn’t he ?] and in my view that is sufficient ; just a small step in improving the racing , but isn’t the best possible racing what we all want ?

    congratulations to anyone who has read this far , it wasn’t meant to be a diatribe ; but I believe that it should still be possible for those with the best ideas rather than the deepest pockets to have some success in F1

    some of you may know the story of enzo ferrari trying to stop the advance of small teams [ largely british ], saying that they were just garagistes because they had to buy engines from wherever they could , he hated being beaten by them ; the way things stand the minnows at the back don’t have the resources to score a single point , and rather than take bernie’s attitude [ get rid of them ] I would like to see the FIA change the regulations to assist , the only way is to change regulations so that the big boys can’t throw so much money at tiny details

    1. I have no opinion on the particular details, but I support the spirit of your suggestions.

      For F1 to live up to its place, it must find a way to provide a good show without prohibiting drivers from actually racing. Mario Andretti has his ideas about how to do this, but they won’t try his recommendation and I don’t know why. In the meantime, I disagree with the opinion of those who say that it’s fine to ban actual racing in order to obtain uncertainty of outcome until late in the race. Both things matter, not just one or the other.

      If they insist of relying on bad equipment to provide a good show, then instead of relying on bad tyres I’d rather they mandate equipment failures. For example, mandate the every engine or transmission (take your pick) must fail at random intervals between 1.5 and 2.5 races and cannot be changed until it fails. Then let the guys go fast and see. We know from history that failing mechanicals did a much better job than bad tyres do at giving non-top-tier teams a chance…

      As for any confusion I may have caused about the tyres, the point of the article I referenced was not just about the diff between pole and fastest race laps… rather it was about comparing Bridgestone-shod and current Pirelli-shod performance on that difference. Overall, Bridgestones were faster… but when looking at the diff between fastest laps and pole laps for each brand, the B vs. P results are similar. My only point was that such a metric is not a useful when evaluating the goodness of the current bad-tyres strategy. (Make sense?)

      1. Please forgive the random missing word. I swear, I do proofread… but I fail.

        If I was young enough to not admit my failings, I’d insist that WordPress uses a random-word-removal algorithm. But, since I know I’m a dork, I only half believe it…

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