The rules of the game

The decision by Pirelli to change the tyre compounds later this season is bound to end up causing controversy. The cars were built with the new tyres in mind and going back to earlier constructions means that the balance of the competition could be changed by the decision. The fact that this has been deemed necessary because of one race in which there were four pit stops for many of the cars is slightly worrying.

Yes, perhaps the same might happen again in races to come, but so what? In the history of the sport there have been plenty of occasions when drivers have made four pit stops and still won. Back in 1993 Senna famously won in Donington Park after a race with four stops, while Prost finished third having made seven!

And just to make sure you understand just how dubious this decision is, let us not forget that in Spain two years ago Sebastian Vettel (and six other drivers) stopped four times, while most of the field stopped three times. In Turkey that year 14 drivers stopped four times and the rest did three. There was none of the fuss.

The fact that change was deemed to be necessary can only be put down to the noise made by the media (or at least elements of it), egged on by inflammatory statements by Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz. It is a shame he never says such things when his team is the one winning.

My view is that if the commentators cannot keep up with the action, then they should not be commentators. In the media centre those of use who have been doing this for a few years had no problem keeping track of it all. It takes concentration, but we were in discussion about whether Alonso or Raikkonen would win until the last few laps, when it finally became clear that Kimi had nothing left to give and Fernando had done enough. Understanding it all, of course, adds to the enjoyment and so it is not surprising that those who were not able to keep up felt a little helpless and did not like it. And hence they came out against it.

In my opinion, Pirelli would have held out against such demands for change were it not for the fact that they do not want the public to think that their tyres were simply not working properly and if that was the impression that was given then the commentators must again take the blame. The tyres were doing what they were designed to do. Perhaps that was a little too aggressive for an abrasive track like Barcelona, but that does not mean that, in effect, the rules should be changed mid-season.

No wonder some of the teams who do understand the tyres are upset. Playing politics is always a part of the game in F1, but that does not mean it does not stink.

253 thoughts on “The rules of the game

  1. Agreed. And Boullier is right to complain about the changes. Pirelli shouldn’t have changed the pitch dimensions.

  2. Joe well said. As Lotus so eloquently said, it’s not fair to change the size of the goal posts after the game has started. A pox on that foul red muck.

  3. Isn’t it comparable to Ferrari successfully getting the Michelin tyres banned after Hungary 2003 when they got lapped? That decision did probably sway the championship in Michael’s favour sadly.

      1. Is this the first time such a decision has gone against Ferrari (Active suspension, blown diffusers, tyre moulds).

  4. Meanwhile, Jenson Button said that the lap times they were doing in Spain were only 6 seconds faster than GP3, and only 3 seconds faster than GP2 qualifying. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor sport, yet the pressing need to preserve the tyres is making this a slow sport where the primary need is to preserve tyres rather than driving, and even though there’s plenty of overtaking, it’s worthless, because the person being overtaken is preserving his tyres in the hope that the one passing destroys his. They can’t defend because it might destroy the tyres. They can’t go faster because it might destroy the tyres. Meanwhile the engineer is on the radio all the time saying “go quicker, go slower, go quicker, so slower”, all the time, simply to keep the tyres in a very narrow operating window.

    What’s your take on his line Joe?

    1. It has also to be with the design of the car, do not forget it. In this aspect, some teams have worked during the winter period focused on the new tyres more than others, and with this tweak, this benefit is gone.

    2. jenson’ s statement , even if correct , is comparing apples with pears

      the cars he referred to were in qualifying trim whereas the F1 were starting with 150Kg of fuel so had an average of 80Kg on board during the race

  5. “Understanding it all, of course, adds to the enjoyment…”

    I don’t profess to be a hardcore fan of F1 but I could understand what was happening. I enjoyed the race too. This decision is a fudge to dampen down the mock outrage.

  6. I am no professional but it really was no problem keeping track of who had stopped and what the situation was. There was added suspense. Can a driver stopping say 5 laps earlier than another keep going to the end or will he need another stop? That is tactics, I enjoy the tactical thinking. F1 has always been about tactics.

    I all you want is processional, pedal flat to the floor racing. Go and watch something else, Scalextric maybe.

  7. You state that Dietrich Mateschitz never makes such comments when Red Bull are winning, If you take a look at the standings, Red Bull lead both Drivers and Constructors Championships, and have won as many races as anyone else so far this season. Christian Horner was also still critical of the tyres immediately after a pretty dominant Vettel victory in Bahrain.

    That aside, I agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with a four stop race. What doesn’t fit into my vision of what F1 should be is drivers asking their team whether they should bother fighting for position, driving round without breaking a sweat and effectively waving fellow competitors through because its better than fighting to ahead.

    It is pretty clear that the drivers are not fans – I’m sure Alonso doesn’t enjoy driving around at what he claims is only 90% of his potential.

    Perhaps though the real need for change comes not from the drivers, Red Bull, Mercedes, or the Media. The number of de-laminations we have seen so far this season is worrying. Surely it is only a matter of time before one happens at a critical part of a circuit or in close proximity to another vehicle causing a bad accident. Pirelli must be aware of this, and won’t want the inevitable bad publicity that would follow.

    1. Really? It was ever thus. Tyres have never been immortal, except for the crushingly dull Bridgestone period. Tyre management is an essential skill of an F1 driver and an inherent property in team tactics. Think back to the days before routine tyre changes mid race (which only really came in during the 1980s) and tell me that wasn’t proper racing.

      Mateschitz is, unfortunately, talking rubbish. Self-interested, ignorant rubbish. The sainted Newey and his acolytes have screwed up the RBR design this year, and Horner and Co. also don’t seem great shakes at tactical thinking, and so the rules are being changed to mitigate Red Bull’s losses. Back in the 2000s, in the depths of the Ferrari International Assistance era, people got sick of the capricious and underhand rule changes made at short notice to benefit the red cars, now we are seeing very much the same thing happening for Bernie’s newest inamorata. As Joe says, it stinks.

      1. Hear hear! It’s a level playing field. It’s pathetic when people like Horner and Mateschitz throw their toys from their prams, but they always will, and highlight their true character accordingly. How about Pirelli making a tyre ESPECIALLY for you guys, so that Red Bull can win ALL the time – a special treat just for you – now how exciting would that be, oooohh !!!!

        As for the dangers mentioned elsewhere in the thread… yes, those drivers, poor lambs, are being forced to drive against their will aren’t they! How about we totally dilute skill, and replace barriers, run-off areas etc. with cotton wool instead.

  8. Though I don’t agree with using the tyre design to artificially enhance the spectacle I agree even less with changing the formula part way through to make the spectacle more appetising to those who probably don’t understand and just watch bemused………..

  9. Changing the rules mid season is the worst option of all. And where is the invisible man monsieur Todt? or is RBR now running F1?

    Many fans like myself were actually not unhappy with the tyre situation. As Joe says, the best were able to make it work and to compete within the tyre parameters.

    IMHO it’s down to Pirelli. They should probably have brought the right tyre to Spain. They should have stood their ground and sorted out the publicity factor for themselves, their PR department must have some ideas on how to get “good” publicity.

  10. Fully concur Joe, but were Red Bull the only team fanning the flames ?, I thought that perhaps Lauda and Wolff might have been actively lobbying, behind the scenes of course, and McLaren to a lesser extent.

  11. Spot on Joe!
    The same situation used to happen all the time when mid-race refueling strategies were in play and the commentators used to manage (well.. some of them did). It adds to the excitement and gives teams a chance to influence the race rather than a certain car racing off never to been seen again like in 2011. To change the rules mid-season because Red Bull cause a stink is completely bogus.

  12. Joe,

    I have no problem at all with four (or any other number of) pit stops. But what was concerning to me was the amount of delamination failures that have occurred this year. I just hope the changes to the compounds solves this problem.

  13. Pirelli are perfectly within their rights to change the tyres, in fact it is their duty to.

    The fact is the tyres were designed for the sole purpose of introducing entertaining races. This was very public demand from fans. Now, entertaining is a very ambiguous term. The public’s perception of what entertainment is can vary, just like the value we place on money can vary. When money is in short supply it has an inherent higher value than when the government prints a load.

    Right now, it appears F1 is in a hyper-inflationary environment where the value of the ‘racing’ we see has drastically dropped. As Pirelli have the job of providing ‘entertaining’ races, not produce ‘good consistent tyres’. So if the demand changes, or the perception of what a good race is, then they HAVE to change what they do. That’s THEIR JOB. That’s why we have these high-deg tyres in the first place and that’;s why they may change very quickly.

    You can’t ask a manufacturer to be an ‘entertainment’ provide and then complain when they try to meet that demand.

    I don’t like the situation one bit (I’d prefer open tyres), BUT the teams should have been intelligent enough in pre-season to understand this was a plausible scenario to happen mid-season. The high deg seen in testing was an indicator for this, and the fact is it’s the same for everybody, and they have to adapt and deal with it.

    1. Yet, it WAS entertaining and thus Pirelli ought have NO job of changing to do.

      It’s just that, as in so much of life, disapprovers and complainers are louder than those who approve and, after the situation is (or announced soon to be) meddled with to appease the whiners, it’s a hard job getting the reactive complaint to be percevied to be as loud as the original complaint.

      Whether the majority are unhappy with the status quo, do we know? Can we know?

      One curious point to note (from my perception) over this particular point of contention: if we take it as Red Bull being the main proponent of one side of the argument, they are for once represented in this chiefly by Mateschitz rather than Marko.

