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.”

Red Bull have not started the year as they have wanted. Their car does not work well with Pirelli rubber. Some how this is Pirelli's fault. Really??

Red Bull have not started the year as they have wanted. Their car does not work well with Pirelli rubber. Some how this is Pirelli’s fault. Really??

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).

On the other hand the boys over at Ferrari are quite pleased with what Pirelli has done in the off season...

On the other hand the boys over at Ferrari are quite pleased with what Pirelli has done in the off season…

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.

I would appear the same can be said over at Lotus F1 as well.

It would appear the same can be said over at Lotus F1 as well.

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…


8 Comments on “Smoke And Mirrors – And The Real Reason Pirelli Will Change Their Tires

  1. As for the comment from Red Bull that there is no racing. There is a big problem with the way things in F-1 (and in other pro racing) are set up by their sanctioning bodies. That is that the cars are “cookie cutter cars”. The days of real innovation are gone.

    Everything including tires are governed by the F-1. There are no choices for the teams.You (everyone) get one tire formula to choose from. Then it’s up to you to make your car work with it.This in itself makes F-1 (and the other majors) something other than real auto racing.

    There will always be those who are looking for the black helicopters that will say, “Pirelli’s formula favors brand X” and there is some kind of back room deal going on. This current formula is good for average fans that care more about their driver/sponsor than real racing. It sells tickets because a fan’s favorite has a chance but it does very little for innovations. Yes there are many things the teams can tweak and the little things do make a difference but “real” racing as we “oldsters” know it is gone.

    • interesting points. this whole issue of a spec tire what due to the fact that Michelin and bridgestone spent millions of $$$$ and tested thousands of kilometers in trying to beat each other. personally i think there should be 2-3 tire suppliers in the serious. but cornering speeds and cost, and wasted has made that impossible in this day and age. but your point is well taken. alot of the opportunity for pure innovation has been stripped from the sport.

  2. The thing that drives me crazy is that this isn’t the first time a 4 stop race has happened in dry conditions. Wasn’t it 2011 where Vettel won AT BARCELONA on a 4 stop strategy? Now all of the sudden they feel it’s the right time to solve this issue? Come on..It’s bogus to switch these tires up now.

      • Claudio – this is an excellent point. here is reg for everyone to see.

        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 don’t have a good answer for you. to the FIA, i suppose they make the rules and they can break them, or allow them to be circumvented. because for sure Lotus and Ferrari who have not approved the change to the tire compounds. if on the other hand you are directing the question to me. well again you make a very valid point. i can only say in the defense of my reasoning that Paul Hembery will have been acutely aware of all the negative press worldwide and since his company wants to stay in F1 they probably took a pragmatic view of the whole affair. this being not concerning themselves with the teams, i.e. red bull, merc, lotus, ferrari but more importantly the fans.

      • Thank you Johnpierre, at least this show to all the fans of F1 that FIA doesn’t favor only Ferrari like, so many believe. FIA works for the good of sport and sometimes the interpretetion of the rules are somehow wrong. Long live F1.

      • claudio – yes the FIA came through. by now you have heard or read the news. the FIA has stepped in and informed pirelli that they are only allowed to make a change for safety. does this mean pirelli only address the construction of the tire and leave the compound alone. maybe. but i have a feeling they are going to tweet the compound (operating temp) a little. this therefore will not be the change red bull and merc was hoping for. we will see in canada. but a few of the experts (not me) have indicated, the changes are not going to hurt ferrari or lotus, they should still see an advantage, just not as much.

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