Until now, I’ve avoided commenting on Formula One’s current tyre situation for two reasons. Firstly, and excuse the pun, I find it a tiresome subject, one that has been approached by every motor sport publication often enough and sometimes, too often; every possible opinion has been voiced. Secondly, the subject detracts from the racing – the important part of Formula One. Nico Rosberg drove a superb race to win the British Grand Prix but his performance has been overshadowed by Pirelli’s current plight.
Contrary to many, I’ve felt for a while that Pirelli’s tyres have been a good thing for Formula One and that the FIA were right to ask of them a product that deliberately ‘spices up the show’. While some claim that they make the racing too artificial, I believe they are simply another equation that makes the ‘Formula’ – another component the teams must get their head around.
Artificial or not, the racing has been entertaining and the unpredictability has been good for the sport; remember the dull domination era of Michael Schumacher? Yet, those who we know to be deserving winners are still on top; Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and co. are still winning, therefore, it couldn’t realistically be claimed that Pirelli’s high-degradation tyres were ever making a mockery of F1 as some have claimed.
Now however, there is real concern. Following the 2013 British Grand Prix – a race that narrowly avoided becoming a farce – the concern over Pirelli’s tyres is one of safety rather than sport. With four major tyre failures in the race, the result was very much affected by Pirelli but worse still, the safety of drivers and marshals was put at risk, something that is unforgivable.
As I write there has been no official conclusion from the inevitable investigation into the failures, but they clearly weren’t a coincidence. Neither, I believe, were they due to any problem with Silverstone’s kerbs, something that was initially claimed to be causing the issue. Even Fernando Alonso, who admitted he was “scared” when Sergio Perez’ rear left tyre exploded in front of him, says “kerbs have never been a problem” at Silverstone. Given every driver’s disregard for instructions to avoid Silverstone’s kerbs, we can assume they all agree with Alonso.
So who, if anyone, is to blame? Pirelli would be an obvious choice but many have pointed out that the FIA requested Pirelli to provide a high-degradation tyre. So is the FIA to blame? No. The failures wern’t due to degradation, it appears to be a structural issue.
Pirelli know it’s an issue with the steel-belt that runs at the core of their product, something they wish to change for a more costly but stronger Kevlar one. A change that needed to be unanimously agreed to by all 11 F1 teams. But Force India, Lotus and Ferrari were reluctant to accept the modification amid concerns that the change to the tyres could affect their competitiveness. Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey has attacked the ‘short-sightedness’ of those teams and it is perhaps them who should bear some of the blame.
Blame, of course, doesn’t help, but change will. With just a week between the British GP and the German Grand Prix however, can Pirelli do anything, will the race at Nurburgring become a dangerous farce? I sincerely hope not; right now the Pirelli situation is a concern; something that needs to be resolved before it becomes a crisis.