  14. A lot of fans are fed up with the artificial racing brought on by all the recent gimmicks meant to improve the “show”. The tires just caught the blow now. Mid season changes which may improve racing does more harm to what is left of F1’s reputation as the top of Motorsport.

    1. Agreed. I’ve been watching F1 since the early 1980s, and I’ve missed very few races since then. I paused the Barcelona race and went and did something else instead. I finished the race on Monday. Apparently I’m not smart enough to appreciate race cars faffing about rather than racing.

      If people stop watching because it is becoming a farce the sport dies. No eyeballs, no money, no sport.

        1. What cobblers. Dull was the 2000s, when you could quite happily watch the first five laps, go away, come back to watch the last five laps and have missed nothing. One or twice a race a driver would manage to sneak past a rival outside the pit stop window, but for the most part the drivers held station because to get within 1s or the car in front meant ruining your tyres with almost no chance of pulling of an overtaking move.

          DRS has been a hugely successful way of overcoming the complete artificiality of having wings on a car, and more fragile tyres have thrown the emphasis back onto driver skill and team tactics. Back in Schumacher’s pomp he could bang in quali laps endlessly, safe in the knowledge that his tyres would hold up. No light, no shade, just lap after lap of metronomic times.

          That was dull, and I for one am very glad that racing is back to being a difficult and interesting task for drivers and team alike.

          1. I guess I’d prefer the “dull” of the Bridgestone era, to the contrived Pirelli era (not that DRS is Pirelli’s fault).

            After the first couple races, DRS totally lost it’s appeal to me. There is no suspense at all. If someone is behind and eligible to use DRS than it’s almost certainly a given that they will get by. Where’s the excitement in that?

            As for the tires, I’m not a fan of racers driving to a delta and being told to slow down. Obviously tires have always needed some level of preservation, but in my opinion, it’s overboard this year. At least in the Bridgestone era drivers could push and use their driving skill instead of their tire management ability.

            1. I don’t see DRS as being any different to slipstreaming, and tyre management has always been about making the rubber last. This is what motor racing is all about. Any dumbo can go fast, few can go fast all the time, but the great champions win because they were fast, consistent AND intelligent. The modern systems use technology to overcome the march of technology and are thus a rather elegant way to keep racing as pure as possible. OK, Spain has a busy pitlane but it is better than cars droning around in line astern like they used to do when the rules were less imaginative.

              1. Stop burying your head in the sand, fewer people (in the uk) watched that race than in 2009, 2010, 2011 or 2012 despite it being available on Sky and FTV.

                  1. What’s to stop Pirelli delivering Bridgestone-esque tires to the races we know are fun with those, and right crap shooter rubber for the ones that we usually sleep through?

                    Height of the red car dominance, I actually found myself falling asleep to the sound of the starts, barely keeping a eyelid propped for the first couple of laps . . . had a great upshot, though: meant I could get a good kip on any flight I had to take!

                    I think what’s good is that it’s not static. Thinking separately from individual race reviews here, it’s just that we can see now what is possible, and frankly I wish we had another tire manufacturer back in, to really shake it up, because as insane as the idea may sound, why can we not shoe cars with one lap wonders and race lifers as we please? What could it be, Seb V on a last lap one stopper, versus Fernando on a 7 stop all out quali stint by stint?

                    I guess I am still, then, a advocate for all out no holds barred at heart…

                    I really don’t know the answer to that, but I think it a bit off, when you have such a concentration of top engineering minds moaning that someone moved their cheese. The more they are on their toes, the more interesting it might be. I like it when more of the rarely seen faces who live their lives in the sport, very often past many driver careers, put in the limelight. That’s good for all sponsors, for the teams, for the engineering businesses behind it all. I bet some very interesting data could be inferred by astute observers, if tires were a pick and mix.

              2. “but it is better than cars droning around in line astern like they used to do when the rules were less imaginative.”

                Joe, You nailed it, discussion and race commentary actually mattering in the last few laps is the point – the race is captivating for its entirety not strictly determined by a qualifying procession and over at the start.

                Constantly changing regulations mid season (in this case tires) has to stop it is completely amateurish and smacks of favouritism and lobbying. Never been a fan of mid season reg. changes (aero or otherwise) it smacks of scripted outcomes!!

              3. I wish DRS was the same as slipstreaming. That would mean the speed advantage would be gone when a car comes alongside another car. In the case of DRS the speed advantage stays until the end of the straight, which (depending on the length of the DRS zone) makes passing imho often too easy. I wouldn’t mind DRS if it lasted until a car pulls up alongside another car or the DRS zones are just as long as a car needs to get alongside in the breaking zone before a corner.

                1. Entirely agree. I’m pro-DRS but, like you, I feel that the ideal solution is to have DRS deactivate once the cars are level. That would truly replicate sliptstreaming. Surely that would be possible with the GPS technology that is used on the cars nowdays.

                  1. And don’t you dare try to block the car that’s overtaking you! One move, one move only, then wave the other car past for the DRS “overtake”. Or overfake 🙂

                    DRS ≠ slipstreaming

                2. Also, I think the engine max supply sucks. So you have a overtake button to push the revs to max. What fun is that? It takes the current race into the context of another. Suddenly when I see a pass, I am not thinking of what I am watching. I get annoyed at this enough to think, “heck, why not just jettison some ballast” – – – obviously a Wacky Races thought, but how many “push to pass” tricks do we need? We have so many might as well bring back active suspension and lifting the rear as well. (which strikes me as a earlier kind of DRS).

                  Elsewhere John M (presuming the same John M, apologies if I’m mistaken) put up a good chronology / potted history of race steering wheels. What are we actually doing in the “purist versus development tech” argument? I argued there that a possibility is that, like modern DSLR cameras, instead of raw brain power, you are guessing a algorithm’s behavior, or learning it. That is, the computer is looking up tables for calculations, which are interpreting calculations you might do mentally, with pen and paper more slowly, but if you cannot learn the intricacies, or visualize equations, get rather tricky. With apologies to Zane (other thread) if I did start a blog, it would be about what I call the “digital substrate” of how far we can modify the nature and results of modern cameras. I think there’s a analogy. Camera makers hardly tell a jot of their ways of making exposures, and little is equally known about how the ECUs operate, though I am sure there is enormous energy expended in reverse engineering them to better understand, it’s quite a mind boggling consideration, and it’s a unknown whether either scenario detracts from the respective art. I don’t know, maybe there are sufficient spec sheets for the ECUs, but is that ever all one needs to know? I no longer get Racecar Engineering, maybe there’s something there. Still, it’s little discussed and I think as relevant as tires to a avid fan.

  15. Joe is it not necessary to have unanimous consent of the teams to change the tire design at this time. I can’t imagine there is unanimous consent needed to change the livery but no consensus needed to change the tire spec?

    If the change does benefit Red Bull and/or Mercedes to the determent of Ferrari and/or Lotus is that not grounds for a bunch of messy legal actions. How does this all look in a competition (non competition) lawsuit. Changing the equipment to the advantage of some players; it is just plain wrong.

    1. As far as I know the tyres construction or compound specs are not part of the rules, apart from general dimensions etc.

      Of course they could be written into the rules fairly easily, in terms of density, thermal conductivity, hardness, elasticity, rolling friction, coefficient of friction (static) etc, etc. Then no team could complain about them. (in theory)

  16. The Sky commentary team were lazy, negative and completely uninterested last Sunday. After about 15 laps one of them came out and basically said, in not so many words, “That was pretty rubbish, wasn’t it? This isn’t racing, this isn’t what we want to see,” and unfortunately the tone was set for the rest of the race. How are the fans supposed to enjoy and understand the Grand Prix if the commentary team, whose job it is to aid both of those aspects, is criticising what we’re watching? It was ludicrous. I have been generally impressed by Sky’s coverage this season but last weekend was a complete shambles and it’s not good enough.

    1. To be fair the BBC were much the same in terms of criticism, whether you agree with what they said or not.

    2. Not retracting my statement I’d never start my own blog, because this wouldn’t be, but guess it’d be a website of a kind, I would like to see a set up to filter and promote the best fan commentary. You could go a long way, with some televisions able to do fancy “social media” things, or with a box of tricks to overlay written comments, or with a channel where whoever with a radio voice pulled these together.

      I forget which channel in the States, ran a competition for best media app for telly, and a 17yr old girl won with a app to filter twittering that spoils the plot of favorite shows. I’m suggesting something the opposite, almost. Tellys have processing power enough to overlay modest graphics for certain, and to mix sound feeds also, pluck out a surround channel maybe. (too lazy not to think all this through).

      I think the broadcasters (Sky, Sky and Sky, increasingly) miss a trick here. They certainly pay a fortune for their presenters, but why can the presenters not benefit from what fans freely speak when that’s interesting? I do not mean “and John OJ from London tweeted . . . ” I mean just flash by a few credits at the end, “With thanks to our viewers Joe Blogs, John Smith, Alice and Joanne . . ” at the end, and chuck the good ones a free month’s sub.

      Dammit, this is possibly one of those good ideas that remain a good idea after they flop. But can you imagine the action if there was a real bonus to comment well and a grateful roll call? A sponsor who is otherwise not getting a lot for their money in exposure (say they are a rather big company on a slower car, known for historically doing sitcoms. . . ) buying a simulcast feed or just paying for streaming that?

      Might also capture a “market” of viewers who tune in to say RTL’s FTA feed but lack the language or inclination to follow that commentary . . .

