Were Paul Hembery a racing driver would surely rival Kimi for the moniker of ‘iceman’ in terms of his ability to remain unfased when bombarded with criticism. Andrew Benson of the BBC tweeted him as saying, “It’s rather bizarre. We’re only doing what we’ve done for the last two years and we don’t understand why you’re so excited. Unless you all want us to give Red Bull tyres to win championship. With one-stop processional races, one team would benefit. Them”
Hardly surprising we’ve seen Red Bull team boss, Vettel, continually attacking the 2013 Pirelli rubber. A rather sullen faced Sebastian when asked how the team had performed replied in Spain said, “we are not driving to the pace of the car, but to the pace of the tyres”.
There were 2 heavyweights of F1 money in Barcelona this weekend and one of them decided to use his presence as a platform to attack Pirelli. Dietrich Mateshitz has been quoted by Lauda, Marko and others but for the first time spoke himself on the matter of F1’s 2013 tyres.
“Everyone knows what happens here”, he told John Noble. “This has nothing to do with racing anymore. This is a competition in tyre management. Real car racing looks different. Under the given circumstances, we can neither get the best out of our car nor our drivers.
“There is no more real qualifying and fighting for the pole, as everyone is just saving tyres for the race. If we would make the best of our car we would have to stop eight or ten times during a race, depending on the track.”
The hyperbole is now getting ridiculous and intellectually moronic. 8-10 stops would have been the best strategy for a Red Bull? If that is the case then the genius that is Newey has royally screwed up with his RB9 design and the team are rightly being punished. Except of course – who is leading both F1 championships?
My reading of the situation (and I’m sure others will prove this with charts and data) is that despite Horner’s assertions to SKY that “3 or 4 stops would have made no difference to our race”, had Red Bull been quicker to react in changing Vettel’s strategy it certainly would have meant he had a chance of challenging for the podium.
Having reviewed some of the TV commentary, it is clear there is an agenda in the media which is anti Pirelli. Martin Brundle, an experienced commentator, was clearly confused as Alonso pitted for the second time believing Kimi had the race in the bag. Yet the Spaniard was around 9 seconds behind the Finn and closing after his stop for new tyres at 3 seconds a lap. Sorry Martin that’s just poor – and I tweeted him at the time #NotHardToRead
Of course being made to look silly in front of
millions – sorry a few hundred thousand viewers is embarrassing, but that responsibility sits with the ‘expert commentator’ who apparently objects to being made to think hard about what is happening rather than making the same annual benign comments about a processional event.
Rob Smedley speaking to SKY regarding the 2013 tyres said, “It’s really challenging for us, and now we really have to think about it as the race unfolds”. Isn’t this what we want from everyone involved with Formula 1 – a real challenge? Maybe the commentators need to adopt the same attitude instead of the lazy observations like, “my pit stop chart only goes up to 4 stops” as the perpetual drone about tyres continues to pour through the screen.
It’s as though there is a big fight for the heart and soul of Formula 1 playing out before our eyes, so I thought we’d muse briefly together over what exactly is Formla 1; and what should Formula 1 be?
Formula 1 at its inception was really a mostly de-regulated series. This was broadly what the specifications rule book looked like for nearly 10 years.
|1500 cc with comprssor or 4500 cc without
No weight limit
425 hp at 9300 rpm-710 kg (1951 Alfo Romeo 159)
|750 cc with compressor or 2000 cc without
No weight limit
175 hp at 7200 rpm-560 kg (1953 Ferrari 500)
|750 cc with compressor or 2500 cc without
No weight limit
290 hp at 8500 rpm-730 kg (1955 Mercedes W196)
280 hp at 7600 rpm-630 kg (1957 Maserati 250F)
The technical innovations during that period of time included the introduction of disk Brakes (1951), First non-turbo producing 100 hp/1000 cc (1953), Direct Injection (1954), Desmodromic valves (1954) and cars with the engine in the back.
In 85 races during that decade, 25 drivers were killed. Formula 1 was about engines and taking on death itself for the glory of winning. Over the subsequent decades F1 evolved and the challenges in designing cars that won races and titles were different too.
By the turn of the millennium, Formula 1 had become progressively more regulated and had changed beyond recognition from the days of Ascari, Fangio and Moss. Big, big money dominated the sport, such that it has been suggested Ferrari spent $100m a year on paying Bridgestone to develop tyres for them to win 6 consecutive constructor titles from 1999-2004 with Schumacher winning 5 consecutive driver titles from 2000-20004.
