Smoke And Mirrors – And The Real Reason Pirelli Will Change Their Tires
Today the BBC ran a piece titled Red Bull boss on Pirelli tyres: ‘F1- nothing to do with racing any more‘ and although the boss of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz stops short of calling the racing faked, or false he comes pretty darn close.
It seems pretty disingenuous to come out and say that Formula One is not racing anymore right after your clock was cleaned by the competition. Where was all the complaining two weeks ago when Red Bull and Vettel were standing on the top step in Bahrain? Or for that matter in Malaysia?
Why is it the fault of the tires that Red Bull (Lets face it, Red Bull and Mercedes are doing all the complaining. I have not read any other article, or post anywhere online that give me any reason to believe there are other teams that share the same view as these two) are not streaking away into the distance, or in the case of Mercedes cannot carry their qualifying pace into a race distance the following day.
Yes, the tires have been made to degrade in a more aggressive way, that much Paul Hembery has stated in a quote that says, “We’re only doing what we’re being asked to do. We were asked to replicate Canada 2010.” They have done just that, and in doing so two out of the four top teams have interpreted these new tires correctly and two have not. He goes on to state, “Some of you-some of you-would like us to do a one-stop where the tires aren’t a factor. You can go back to the processional racing where the qualifying positions are the end positions.”
This however should not be confused with the statement that Red Bull have repeated ad nauseam, We can’t drive our car as fast as we would like. Here is a direct quote from Mr. Mateschitz, “Under the circumstances, we can neither get the best out of our car nor our drivers.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that your job? The job of your designers, your engineers? It is as though you just made the whole point, argument and answer against yourselves. Which is, you [Red Bull] engineered your cars in way you thought was best. So in that respect you can drive it as fast as you designed it to go, just not as fast as you would like it to go. I’ll say this again; is it the fault of tires? Everyone had the same opportunity to decide how they were going to approach the fundamental design of their cars with the data from last years test when Pirelli made available the 2013 tire compounds. Red Bull took one path.
On the other hand Ferrari and Lotus took another path which looks right now like a more productive one. Will this be the case as the season unfolds? Your guess is as good as mine. I would say no, as much as I would welcome Ferrari and Alonso to race everyone into the ground, F1 just does not work that way. Remember, it took Red Bull until the final race to win the drivers championship two out of the last three years. And it is common knowledge that the Spanish GP is a very different track than almost all others on the F1 calendar. It is almost a one-off in terms of tire wear and the difficulty of improving driver position due to the nature of the track surface and lay-out.
I have a theory. For all the depth at Red Bull with the mighty Adrian Newey at the helm, could this just be a case of Red Bull got it wrong? And now it is easier to make Pirelli the villain (to borrow a phrase from Will Buxton) than to admit the mistake or design flaw, and to address this issue which of course means quite a bit of redesigning the chassis. Don’t forget once the FIA has signed off on the tub (chassis) you can’t change it. Other parts yes, but the actual chassis, no, it is set in carbon fiber stone so-to-speak. Could they be deflecting the real issue, that they missed something in the design in regards to the tire wear? And by a stroke of luck the best leveraging chip is in the front pocket of Red Bull in the form of the fans and their/our displeasure (more on that later).
So there seems to be two issues at the center of this whole affair and not to piss anyone off too much (well maybe just a little) it is not the tires, despite what the Red Bull propaganda machine would like you to think. Or the other guy from Austria, the one that is complaining over at Mercedes. The real issues as far as I can tell are as follows: One, who is at fault for the reason why the Red Bull and the Mercedes chassis is suffering from high tire wear? Is it the teams that designed the car or is it Pirelli for following orders from the FIA, because the tires are performing exactly as they have been constructed to. Secondly, are the fans (of which I am a very passionate one, similar to most everyone that has entered the hundreds, more than likely thousands of comments over the last 36 hours) to be listened to, regardless of our varying levels of understanding the issue?
Fans have been complaining for a very long time about the nature of Formula One, how there is not passing anymore, how the cars are too aero-dependent and create too much turbulence, that when an approaching car trys to make a pass it cannot. Or how there are too many driver assisted aids to allow the driver to go faster but at the expense of driver skill.
In contrast, when F1 comes up with a wider track car, a taller rear wing and a wider front wing to address some of the problems of passing, we proclaim how ugly the car is. Or when F1 comes up with a device to allow passing despite the turbulence (the DRS) we then say passing is now meaningless. We fans are a fickle bunch.
The latest introduction to help the show and to please fans has been the tires that Pirelli have designed and for the most part they have been a benefit to the show providing a fantastic challenge for the teams and the drivers to produce great racing and, I feel, accurate results. Red Bull, the best car for the last three seasons has indeed taken both championships. And no one can say they did not deserve it, at least speaking of the constructor part of the championship. Most of the F1 fan base has begrudgingly supported the introductions that the teams and FIA have put into motion in the interest of the sport, and for the benefit of the fans. But over the last two days the fans have said enough, whether this is right or wrong we overwhelmingly don’t like it. You have gone to far. Ok fair enough.
Listen, Red Bull and Mercedes are wrong. It is their own fault that their cars have not maximized the tires that Pirelli have supplied this season. But at the end of the day it really does not come down to whether Red Bull or Mercedes are right in their claims. Instead what does matter at the end of each and every Sunday when 11 teams, 22 drivers and countless team members come together and go motor racing, is did the fans have an enjoyable time and right now, and that answer is, not…