  17. If Pirelli’s changes will let the drivers showcase more of their abilities to work a tire, I’ll be relieved. It seems most of the teams have had to deal with the tires’ limits by backing off both drivers’ and the cars’ capabilities, Lotus and Ferrari having done that job best. But watching the racing from home carries no excitement for this long time fan; the drivers aren’t being challenged in the skills that make me want to watch racing, and I wonder why I’m sitting there counting down laps like some colorfully dressed accountant. But I do thank you, Joe, for the arguments you make.

  18. Completely agree – I’m a little puzzled as to the exact extent of Red Bull’s influence. I mean, is Mateschitz & Co. in position to bring about the change of tyres on their own merit or is it a concerted effort with Merc in there as well? Wouldn’t they be the only ones with the ability (and motive) to do this? Im asking because Merc has been rather silent havent they?

    From a sporting point of view I think this is a scandal. I guess governance has never been a strong point in F1 but its sad to see this reflected so clearly on the track as opposed to the “boardrooms” where fans are less bothered with it…. Its a divine sport poorly managed – In due time, I hope Mr E will leave it in good order in a position where it can be professionalized properly – but the abortd SGX deal suggested otherwise..

  19. Was waiting for your thoughts on this and as always we see a well thought out response. Interest in your thoughts on something I saw mentioned elsewhere, is the change even allowed? Tech regs Article 12.6.3 : Tyre specifications will be determined by the FIA no later than 1 September of the previous season. Once determined in this way, the specification of the tyres will not be changed during the Championship season without the agreement of all competing teams

      1. Can you do some digging around the paddock next week and see what the consensus is on why this was allowed? I remember the Michelin 2003 situation was noted to be a technical infringement, and changes always seem to be allowed in the name of “safety” but this doesn’t seem to be either… very curious.

  20. So people complained because they could not understand the (and keep up with the) action and therefore not know who’s winning?! It seemed pretty obvious to me (looking back at China) and the question marks (tyres/upgrades) just added to the excitement. Hmm, I was led to believe that Formula 1 was a smart man’s game.

    As for the change in tyres, perhaps the other angle is the delamination situation. It was almost amusing to watch a Pirelli man running and covering Di Resta’s back wheel with a red bin bag, live on television during FP2. This was probably not so funny at Pirelli HQ. I think they have done a great job and they should not feel embarrassed for pushing technological boundaries, it doesn’t always work.

    1. When the expression “not understand” is used it is not because people can’t tell who is winning. I don’t think people are that stupid and, even if they were, there are monitors that continuosly show who is leading, by what margin and how many stops were made thus far. What people don’t really “understand” is why drivers don’t fight on the track and ask their pit what to do. If cars are not pushed to a sufficient level then every driver out there has enough skill to win its just a case of nurturing the tyres all the way. Some might say this is part of a driver’s ability. Yes but it shouldn’t be the only important one.

      1. Perhaps I misunderstood the ‘not understanding’ or not understood the concept of Formula 1. I believe, it is a car race to see who is fastest, not a gladiatorial battle at high speed. I concede that there needs to be a balance between racing and entertainment to bring in fans and sponsors, and to bring together the two above arguments, this is what Pirelli’s brief is/was. As storms in a tea cup go, this is quite a good one. Maybe the question to ask is why is this happening now. Nothing to do with circulating sharks testing the waters for potential power vacuums.

        1. “Gladiatorial battle” gets my vote for the best description of what I would rather not see, at the concocted end of that spectrum. To watch the chase unfold, would be my preference, as opposed to a round and round we go, and another time, and another, and all that, which it can feel like now. I’m off to gen up on the latest in Military Laser Dolphins to go up against your Vacuuming Sharks, Jakub!

  21. I think those Pirellis actually failing had more to do with it than “noise from the media” or Mateschitz. With so many million viewers, I can’t imagine Pirelli management being very happy seeing those tyres failing, some spectacularly.

      1. Well we’ll never really know why as Pirelli are quick to cite debris as the cause. I consider a tyre throwing the tread off and revealing the tyres load carrying band to be a failure and we saw 2 of those in one race weekend Joe.

          1. The tread delamination seems to me to be a far safer failure mode than a blowout. Alonso was able to make it back to the pits and change tyres (admitedly a little earlier than planned) and even Vergne managed to make it back to the pits in safety.

            To change the construction to remove this ability would appear to be a retrograde step.

          2. If they were punctures wouldn’t the tire go flat? I recall seeing the car driving on a still inflated steel belt sans tread. That’s not a puncture, that’s a delamination.

            1. Delaminations are often caused by punctures because the tread is damaged and breaks away from the sidewalls. The belt will often stay in place.

              1. The visual of spectacular tire delaminations re run on sport highlight reels without context is non-flaterring for the Pirelli brand. Non F1 sports commentators will blither on about failing tires without context, no tire manufacturer would likely be willing to absorb that negativity in association with their brand. UNLESS COMMENTATORS EXPLAIN ITS PART OF THE SPORT AND DRIVER ERROR who can blame Pirelli for caving in. FIA should set reg’s and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for them instead of a CONTRACTED tire supplier!!!

  22. I am really saddened by this change. I hate knee-jerk reactions and this is a big one. It’s a pity the FIA have not stepped in to prevent this. I have absolutely loved what Pirelli have brought to F1 and I’m a bit confused why some elements of the press are obsessing over it… they seem to have really short memories.

  23. Totally agree about the commentary. There’s enough amateur (i.e. not full time employed and accredited) talent out there to fill a website with commentary better than you can prise out of Sky or whoever. (not a plug, just a illustration of what happens when there’s a gap to fill, but there’s one amateur site making a genuine effort) Moreover, I used to hide out in internet chat rooms during the race to better understand the action.

    I don’t think it could easily be accommodated, mainly because of the needs of GP+, so I expect there is a different focus of attentions, but I would delight in Joe’s thoughts during a race, as he pens his lap chart. I may be dreaming, but I think Olympus make dictaphones which can connect to send email recordings … wonder if that could be hooked up in some way to deliver a blow by blow without too much burden?

    I believe we live in a internet age (always get a giggle when people opine Joe’s come lately to the party) and there are talk / chat / talkback systems for everything imaginable, though I am thinking the kind used in online games. Just have a voting system for listeners, and let the knowledgeable fans rise to the top. I can see the tricky bits to be done with that, specifically how to handle two way not so much the usual technical bothers, but when you can set albeit imperfect continuous voice recognition and so can even run a live feed overlay, click to listen, so it’s unobtrusive, I can see that working in many ways.

    Twitter does fulfill some of that function, but it has many limitations, not least that you may want to follow someone but they may simply not be up to the job at any given time. I nearly twice toyed with twittering, and someone joked that oh dear they would be snowed by my words, but it didn’t appeal to me.

    RadioJoe please?

    Oh, I like the pit stops. Remember arm twisting a American friend into F1, and he noted on his first viewing that was to him the most impressive feature. Hard core fans may know more the significance of a pit stop, but they certainly grab attention in any audience. Hmm, along that line, why are so many purportedly hard core fans against pit stops, allowing we know more how important they are?

    1. >> but I would delight in Joe’s thoughts during a race, as
      >> he pens his lap chart

      You, me, and likely the rest of us too.

      It seems a waste to get only “just the facts” about an event I watched with my own eyes. I already know those facts which show up in the race report, I want to know more about what Joe & Co think about it as it happens. And, as it’s DT, not Joe, who writes the race report, perhaps Joe might at least think about re-purposing what he’s reporting on during that time.

      Now, as to whether it’s a live stream or a record for later, I have an open mind… advantages and disadvantages to each one…

      1. The Other Me seconds that too, RShack. (sorry my lack of taste in humor today.. says me shying coyly away)

        I miss James Hunt sneaking off for a spliff and getting his attitude warmed up. There was delight in his plum English accent getting rude about drivers. He’s sound as if it was all so arbitrary, personal (infamously his beef with Nelson P) and yet he was pretty darned on the money all the time.

        I want the R – rated reading of Racing Reason, which we would really relish, reporting the realm of real reckless reason and relative renditions racing riotously rendered recorded reactively and responsibly by reviewers of repute rosily rendered rumbustiously for the radio.

        (sorry, my love and I try to speak sometimes in continuous alliteration, it confuses the heck out of people when we stay in that mode, and is great fun. Record to date about one hour of uninterrupted conversation .. tricky when going out to buy tings from the corner store! – – – I also want Biggus Jimmus to repeat that rot! 😉 )

        There must be a way, some means.

        Advanvce warning about getting spammed with flickering adverts, but this is a good read / view:

        So when is the all mighty FOM gonna buy a few of those?

        Then we could realistically get Joe or DT’s voices out across the globe from a dictaphone.

        Know what? Would make a neato app, I reckon.

        Hmmm, thinking. Ales alternatively accosted, actually associating about alliterative afternoons all alluringly attracting assignations amorously ..

        1. mea . .

          “rosily relayed”

          and “alas” not “Ales” but I ail alimentary aspiring a accentuated ale at afternoon’s antiquity . .

          (sorry, think I should go accost my affinitive alliterative accomplice afore I accede to abject apathy…)

  24. Pirelli have chosen the wrong circuit to make a judgement to change the compounds even if they were under pressure to do so, Barcelona has always caused problems and on numerous occasions has left engineers scratching their heads, it also possibly highlights that some teams in pre season testing may have been a bit shy with there own reality………..

