The main thing I feel unhappy about is everyone has to drive well below a driver’s, and in particular, the car’s limits to maintain the tyres. I just question whether the tyres should play such a big importance, or whether they should last a bit longer, and that you can drive at normal racing car speed and not cruise around like we have a safety car. I’m not happy about the situation, let’s see what happens in future. If it was a one-off car issue, you could say it’s up to us to deal with it. But basically it is everybody, with maybe one or two exceptions, and if it is 80% of the field that has this problem, then maybe the tyre supplier should think about that. – Michael Schumacher, 2012
In 2012 F1 season, Pirelli has introduced new tyres with squarer profiles, increased grip, and softer, more competitive compounds with consistent degradation. Their objective is to ensure entertaining and unpredictable races all the way down to the chequered flag, with two to three pit stops per race, a stronger emphasis on team strategies, and reduced performance gap between compounds. Tyres are now playing a more important role in F1 races than ever before.
Formula 1 teams agreed that improving strategy calls will be the key factor to make the most out of the current Pirelli tyres. Teams have to understand the nature of the degradation, wear-based or thermal-based and make their race strategies work for them. Drivers are now more important in calling for a pit stop because they are the sensors in the car and they can sense when the tyres are past their useful life. Ferrari’s head of race operations Diego Ioverno says that the biggest complication this year is trying to time the first stop of the race because of the dangers of getting trapped behind slower traffic. Due to the reduced performance gap between compounds, the field has become more compact and it is impossible to not fall behind traffic now.
Getting the tyres into the right operating window is now more essential for success this year. Swiss commentator and former F1 driver Marc Surer said, “It’s been a question of who can make them work, and that is depending on a number of factors.” McLaren’s team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, agreed that exploiting the tyres is now more important than delivering improvements to the cars as Hamilton and Button struggled to match the pace of Red Bull and Lotus in Bahrain. Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane says they are still trying to understand how to exploit the tyres this year and make them last for as long as possible because there are still performance differentials that do not make sense. In Bahrain, the tyres appeared to be working for them and Red Bull.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery says that the tyres allow the best engineers and drivers to shine and produce exciting races. “The season so far has been fantastic. We’ve had four different winners and four different championship leaders. So the competition has never been closer and part of that is down to the fact that everyone has exactly the same opportunities and challenges with the tyres.” In response to the heavy degradation issues, he said “At the end of last year we had huge criticism for conservative choices and the races were boring. Make your mind up. We are doing what is asked.”
Quotes from teams :
McLaren’s Jenson Button : “We know we were slow (in Bahrain) but we don’t understand why.”
Mercedes’ Norbert Haug : “The challenge is how to use the tyres, how to set up your car.”
Red Bull’s Christian Horner : “I think this year the tyre has dominated performance and I think it’s crucial to understand how they work.”
Lotus’ Eric Boullier : “It’s clear that the key for performance is the tyres.”
Former HRT driver Vitantonio Liuzzi : “The tyres are not blowing up, they are not blistering and it’s always a challenge for both drivers and engineers to set up the car properly and get the maximum out of them.”
So, what do you think about the new 2012 Pirelli’s tyres? Are they making races more exciting or just limiting the performance of the cars? Let us know!
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