March 5th, 2013 (F1plus/Ernie Black).- Have you ever read the childhood tale of the Tortoise and the Hare? This is the classic story of a race between a very fast rabbit and a very slow turtle. If Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas was taking bets on this race, everyone would have put a five quid on the rabbit. Eventually, the hare ran out of fuel before the finish line, thereby leaving the slow and steady tortoise to win the race. Hence the term, “Slow and steady wins the race”.
In Formula One, slow and steady isn’t enough to win the race or the titles. This season however, being the fastest may not be enough either.
Allow me to explain please; We have heard a lot about the Pirelli tyres over the last three seasons and how tyre wear and degradation have become critical factors.
Teams and drivers have to play a delicate balancing act in order to make the most of the tyres they are provided. Team engineers need to ensure they setup the car in a manner that allows the tyres to be quickly switched on to operate within the optimal operating temperatures. The cars must also be gentle enough on the tyres to allow them to remain in that optimal state for as long as possible before the performance drops off. Drivers must be equally as skilled and gentle to ensure they are not aggressive and manage their tyres wisely.
In 2013, Pirelli have said that they have worked on a more aggressive tyre. In general, we can hypothesize that this means that the tyres may offer more grip than last season and offer a shorter window of prime operation.
My uneducated guess is that Formula One in 2013 will be all about understanding how to best make use of the tyres and who will best manage them. It will be a joint effort between team, man and machine. Pit strategies, circuit surfaces and track temperatures will also play a huge part in who experiences success.
Qualifying, as always, will be critical. While having the fastest car on Saturday will help with one’s starting grid position, it will do very little if the car and driver cannot manage the tyres well enough to stay ahead on Sunday.
If you have any doubt of how critical the tyres will be this year, ask Fernando Alonso how critical they were last year in Canada in the final laps.