  25. I don’t think the professional commentators are to blame –
    In this ‘instant’ media-centric world the cut-copy-paste ‘artistes’ are able to predominate by sheer numbers and volume of output alone and they probably don’t give a damn about ‘keeping up with the action’. Thus it’s inevitable that the facile interplay of personality and opinion takes precedence over the sport’s technical merits when driving gratuitous rule changes.

    ‘There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.’
    Ernest Hemingway

    F1 has now joined ‘all the rest’ and simply become a ‘game’ servicing the commercial interests of the media-savvy promoters – ‘controversy’ is a product in its own right and deemed to be more marketable than the racing.

      1. Obviously it still holds my interest, after following it for fifty years, regardless of how I choose to classify it – entertaining game that it is.

        I enjoy the technical aspect of racing even though the politics now predominate and are beyond farcical.

      2. I’ve debated so often with my rabid F1 fan mates whether F1 is still a sport, I lost count. I think almost everyone had misgivings in the Shumacher dominance. So I’m with Dai Dactic in at least the idea we should question, and making that question openly is important, even if we are merely random guys posting in your comments section, I think that is exactly what your website is good for.

        Incidentally, for Dai, that Hemmingway quote has had plenty outings on this blog! 🙂

        Also for Dai, and anyone of similar mood, you wouldn’t complain if you didn’t care, right? I find that if am not enjoying the races, I’m not paying attention to the right things. That’s the joy I get from this sport, and I think even the most geek or nerdy aspects are part of being sporting. It’s the attitude. Samuel Johnson: “Tired of London . . . ” etc.!

        1. It is still a sport because it is such a badly-run business. If the teams were run along usual business lines they would all make heaps of cash.

          1. That’s not really a good answer. It’s true, but it is not an adequate justification for what goes on (or doesn’t), racing-wise.

            I agree with everything you said in the OP… but that doesn’t mean yours is the only valid opinion about the state of racing these days. Dai has a valid point, shouldn’t diss him for that, he wasn’t being rude about it…

            1. ps: I have adapted to the bad-tyre era… by halfway thru the last race, I thought Kimi had things in hand… shows how much I know… but just because I’ve adapted and thus focus on what’s been mandated to be the interesting parts, that doesn’t mean I like it or think it’s appropriate for the sport…

          2. Dammit Joe, cannot laugh out loud for real right now, or cause disturbance: super answer!

            You flogging a team, by any chance, on the upside pitch?


            I have often thought though, why teams are such sink holes, and they no longer seem to have Colombian marching powder in the chassis tubes, or the good old tax loss ploys since tax losses have to be in the same business line . . . .

            Maybe any new deal ought to give the teams and all a upside like the hedge fund managers get, in return for some concessions, like actually signing a deal . .

            Yup, regularly though one ought to be able to make money at F1 for real, and that teams are not reporting low or no profits just for accounting fun . . .

  26. For the last 2 seasons, I think that the suits at Pirelli have believed that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Wet / dry performance and durability are probably the key points that can justify a premium product price to their customers.

    Tyres falling apart in front of viewers, drivers complaint about how slow they are going and pole sitters appearing to go backwards, do not convey a positive image. You may have also missed Berger and Villeneuve saying to the cameras that they feel F1 is not the pinnacle it used to be.

    Bernie summed it up, they were asked to make tyres that would only last half the race. With a need to get off options early, that should result in 2 tyre stops. The only problem is that teams will always try to do one less stop, so the FIA need to simply regulate a minimum 2-stop requirement.

      1. So driving to delta is not dull? Anyone with a decent knowledge of math can antecipate who’ll win by lap 15 even if 5 cars lead the race after that. You say you had to wait for the last few laps to be sure Alonso would win. Were you expecting his car to break? Or perhaps a tyre to blow as that is the only excitement 2013 Pirelli has brought to the race. Midway through it was clear for everybody who the winner was, the question then was if Ferrari would pull a 1-2.

        One other thing, being against these Pirellis is not the same as being against degrading tyres that require cars to stop. I only think between the FIA and Pirelli they had a good balance in 2012 and went out and ruined it all by themselves.

        1. I think you are missing the point. The cars handle differently on different rubber with different fuel loads and in different temperatures. If you had followed the race closely you would have seen that Raikkonen was in with a shout all the way. He was held up by Vettel, which cost him some time, but the final verdict was not decided until we saw his lap times on the last set of rubber, compared to what Alonso could manage. It is not about managing tyres, it was about getting as much pace as possible out of each set of tyres without pushing them too hard. That is incredibly skilled and fascinating the watch. Both men did a great job. Alonso’s strategy ended up being slightly better, but it was very close.

          1. This; it was fascinating to see Raikkonen’s onboard snippets, he was so gentle on the car and his expertise in balancing weight transfer was clear for all to see. “Driving to delta” could be achieved by driving smooth or giving it elbows at every corner – but one may hurt you later in the stint. So it’s all about driving skills (as usual, and increasingly adding in cognitive aspects, while 33 seconds of ERS each lap next year will further add to this factor). Notable for me this race was the improvement of Gutierrez, unlucky to not get his first points finish.

          2. I won’t be offended if you choose not to publish this, but if you re-read your comment to which I am replying, I don’t think you will fail to see the doublespeak, or talking out both sides of the mouth. “Pace without pushing”, is exactly the same thing as “managing tires”.
            And, the problem is the pace required is TOO SLOW. And, racing for position is counter-productive to tire life, so fragile are these tires.
            Joe, are you really behind your position, or acting as Advocate General for Lucifer?

            1. In my opinion, racing is about driving what you are given to victory in the fastest and most intelligent way.

              1. I couldn’t agree more Mr. Saward, winning is making the best you have with the material you have, but when that comes down to keepin out of trouble and undercuting your rivals on pits stops then there isn’t much of a point in watching is there? I mean it is ok if somebody pulls it every once in a while but it is definitely not ok if that becames the rule. And if we are not just talking about winning but about every place then it gets rather boring. That is the problem.Ferrari, Red Bull and to some extend Lotus do it to win, but McLaren is doing it to try and be 7th and Toro Rosso to get into the points. Let’s face it, softening the tyres was a colossal mistake and the problem now is how to get out of it in a way that pleases everybody.It can’t be done.

                1. I do not agree that softening the tyres was a mistake. I think you could argue that they were softened too much but it is not the end of the world.

                  1. It was the end of the world in Spain and China. As I said, I agree tyres should not be changed now. But if they do, please Pirelli, don’t try something untested, just go straight to 2012 tyres and don’t worry. Red Bull was not the fastest car then it will not be now, at least not in every circuit, the Ferrari will still be a very fast car, if not the fastest on race pace, the Lotus will still be the best conserving tyres and will have the ocasional chance to win, Mercedes will still overheat their tyres and God only knows what will happen to McLaren.

          3. Joe I usually agree with your views however on this I cannot. I agree that it is a racing driver’s job to preserve the machinery and tyres however given that drivers are “racing” at 75% capacity and still need four stops in a 200 mile Grand Prix shows how absurd Pirelli’s position is. As Martin Brundle, someone who has spent more time in racing cars than you or me, mentioned time and again on the on-board shots ” the pace is pretty pedestrian”. I think an experienced competitor such as he is well placed to comment on the current farcical situation. It seems to me that if drivers were able to use their tyres more we might see some actual racing rather than waiting for someone else’s tyres to destroy themselves before pouncing. Believe me I am a confirmed neutral and welcome any winner other than Vettel but firstly I want to see cars racing rather than touring around at 75%, that to me is not racing.

      2. Joe, that’s like saying to someone in the Zimbabwe “let’s go back to a sound currency”.

        The racing in F1 has become so hyper-inflated its value has diminished. Pirelli/FOM/FIA put the printing presses to max, expected for the ‘racing’ to not lose its inherent value.

        I can’t remember a time where I was out of my seat saying “what a move”. i really can’t. Maybe circa 2007 and 2008 with Hamilton.

        There is a balance to be struck because the races were a bit dull at times, but what we see now, well for me, isn’t exciting in the slightest. Thankfully I like to watch KZ, which arguable has a better depth of talent, has better race, and drivers going pretty close to the limit lap 1.

      3. I disagree, we now have effective KERS & DRS to help overcome that. If everyone is maximising the performance of 3 semi-durable sets of tyres, they can go back to genuinely competing for track position, rather than just driving to pre-determined deltas.

  27. I agree 100% and it certainly stinks. I also do believe changing the rules midway, as has happened all too frequently over the last 10 years, is bad for the development of F1. I think not many many folks will be prepared to fork out the money Sky want per month if it is pretty much certain who will win from the outset! I personally have lost a lot of interest in F1 racing in part due to this. Where I was this season considering paying to watch some races on Sky I now have good enough reason not to, if by Canada Vettel disappears into the distance.

  28. I was not confused at all. However the point being missed is that with a 4 stop strategy Alonso and Vettel were still conserving there tyres. They only get 6 sets for quali and race so therefore they are always compromised.

    The example the horse whisperer used today of Schumi at Magny Cours was an example of a classic strategy where new tyres and driver pushed to the limit. This was not the case on Sunday in Barcelona.

        1. Sorry, but you do not therefore have any understanding of the way that racing has always been. Going flat out from start to finish is a nice idea but strategy has always played a part. Always.

          1. To wit, at any point in F1 history other than the past ten years, going flat out from start to finish would mean that that your finish would be quite a bit sooner than you hoped, and probably accompanied by the smell of burning machinery.

