March 29th, 2013 (F1plus/B. Dixon).- The power of rubber: For something that is so easily destroyed at the hands of a Formula One car, it has a remarkable command over the sport stretching its tendrils of control into virtually every aspect. Tyres dictate the design of the car, race set up, race strategy and driving style, and considering this omnipotence it is not surprising that complaints are heard from the teams when they impact negatively on performance.
After high hopes held by Mercedes following winter testing took a tumble during the opening weekend of the season in Australia, Niki Lauda expressed serious concern over the 2013 Pirelli tyres. With the race won by Kimi Raikkonen undertaking one less pit stop than the other front runners, the Austrian legend questioned the influence the new tyres have over the number of stops, saying that it is difficult for the fans to understand. He told German newspaper Bild, “The fans don’t understand if there are more than two pitstops (For F1) it’s a fundamentally wrong path.” Could the reasoning behind crediting fans with such little knowledge and understanding, be a smokescreen for a whinge about the tyres because they prevented the team from delivering the results they hoped for?
Likewise, after not being able to convert a pole position into a race win in Melbourne, Red Bull were also bleating about the high degradation of the 2013 compounds, with Helmut Marko declaring that Pirelli had agreed to bring a changed version to Bahrain at the latest.
Having had positive experiences with the tyres at Albert Park, with Alonso claiming second to Raikkonen’s victory, Ferrari and Lotus hold differing views to those of Mercedes and Red Bull. Both teams have stated that they will not give their consent to an alteration in the tyres on anything other than safety grounds. Holding the same belief, Pirelli’s Motorsport Director, Paul Hembury, has declared that no modification to the tyres will take place.
Pirelli were asked to change the tyres to make racing more exciting in 2013. The compounds they have produced to fulfil that brief are the same for every team on the grid, and moaning about their behaviour suggests insecurity about their understanding of the performance of their cars. Surely adapting the design and set up of the cars to match tyre behaviour is part of the development contest that continues throughout the season and shouldn’t be questioned one race in.
After sharing the top four finishing positions in Malaysia, Red Bull and Mercedes might just be ruing the panicky requests made to change the tyre compounds to make them more conducive to their cars. They may be very glad that favouritism is not a word with which Pirelli are familiar.