The sport had also become one which was highly technically regulated, but the team with the biggest budget could extract the final extra fraction of a percent in performance required within the regulations to gain the advantage. No longer could a Moss in a Cooper beat the might of a Ferrari. The sport’s popularity wained with some traditional fans due to processional races and predictable results.
President of the FIA, Max Mosley, felt the strategy would be to reduce the advantage of big money, by restricting spend. He could not get the teams to agree to this, so he changed the rules to prevent them spending money in certain areas. Qualifying engines disappeared almost overnight and the teams in a compromise were persuaded to over time to restrict somewhat the resources they consumed.
In brief, F1 racing was boring to most and so ‘the show’ had to be brightened up or sponsors and TV revenue would collapse. Then the Empire that Ecclestone had built may have ended back in the fields from whence they came.
Enter KERS, DRS and Pirelli.
Here is not the place to debate the finer technicalities of each of these solutions, yet we eventually got this weekend what the architects of F1 want. Records tumbling at a circuit where the race has been won from pole 18-22 years, once from third on the grid and 3 times from qualifying second. The podium drivers all started form outside the top 3 grid positions.
Do we want the driver on pole position to win each race?
Change is always hard to take, and the status quo is more palatable than a radical future. However, what is certain is no body in F1 wants a return to the dominant era of Ferrari (unless it’s their team who becomes dominant) and this is what Pirelli have delivered.
Conspiracy theorists may suggest from the opening comments above that Pirelli have in fact developed anti-Red Bull tyres. These tyres do indeed penalise the high rake, downforce solutions Newey has rattled off year after year. Interesting, a handicap system based on previous winners?
Back to the race. What I saw on Sunday, was a team refusing to bow to pre-race computer simulation mentality of lap delta times setting their actual strategy. 3 stops was 6 seconds quicker by most people’s number crunching.
I have felt at times like a lone voice this year continually stating that this modern computerised race planning appears to drive the teams toward a race strategy that makes the fewest stops possible. That is why we hear delta times being quoted and Rocky telling Vettel it’s the last 5 laps that count.
Yet this weekend, that mould was broken.
Ferrari knew they did not have a car that could make the front row on Saturday. They planned their qualification efforts accordingly, saved a set of tyres and decided to reject the calculations driving most towards 3 stop wisdom and commit to 4 stops in the race.
Alonso, a renown great starter, charged hard made up 2 places knowing he could use his tyres to the full – and on the limit of grip with tanks brimming with fuel he made it past Hamilton in a thrilling move around the outside of turn 3. Fernando drove stint 1 like a man possessed – as though he was doing qualifying – it was incredible to watch.
I tweeted a number of media people and commentators making the point the race was being won by the team not driving to delta times but driving the car flat out until the race was in the bag. Will Buxton has written about this – so I’ll not replicate what he says eloquently – though with a greater use of the vernacular than maybe TJ13 would us 🙂
Interestingly, Andrea Stella was interviewed by SKY following the race. He insisted that Ferrari never give Alonso delta times, he drives by the feel of the tyre – knowing when he can and cannot push. The team have a pre-race strategy of how many laps they will do for each stint but are adaptable to changing this if either driver or team make the call to do so.
This makes Alonso’s win even better for me. A driver – driving by feel – on the edge round turn 3, at the circuit de Catalunya. Awesome. Now maybe , Red Bull will stop running computerised F1 races. Let them try their 8 stops and Mercedes should desist from trying to turn Lewis into a manager of tyres. #CRAZYIDEA. Let him race like Alonso did.
Apparently this was all the talk throughout the race on the NBCSN – how Ferrari were racing hard and not conserving tyres. I so wish I had that feed. The playback’s I’ve watched are turgid and for me if SKY don’t change their ways with this relentless drivel and negativity over tyres – I for one will be checking out either the BBC or an NBCSN feed from anywhere I can get it.
Hembery agrees 4 stops is probably 1 too many, and a tweak in the tyres will be given consideration. Yet give me Spain 2013 over Korea and India 2012 – every time.
The far bigger questions to which serious thought and attention need to be applied are, what is F1? and what should F1 be?. This should include ensuring we have exciting F1 racing which is no simple task in an era of uber reliability and little penalty for driver off track excursions and error.
The sport must grapple with these issues together with that of the spending gap between the biggest and smallest competitors and by comparison the noise over Pirelli is a mere distraction – and a relative storm in a tea cup.
However, for now, Ferrari have set out their stall and challenged the others to race them hard – and see who is best. Is that not what F1 is about?