            Husbanding resources intelligently is central to motor racing. Going flat out from start to finish is a video game.

          2. Strategic options, for the most part, are significantly reduced since the ban on in-race refueling.

        2. UncleZen, if you make it a binary This vs. That choice, you lose.

          It’s not a drag race, it’s an F1 race… which means managing tyres is part of it.

          It also used to be about making iffy mechanicals last to the end, but they’ve reliabilitied that away. It also used to be about actually shifting gears, but transmission advances have removed that too. Such is progress.

          What’s left if fuel, tyres… and, um, racing… which seems to be what they’re removing now. The problem arises because the tyre part of it now has such great weight that actual racing has been largely banned.

          IMO, you’re mistake mirrors the mistake of those who insist on painting a false binary choice between “tyres über alles” or boring processions…

        3. Well, yeah. In Formula Ford.

          Never has been in F1. Well, a few years in the early 2000s, maybe. And look how exciting they were…

        4. Define “flat out” though.

          The cars have a pre-determined amount of fuel in them, usually less than the amount needed to go flat out from start to finish. Conserving the petrol in the car is also something the driver has to do, but none of us would argue it makes the racing “artificial” or a “farce”.

      1. Joe I agree. However these tyres don’t allow a driver to do that. I’m not all about seeing a driver push, I value the skill in a driver nursing and protecting. However these tyres don’t even allow that the degradation is so high that they allow no scope for flexibility in strategy for the driver.

  29. Could it be less to do with Team X whinging that the tyres don’t suit them and more do do with the TV images of stripped carcasses? The public understand punctures happen but the exposed carcass of this year’s construction looks so much worse even though it is actually safer.

  30. I’m curious to know who has the final call on tire selection. Can the tire supplier unilaterally change the specifications or do other bodies need to sign off on changes? While I understand that Red Bull was pushing for a change, I guess I’m asking if anyone else was complicit in the actual decision to change compounds.

  31. All well and good Joe, but how do you cover off the catastrophic tyre failures we have had this year?

    Even if you ignore to way that we don’t actually have them racing anymore (and please don’t start about how it;s always been about managing tyres when you then watch Le-Mans these days that’s run like one huge sprint race).

    The tyres are shockingly bad, to the point the drivers are not racing any more, how can anybody justify this?

    From a marketing POV, the message being sent loud and clear is that Pirelli tyres are terrible and fall apart, how can that be good for them?

    1. They were not catastrophic. Look at them and you can see that the tread comes off but the belts remained there. If they had been worrying then I have no doubt that Pirelli would have reacted.

      1. They sure confused me, though. I freaked at the image, remembering past sad events, and thinking immediately “where’s the tether?”.

        The PR failure on this is that nothing was aforementioned about the new design. It’s novel, positive, lateral thinking. But it makes for some disturbing reactions, and I’d not consider myself inattentive to the races.

        Pirelli ought to have been out in full force to explain and top spin this story. Instead they left the momentum to others. Tires sure are this year’s generic story – as you point out, far overblown and much misunderstood – but as long as every driver needs a set of tires, people will pay attention. One balanced article (here, the other day) cannot balance the shouting and the politicking and hijacking of the issue.

        I’ll admit this year has not permitted me the luxury of undivided attention, but I do reckon if I am caught out and confused, then many people will be.

      2. so Lewis car was not terminally damaged by said tyre failure then and I imagined him getting a grid penalty from the subsequent gearbox change due to the damage?

        Joe, will all due, to call this tyre management racing is farcical, (and yes, I have been actively following F1 and other categories for 30+ years and competing for over 15 years, I think I can understand the basics of what constitutes racing)

  32. There’s a few F1 fans in my office that have turned against Pirelli after last weekend.

    I’ve tried explaining that they’re only doing what they were asked to do, but they’re not having any of it.

    1. Nelsinho Piquet was also told to crash on turn 17 in Singapour 2009. He did what he was asked to do but he was wrong.

      The same for Pirelli : they should have better know especially if their PR is so clever… Where is the point to damage badly your image doing something like “spicing the racing” you’re not supposed to do ?

  33. Joe, frankly I am fed up with the commentators and pundits complaining about the tyres, surely the tyres are just another factor the GP teams have to conquer in the same way they conquer the technical rules, temperature and track etc.

    By changing the tyres this years championship may be devalued, I hope Alonso (and Massa, great to see him “back”) and Raikkonen continue their winning ways, and if so what does that show? not too many years ago Red Bull were not exactly at the pointy end of the grid, surely they can not be that conceited to think they will always be there? as we have seen with Ferrari and McLaren, sometimes the design is plain awful.

    Being an old F1 fan, watching races back in the 80’s, I recall a race where the driver who crossed the line first was not the winner but second as the subsequent winner of the race was within x number of seconds, I think this was due to a red flag situation. Why was the race confusing to the spectators (as claimed by many commentators), do we need to know the conclusion at the start or can we not just enjoy the sight of a GP car zipping pass another when turning into a tight corner?

  34. Joe, I wholeheartedly agree with you. The fuzz that has been made of the tyres completely ignores that before the succesive sprint races in a race format of the early noughties, tyre management was always in the DNA of great F1-drivers and -designers alike.

    Can’t Red Bull and Adrian Newey just admit that they underestimated the importance of tyre management when designing their car and basically didn’t allow enough wiggle room as Ferrari and especially Lotus have done. I can well believe that Lotus is not happy at all having found a very good balance between aero, speed and tyre management in their chassis, all for it be nullified by the the continued whining of Red Bull.

  35. My view is that four stops with drivers going flat out to compensate for extra pit stops is one thing but four stops at 80/90% to save it being five or more stops is quite another. The 2011 examples are examples of the former. 2013 the latter.

    Although regardless 40 miles on a set of tyres is not the best advert for Pirelli.

  36. having just read hemberys last interview on the changes, he seems to lay down the gauntlet to the media, blaming them largely for this ‘bizarre’ situation? he then went on to say something along the lines of, do you want red bull to win the championship again?

    that is a very telling comment to make. is he saying that the current crop of trash tyres is there precisely to stop red bull? i don’t think that a tyre manufacturer should have at their disposal the elements to discriminate. one then should ask the question….why was it necessary to change the tyres from the latter 2012 specs?

    1. I don’t see how the Pirelli can ‘discriminate’ against 1 team given every team has exactly the same qty and spec of tyre each weekend and they were all given the same information to design their cars around.

      The underlying point of all this kerfuffle is its up to the teams who are struggling to tune their cars to the tyres surely?

      Pirelli changed the tyres this year to keep the teams on their toes, keeping them the same as 2012 was an option if it has been chosen the same challenge to the teams would remain, design the best racing car to make the tyres work.

      If we still had the same 2012 spec tyres we might just have seen a ‘slightly’ different pecking order, or do I mean set of complainers?! 😉

    2. Exactly, by saying that it seems they made these tires especially not to suit Red Bull. Scary thought.

      1. No not at all Pirelli told everyone the tyres were changing, so how could they have made a change just to disadvantage Red Bull (unless they didn’t get the Memo, read the press, get the sets of test tyres etc etc).
        Surely in the case of Red Bull we should be asking Red Bull why they chose not to update the design their car sufficiently to cope with the change to the 2013 tyres like Ferrari, Lotus and FI etc have done very well?

        1. Hembery’s comments were if people want Red Bull to drive away from the field again. So one could say in other words they made these tires so that would not happen..

          And if Red Bull did not do a good job why are they leading both championships? Bahrain they were cruising to the win..

  37. Although I do agree with you that tyres should not be changed because it equates to a change of rules I think the problem is not that cars had to change them 4 times. The problem is that, in order to reduce stops to a mere 4 they had to follow deltas and refrain from engaging batles for positions which, I believe, is not what F1 is all about. I thought this could be addressed by choosing harder compounds for the races Pirelli antecipates extreme tyre problems when compared to last year, like they did in Bahrein and will do in Canada. But for Barcelona they brought the hardest tyres and that didn’t do the trick so something must be done. As for Red Bull and Mercedes being all for a change while Ferrari and Lotus are all against it is only natural, and if team leaders/owners acted otherwise only then would I be surprised.

    Now, the obvious change would be to put back 2012’s tyres as they have already been tested and the teams can adjust their cars faster and at less cost. But that is seen as benefiting Red Bull (I wonder if McLaren would bring their old car back?) and so can’t be done even if it wasn’t the case (as I personally believe it wouldn’t. So we will have a hybrid 2012/13 tyre, very lightly tested, if at all, that could very easily backfire. The choice for even softer tyres for 2013 was one I never understood, but going back on it might prove disastrous.

    As for the Fleet Street campaign for more durable tyres, even if it is orchestrated, and I do believe you when you say it is, It does not necessarilly follows that they are wrong in their opinion.

  38. Thorny issue, Joe. You, yourself, have previously argued the need to engage better with fans, bring new fans in, encourage the younger generation to take an interest so that the sport isn’t a preserve of the elite or propped up by a rapidly greying generation.

    I personally agree with you, but making the sport a world of esoteric technical details and complex tactics hardly endears it to a wider audience.

    1. I am all for bringing in new fans but not by sticking rockets on the side of the cars, painting them purples and putting drivers in skin tight suits. There is no reason that new generations cannot understand basic concepts of strategy. They are not stupid and not all of them have the attention span of a gnat. If you want flat out all the way you can watch drag racing, if you want cars going sideways you can watch drifting. The fact is that hundreds of millions of people watch F1 because it is so multi-layered.

  39. Joe, amen to that.
    If “Red Bull gives you wings”, why are they wingeing about the Pirelli soles then? Anyway, I think in order to be credible any complaints of technical nature should be coming from engineers in the first place.

  40. If I am being honest, I’m slightly happy about the change because I don’t like Alonso or Ferrari and it’s nice to see them on the receiving end of a political move for once. Does that make me a bad person?

    In all seriousness, the number of pitstops didn’t bother me. I did think Pirelli got it wrong in Spain, but it’s just one race.

  41. Mr. Saward,

    Spot on observation. Niki Lauda once said that to win a driver must extract the maximum from his car as well as himself. It’s ridiculous for drivers to claim they can’t drive their mounts to the maximum, it’s their job to do just that. Raikkonen is also correct that the tires are the same for everyone and just get on with it.
    To mandate a technical specification change during the season on anything other than safety grounds really calls into question the integrity of the sport (naive as that sounds I still consider it a sport) and speaks more about the sanctioning body than the tire supplier for the series.

    1. Niki also said “the secret is to win going as slowly as possible” (or words to that effect), which would seem to be an apt description of the principle of conservation in F1, whether it be brakes and gearboxes in the 70s, turbos in the 80s or tyres in whatever decade we are in now (the teens?)

  42. A lot of huff and puff about tyres, seems to me though people have short memories how many times has the FIA changed the rules mid year to get rid of certain car developments.

    Has the same effect as changing the tyres, and I would note that the teams complaining now about this change would have been the first to complain if the shoe was on the other foot.

    I am pretty certain it’s called Hypocrisy.

  43. Pirelli did not deliver what they have been commissioned to supply. It is as simply as that. They have admitted it in their own statement. So any talk of rule changes is rubbish in my view.

    Having to change the tyre construction and the compounds mid season is far from ideal in my view but it is not the kind of earth shattering thing as that it is painted in the blog. As many things this is just one opinion and people can honestly disagree with it without being branded biased and unfair.

    The whole thing is business as usual methink. Some teams lobbied the blown diffusors away and now Red Bull and Mercedes used the public opinion to change another technical parameter to their advantage. Time to move on, really nothing to see here.

  44. Thanks for this piece. You expressed my feelings on the subject exactly. Actually better than I could’ve. What upsets me most is changing the rules in mid-flight. The teams knew the tires would change and even tested these tires last year. I hate it that it appears some teams are being punished for designing a car better suited to the rules.

  45. Apparently they are going back to kevlar belts instead of steel.

    One thing I would like to see on the BBC tv coverage is the leaderboard becoming live like it is on MotoGP. If a rider overtakes another, the two swap positions on the leaderboard. The FOM live timing page on the internet is updated at the end of each lap thus is out of date for most of the time. There is a “position line” lap chart which often looks like spaghetti.

    But if one is paying attention and not dozing it is very easy to follow.

    1. BBC (and all broadcasters) get their feed from F1M, and therefore the BBC can’t change it. You’re right though, Moto GP (and Indycar or whatever they’re called now) do it better.

  46. First of all, can PIrellii do this without the consent of all teams?
    According to “Technical regulations Article 12.6.3” not. This article says:
    “Tyre specifications will be determined by the FIA no later than 1 September of the previous season. Once determined in this way, the specification of the tyres will not be changed during the Championship season without the agreement of all competing teams.”

    I hardly think all teams will agree to this, or it must be because of a safety issue. Both in Bahrain and in Spain drivers suffered from failing tyre treads when they overheat. I think Pirelli just uses the number of stops as an excuse to prevent bad PR because of this.

    1. Interesting point that Technical thingy. Had the tyre spec been determined and published for the teams prior to the date? My memory says no; but then I am old, therefore….

  47. But do we know what Pirelli are actually changing? Paul Hembery spoke of “construction changes” and “some elements of the 2011 and 2011 designs” to “give two or three stop races”.

    So is that simply shifting the compounds harder so that they degrade more slowly? Is it modifying the profile of the tyre so that it is shaped more like last year’s (which would penalise the teams that got it right in the wind tunnel and reward Williams and McLaren who did not). It is removing that new steel collar that means that tyres hang on longer and then delaminate if there’s an injury to the surface of the tyre? Is it actually changing the way the compounds behave so that they are more like last year, which the teams understand?

    Some of these will favour Red Bull and Mercedes more than others — a simple shift in the compounds so that a Hard is now a Demonstration, a Medium is now a Hard, etc., would probably not be so dramatic. But a change, say, back to the way the 2011 compounds degrade would play right into Mateschitz’s claws.

  48. But in any case, if the rationale is anything other than to avoid images of delaminated Pirellis spattered all over the media, it’s a damned shame. Red Bull and Mercedes went down a development path that turned out to be a blind alley — they should be dealing with it by making their cars perform better, rather than sputtering in an Austrian accent about how the tyres are the problem and its not racing unless all contingencies are arranged to allow their cars to perform perfectly.

  49. Joe, I hear this change might in fact be even illegal under FIA rules. Regardless of this, why don’t we organise an peal to the FIA. If you have 35k viewers a day, maybe we can set up a petition and see what fan power can do?

      1. Yes I know, non existing but you have to start somewhere Joe! After all it is in the end the fan who pays for all of it. Come on joe help a fan out, will you post a link to an FIA petition and ask fellow journalist to publish the link too?

        1. People in F1 don’t care about petitions. They care about viewer numbers. Don’t like it? Don’t watch it. They understand that.

          1. Well said. However, that might happen sooner than they expect Joe. I notice Moto GP is off the BBC next year and it will be interesting to see how they fare. However the Spanish F1 GP TV audience ratings were not good – Sky ratings look abysmal all round. How long can that go on? Even Sky budgets cannot be that fat.

            1. Sky down over 17% on last years averages, and they were about half what they had promised.

              Sky F1 channel ran over budget from September last year.

              1. Do you think is mainly about the cost to those who are accustomed to getting it for free… or are other factors at work?

              2. Karen,

                Is this a worry, for any renewal “pay for view” TV contracts that are coming up to be signed? Also with the drop in viewing figures, how much will this impact on teams who use these figures to sell space on the cars? What other pay to view contracts are showing a drop in viewing figures? (Countries)

                In your judgement how long will Sky support the F1 channel, with these loses, before they do something to stem the red ink? Do you know what their plan was, as per a break even on hosting the F1 rights on Sky? In other words, when did they think they would be in the “money”?

                1. Poorly sponsored teams will leave, as one already has. The teams in total lost an average of £3.4 million per race in TV exposure in 2012, and this has increased this year, the live F1 viewing audience worldwide has fallen, due to subscription TV deals, however the ‘All Broadcast’ audience has grown, but as this is mainly highlights and casually viewed catch-up TV, sponsor awareness and exposure ratings are severely down on 2011 figures.

                  Sky will support the channel as long as their projected income remains on course, however they have moved it into the Sky Sports package earlier than they had hoped to do, in an attempt to maximise income from falling audience levels.

                  Many programmes on the channel officially rate as having ‘Zero Viewers’ or have made ‘No Impact’.

                  1. I said at the time Sky would bait and switch F1 channel to Sports. That was their plan, not a reaction, unless you know better?

      2. The Brabham BT46B that only raced in the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, was aided by a large fan…

  50. I think Pirelli shouldn’t have made the decision to change their tyres midseason
    , just because the championship is doomed now. Because unless Ferrari or Lotus win the WDC/WCC then people will say those who won, won it because of this change.

    But one must not forget that Pirelli made this decision. And if it would have been because of one team after one race then that would make them look very weak.

    On the talk op many pitstops, one cannot compare pitstop strategies between different era’s. In the time of refueling it was always trying to find a balance between fuelload/speed/pitstoptime. So totally different from now.

    Also Donington 1993 was a race that started wet, went to dry, then wet again and then dry again and Senna’s last ‘pitstop’ he didnt even stop at the team.

    Mateschitz didnt say there were too many pitstops, he said that the current situation with the tires is too much. Tyre management has always been important in F1 but never to such an extend that teams have to tell drivers to drive 90% and not fight for position because of saving tires.

    And Mateschitz and Red Bull already complained about it long before Spain. Even after their 1-2 finish in Malaysia,

  51. I agree completely, Joe. This is a stupid situation that makes the sport look ham-fisted. Sorry Red Bull can’t win at the moment, Mr. Mateschitz, but that’s the way it is. Deal with it.

    1. Uhm, do you follow F1???
      Who is winning at the moment???
      Vettel P1 in WDC
      Red Bull P1 in WCC.
      2 wins out of 5 this season,
      Vettel top 4 in all races

  52. It’s strange you don’t see (or don’t want to see) this, Joe.
    F1 has always been about speed, the more the better. We want to see both the cars and drivers at their maximum.
    And what do we get now? Drivers at 90% and cars at less than that. Only the tyres (of the whole package!) are maxed out. Boring!

    WWF, here comes F1!

    1. You can reinvent F1 history as much as you like, but racing has never been about going flat out all the way. It has been about going as fast as you can based on changing conditions and making sure that you finish.

      1. Very true Joe, tyre management has always been very important.
        But what is your view on teams telling their drivers not to fight for position?

        1. unfortunately the decisions are now made less by the driver and more by the teams ; ban radio communications during the race ?
          in former times the best drivers didn’t need telling when to hold em or when to fold em , it was part of the skill of racing

          1. well quite as we saw when some drivers have chosen to ignore what the team has been telling them, or told them to go away, the racing was more entertaining, maybe we should consider banning pit/car radio (they dont have them on motorbikes and most GP level riders know how to manage their own tyres there too) since it seems to have turned it into the moaning channel on more than one occasion

        2. It simply means that they failed big time in building a good car to cope tyres or are still to understand these and are now trying to shift the blame to someone else. I saw Alonso and Raikkonen fighting for positions… As a matter of fact I even saw Rosberg and Hamilton, of all drivers, fending off Force Indias…

          Sure, it is a predicament that fell at the feet of Red Bull for the first time, but for Mercedes (only to name two of the most complaining ones) they have been overworking their rear tyres ever since 2009 when it was still called Brawn and I haven’t seen many complains about it back then.

          I also have not seen these amount of complains for most of the naughties when grooved tyres were pegging back the cars, never mind the racing. Yes, grooved tyres were introduced for safety reasons to try and reduce cornering speeds. Nevertheless, 4 seasons after the first race on these tyres, cars were already lapping faster than before (taking into account the qualifying lap from Catalunya from 1998 and 2001) rendering the original safety motives for the tyres useless. And that was even before the full swing of the tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin.

          And what about the early 80s where it was not uncommon to see drivers trundling along to see if the fuel lasted the distance? Back then it was more “though luck, build better engines next time around” rather than “poor guy, he can’t go flat out, change the rules for him and others go flat out”. What will happen when the fuel limit will become the rule for next year? When people start to see drivers doing fuel management in order to last the distance? Will the rule be changed mid season too?

          Before complaining, one has to see what Formula 1 racing is all about.

          1. I dont think its that theyve built good or bad cars as such.Red Bull have probably built a very good car in that it can generate (claimed) near to double diffuser levels of aero, under rules that were supposed to curtail hitting those levels again, so its aerodynamically very good car, what they didnt get perhaps, is the tyre specs they and Renault/Ferrari etc had is thats actually not a good setup for managing tyre wear on the current tyre specs, and thats why they burn the tyres or moan they can only hit 80% of whatever percentage performance, because they have to dial back the aero advantage they thought they had to get the car to work with the tyres, thereby nullifying their one big design advantage in having Newey on board. whilst the likes of Renault & Ferrari realised a more mechanical sympathetic design would work.

            the problem is the media commentators have got themselves stuck in a loop as they moan they have to talk about tyres, yet continually talk about tyres anyway thereby increasing their annonyance that “everyone just talks about tyres”, and then to moan its based on some esoteric setup choice the public cant understand or see, whilst championing presumably the amount of miniscule design changes going on per race on the likes of Red Bulls front wing, the public still cant understand or see because we dont have degrees in CFD or understand why the addition of a billy bowden figure style bit of carbon fibre makes any difference, ah but thats technology derived from the teams so it must be good !?! if it doesnt work it must be the tyres !?!?

            its a shame Pirelli have felt forced to do this as the season was shaping up into an intruiging contest, which it might still obviously but I think it will hand those those teams with an aero advantage who work their front tyres hard currently.

        3. Too true, too true. In the old days tyre management consisted of gripping the steering wheel harder, crossing your gonads and getting on with it.

          1. Entertaining comment…but not true. Right back to the 50s, under some circumstances drivers tried to make their tyres last as a competitive strategy against those driving harder.

            1. Yes but now it is not a question of saving your tyres against drivers who go driving harder. It is a question of saving your tyres against drivers saving their tyres. I’m ok if a driver goes for 4 stops hiting hard against one that goes for 3 hiting the pedal gently, I’m not ok if the driver going for 4 also has to take it easy.

      2. But Joe, it’s not fair to say the choice is between racing all-out all-the-time vs. mastering tyre strategy. That’s just as much as a false choice as is presented by those who say speed should completely dominate strategy.

        The error in both cases is to reduce it to This vs. That, when F1 has always been about multiple factors… of which going fast was certainly one.

        Surely there should be some significant room for actual racing, should there not?

  53. So, were the teams not “racing” in the golden era 80’s when they were forced to conserve fuel to finish the race? According to the “purists”, anything other than flat out is not racing.

    The maxim “To finish first, first you must finish” seems entirely appropriate in this context.

  54. I remember some races have had four stops in the past! That was when you could go flat out and four stops, would get you to the end. Or alternatively a well paced three stopper was your option. If you go flat out now on these tyres it will be eight stops or more.

  55. I think this is happening now, mainly because of team radio – we’re getting information from the drivers who are complaining, crystallised by Lewis Hamilton’s ‘I can’t drive any slower!’ message. Add that to messages from race engineers telling their drivers to not race each other on track. That’s not the image F1 wants, regardless of whether it has been going on for years.

    Let’s also consider how the teams use radio to influence the stewards – do you think maybe they might be capable of using it to influence the viewers and media too knowing what they say may go out on TV?

    Now whether those messages are carefully cultivated and selected by FOM to create a narrative for the race and the season is another story.

  56. While we’re talking about the relevance of havign a long(ish) memory in F1: one of my earliest races was the 1982 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. There was much excitement about a bold new idea from the Brabham team: refuelling during the race, so that the car would be lighter (and so faster) at the start. I remember talk of (a) would it work? and (b) was it within the rules? In essence, this was I believe (though no doubt others will correct me if I’m wrong) the birth of the strategic pit-stop, whereas previously pit-stops were only used when something need fixing, or to change tyres due to weather conditions. But once the strategic refuelling pit-stop was born, it wasn’t long before teams decided they may as well whack on a fresh set of rubber while they were at it. And so was also born the strategic tyre change pit stop.

    And the team principal of Brabham in 1982, and so in effect the inventor of the strategic pit-stop was . . . .Bernie Ecclestone.

    1. It was the birth of the strategic pitstop in the modern era, but Fangio’s win at the Nurburgring in 1957 relied on a pitstop to refuel and change tyres.

        1. Indeed. Bugatti developed a wheel with integral brake drum, so that a pit stop would provide the driver not only with fresh rubber, but fresh brakes too. That was a huge strategic advantage, as brakes were a major problem then. Nothing new to see, move along!

          1. But they weren’t World Championship Grand Prix. But I agree that strategies have always been in place – e.g. 1914 French GP

            1. Ken

              There was a World Championship in the 1920’s, proposed by the Italian national association and administered by the A.I.A.C.R., IIRC. A.I.A.C.R. became the FIA after the second world war.

              You can read all about it on this site, if you have the patience!



          2. Silas

            Perhaps not quite correct, a tyre/wheel change gave a Bugatti driver a new brake drum, if the wheel was brand new.

            But what about the linings on the brake shoes?

            They would need to be changed too to get the advantage you are referring to.


    2. Good skills on the F1 history, but Mr Ecclestone had nothing to do with refuelling – that was Gordon Murray, who more or less ran the team day to day back then anyway.

  57. So if we’re going to lose variations in strategy, can we get rid of the 4 guys per driver that work on strategy during the race? That would be a big cost saver.

    1. Now there’s an idea that could work. Ban all telemetry to and from the factories during the race, ban all real-time race simulation software, and limit strategising activities to persons on the pit-wall.

      Might move us away from the current model of nobody daring to get up for a pee unless the computer says that the degeneration justifies it and they’ll come out in clear air.

  58. In the end all this will be seen as a brilliant media game to keep Pirelli in the spotlight all conducted by the spin doctor Hembery!

  59. I know it’s not possible but, I would love to see the results of a questionnaire done anonymously with all of the drivers about their opinions on these tires and the decision to change them mid-season.

    1. Are we sure it’s not possible? Might anonymity make it possible?

      I truly don’t know…


  60. It wasn’t the number of stops that bothered me in Barcelona, it was that tyre wear was dominating the racing so much to the extent that drivers were almost unwilling to fight and outwardly appeared to be driving well below their limit. That’s not a spectacle.

    Watching both GP2 and GP3 was much the same – both struggling with tyre wear in their respective races.

    So it just seems Pirelli got their compounds slightly wrong at Barcelona. I don’t think that warrants changing the spec of the tyres for the rest of season though, that’s a knee jerk reaction to media pressure.

  61. Joe, you are one of the only f1 journalist who seem to be against(or objective) this pirelli tyre change situation…and I feel you make some really good points here…I felt that sky especially has gone after pirelli really hard with their campaign…their whole media programming is about tyres…which is the way I feel they want to swing it…they keep saying this isnt flat out racing but in fact that flat racing era we keep talking about was one of the most boring years of f1…and I feel cheated with these mid season rule changes that are made to support the big teams…we have a great three way championship battle building up and all these new tyre change going to do is to favor one team more than the other…and this is where the sport is being damaged…it just doesnt feel right.
    I totally agree that the goalposts are being moved to change the results…and its really strange again that redbull have won 2 out of 5 races and still they complain.

    1. I don’t watch sky at all [ on principle ] so wasn’t aware they had set their sights on pirelli ; seems odd to say the racing is rubbish , the corollary being don’t bother to subscribe so you can watch

      or maybe there is some nice advertising revenue from red bull , or am I just being cynical ?

  62. No problem in keeping up with the race unfolding as it did, especially not with the F1 app on the phone/tablet, F1 live timing, comments from Autosport and BBC on the screens. I like it a lot all that race info, checking out who is on what tyre, new or used, how many laps. Man, you can have yourself a pitwall at home, and that is necessary as the commercial breaks can cause confusing, especially if/when the replay’s of missed moments during the break come along.
    Horner’s comments that this race was confusing for fans is an insult to fans; if you are an informed F1 follower (when becomes one a fan actually?) this race was rather easy to follow.

    Well, I hope that the Pirelli tweaking and bending does not alter the nature of the races, and especially not harm Kimi’s superb driving. This might affect my decision whether to put Pirelli’s again under my car later this year.

  63. I think a point has been missed that racing is about he skill of a driver – these tyres demand a real skill of driving to delta and tyre presevation. Though those two things should be part of any race it should not dominate it. I am all for seeing driver skill come back to the fore but not like this! As for changing he tyres in the season, why not? It will change the show agin and get more people to watch that arn’t core F1 fans to see whats going on…..I’d rather the people who make these desicions had made a better one in the first place!
    Take away team to car radio and limit the switches onthe wheel then the racing will get better.

  64. The whole debacle on here is all being stoked by people who either don’t understand or can’t be bothered to try to understand what is going on.

  65. minor changes only on safety grounds allowed by the FIA it seems from tonight’s announcement …no changes to lessen the number of pit stops etc
    maybe they have been reading your blog joe !!!
    in view of the tracks/temperatures for the rest of the season the delamination problem should largely go away anyhow , having said that pirelli can’t afford to have more examples because of the bad press rather than actual safety , so the need for a solution ; harder compounds to make the tread area more puncture resistant would help , but looks like they are not going to allowed to do that

    so what’s the solution , superglue maybe ?

  66. Autosport is now reporting that there’s a compromise solution of sorts – “tyre tweaks can only be for safety.”

    Supposedly the FIA will accept tire changes to “improve safety” and prevent the sort of delaminations we’ve seen, but will not tolerate tire changes that are meant to decrease the number of pit-stops or degradation.

    So it appears that Lotus and Ferrari (especially Ferrari) got some of what they wanted and can potentially maintain their current advantage.

      1. HA!
        Good one, Joe.

        To anyone who thinks the F1 tire behavior reflects Pirelli’s road products, please become better informed. For your own benefit, and to spare us.

        My P Zeros attaching my 12c to the road are remarkably good, great wear and grip both on road and track.

    1. It seems a great advertisement: Pirelli can tailor a tyre to do whatever they want. That gives me faith in their ability to match their claims for road tyres.

  67. FIA insists Pirelli tweaks must only be made for safety reasons – not to ensure fewer pitstops. That’s clear for every body now,.

  68. 1. Joe, you argue that there has been plenty of cases of 4 stops winning races but really I honestly think Pirelli have held out well (as you state) and I don’t think they wish to shout about “Safety reasons and de-laminations” as the real reason they are changing compounds as that is just adding bad publicity on top of changes. Also, there have been hundreds of mid-season changes due to safety reasons.

    2. Joe, you state that “Any dumbo can go fast, few can go fast all the time, but the great champions win because they were fast, consistent AND intelligent.” but very, very few can actually go fast and this extra special skill is now being denied to the watching masses. To see Lewis, Seb or Fernando on a qualifying lap is magical but now we have plasticine tyres, which don’t even last a lap without falling to bits, to me this seems somehow insane. Now, the race goers just don’t see any decent driving –

    – The Bottom Line is – “I wouldn’t pay to go to a race any more” as I believe you can no longer see the driving skills on display. – That is terrible.

  69. What I want to see is cars fighting to overtake. Following the car in front closely until they can nip past under braking or slipstreaming down a straight.
    None of this will happen while the cars rely so heavily on aerodynamic downforce!
    They need to change the regulations to make the teams rely more on mechanical grip.
    Give the teams a ‘standard’ front and rear wing, ban all the fiddly ugly add on bits, remove the plank and let them drop the ride height.
    Only then will we see the kind of overtaking we see in BTCC albeit without the cars exchanging paint like they do in BTCC

    1. I’m a bit rusty on the precise details, but my recollection is that if you go back to having most of the downforce from the underside of the car, and let the teams drop the ride height, you’ll end up with the kind of cars that lose downforce very easily over bumps and will be inclined to suddenly run off the track mid-corner or flip on the straights.

      I entirely agree about downforce, but suspect the technical solution is to remove wings altogether and go back to restricted venturi tunnels, which are less sensitive to ride height. Politically losing the wings is difficult though, as they make such lovely billboards.

  70. Tyres are not in the tech spec I said above, of course I was wrong!
    Article 12.6 covers tyres in terms of dimensions and contact area but does not define chemical composition. 12.5 covers supply.
    However it does contain:
    12.5.2 If, in the opinion of the appointed tyre supplier and FIA technical delegate, the nominated tyre specification proves to be technically unsuitable, the stewards may authorise the use of additional tyres to a different specification.
    But then also this:
    12.6.3 Tyre specifications will be determined by the FIA no later than 1 September of the previous season. Once determined in this way, the specification of the tyres will not be changed during the Championship season without the agreement of all competing teams.

    So that’s pretty clear then, a different specification may be authorised, but it may not be changed without the agreement of all teams.

  71. It seems the FIA have now stepped in saying the compounds should stay the same and only changes should be on “Safety Grounds” which seems reasonable – Now, I’m no lover of the compounds but I see the rules and sense in keeping Politics out of F1 – Just a shame the FIA didn’t let the manufacturer who is spending millions come out and say that the compounds will now stay the same – Pirelli will have defend the construction / compounds – When it goes on like this then I can see Pirelli running for the hills, very soon.

    1. well , pirelli haven’t yet had a chance to say what they are going to do , hopefully early next week though
      the only issue now is delamination ; tyres have always delaminated , but when they punctured the car either crashed or stopped so the tread came off in chunks ; so the answer for pirelli is to go back to a structure that will more easily puncture , and how is that an increase in safety ?

  72. I don’t think it was an issue of people keeping up as opposed to people simply getting bored.

    This was the worst GP in a long time, nothing of consequence occurred and the only event of any excitement, was Raikonnen going to beat Alonso was over long before the last view laps, when Alonso came out after that had both done their final stops, on fresher rubber, almost a pit straight clear!

    I have no problem with 4 stops as long as the races are exciting (like the others you mention), its only a problem when the 4 stops come despite no real racing and are seemingly the cause for that fact

    Without DRS the mix in strategies may have worked at Barcelona, as it was, with seemingly no real stakes on whether you could pass or not, it ended up as just a simple case of who/ which car was able to nurse it’s tyres best, we did not see a race, we saw an endurance event

    Saying all that, it was just one race, so this move to last years tyres does seem a bit knee jerk. If it does lead to more actual racing and less of the no stakes passing we saw at Barcelona, I for one will be happy, not because I can keep up but simply so I’m less bored by the whole event

    1. I wholeheartedly disagree with you. It was not the worst GP in a long time as far as I was concerned.

  73. After Red Bull wins the 2013 Driver’s and Constructors Championships (they will, by hook or crook), I think a lot of folks will look back and cry “foul” or maybe “fix”…

      1. Wait a minute…do you actually think they cheat Mr. Saward? That is a lot more interesting than this post about the rules of the game. I am genuinely interest in your opinion in that matter, if you care to give us one of course. I also understand if you rather not.

  74. Coming in on this debate rather late…..
    However I would suggest that Pirelli have for the most part taken this this action as they have become petrified of the vitriol that is lambasted at them during the Grand Prix via Twatter and Faceberk, by so-called fans that don’t understand (short sighted and blinkered views), have such short attention spans (can’t keep focussed on strategies over a whole race) and short memories (or they selectively choose to ignore the 90’s)…

    The internet is an incredible privilige, however it is mostly populated by idiots


  75. I’m sure it’s been said before but I don’t want to watch drivers like Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel going at 80% of the race because they are nursing the tyres. This is F1 racing. I don’t want to hear a driver asking “can I fight this guy” as someone comes up to overtake, More often than not we’re hearing “no” this season and it’s a joke. All we need drs, we don’t need tyres that don’t allow the drivers to display their talent.

    4 stops is fine if the drivers can push 100% during the stints. It’s NOT fine when they have to nurse them and run slower than the gp2 cars.

  76. Joe, I said that the current tyres would stop me paying to watch a race – and you replied that ” It’s been like that that since the 1980’s – . The F1 audience remains.” but I still think it was possible before this tyre degrading era to appreciate a drivers work – you could walk a corner a stop every 3 metres and see the differences between late braking, entry speed, tiny slight differences of car position and handling, Who’s hitting the apex / who’s not – who’s mega aggressive / who not …. who has “Balls of Steel – who has not” who’s early on the throttle and hitting the last part of the exit kerb – and this is also the thing – the drivers like Alonso driving a Minardi – You can see the Good Guys early in their career’s – You can spot them – I can’t answer whether you can still do that ……… when they are driving 6 seconds off the pace to preserve their tyres – I’ll leave that for you to answer, as you have more experience than myself.

  77. “The cars were built with the new tyres in mind ”

    No, they were not. The cars were designed long before the 2013 tyres ever existed, just as the 2014 cars are being designed now, long before the 2014 tyres are even being thought of.

  78. “The tyres were doing what they were designed to do”

    Paul Hembery has basically admitted that what the tyres “were designed to do” was stop Red Bull winning. It’s a sign of the poor health of F1 that this admission was completely ignored by the F1 commentators. There is no longer much of a pretense that that this is a “sport” in the normal sense. The game is openly rigged.

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