Clear division between drivers and teams over Pirelli
Even a week after Sebastian Vettel’s public slating of tyre supplier Pirelli, new voices chip in, and the general trend seems to be that team officials tend to back the Italian manufacturer, while most drivers put the blame on the construction.
Most vocal in his support for the tyre manufacturer was Mercedes’ Niki Lauda, even going as far as putting pressure on Nico Rosberg, who had supported and corroborated Vettel’s remark immediately after the race.
BBC pundit David Coulthard identifies a deep-seated dissatisfaction with Pirelli among the drivers. In his BBC column he wrote:
“Vettel was not wrong to say what he did. A driver of his stature and experience should say what he feels, and we should applaud anyone in the public eye taking a position based on passion and emotion as long as there are hard facts to back it up.
“Vettel’s remarks… represent a boiling-over of the drivers’ general unhappiness in the relationship between the drivers and Pirelli.
“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Vettel was concerned.”
The latest voice from the teams’ side is coming from former McLaren team coordinator Jo Ramirez.
“I do not like the way that Sebastian Vettel spoke in his post-race statement, because a racecar is made to the limit, the limit of performance to be as fast as possible, and you’re in a car to the limit with the tyres.
“The words of Vettel about Pirelli were very harsh, but then Pirelli’s spokesman said he did not blame him – said he could say what he wanted – but if I was the chief [of Pirelli] I’d say to Mr. Vettel that he’d have to offer an apology for his words after the race.
“If a tyre burst, you must see that they [Ferrari] were the ones who tried to finish the race with a single tyre change. To me, the tyre was over its life and they wanted to lengthen it.
“If they do it with one-stop, they are geniuses, but they took a risk that did not work.
“They should accept it as men and not moan later.”
The views expressed in this comment are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.
The statement from Jo Ramirez shows clearly how teams work. First and foremost they don’t want to be surprised by another team implementing a daring strategy, unless they are sure it would work for them. It was no surprise that only three teams backed Vettel’s statement – Ferrari, Lotus and Force India, the three teams with a history of making tyres last longer than the opposition and gaining places by unusual strategies.
All others, Mercedes in particular, want to push the maximum laps per tyre limit, because it prevents unorthodox strategies and cements the status quo by forcing all teams to employ the same strategy. That it will give us boring and predictable races doesn’t matter.
What most people overlook in this is that the tyre blew up catastrophically. Even a rubber-shard of only one kilogram can seriously injure another driver if it hits him on the head and how close we already came to that can be witnessed watching the onboard of Fernando Alonso at Silverstone ’13 when a large piece of rubber from Hamilton’s exploding tyre missed his head by mere inches. A piece of rubber from an exploding tyre downed the Concorde in Paris in 2000.
An explosive decomposition of a tyre is by definition a serious event, even more so if it happens twice on a race weekend. Even if a tyre is cut, it should deflate, perhaps even quickly. Exploding is not acceptable under any circumstances and shows that Pirelli’s product is fundamentally flawed.
In that regard it is completely useless to discuss why the tyres of Rosberg and Vettel exploded. A manufacturer should be able to build tyres that don’t go boom for any reason but completely freak events. And twice within three days is not a freak event. Should FIA impose a lap limit on tyres, it would be proof that Pirelli’s product is not fit for the purpose.
And Pirelli can’t put it on lack of testing either. Making sure that a tyre retains its integrity, if not perhaps the air, even if cut at speed, is something you can check on a test bench.
F1 History: The Grand Prix debut that could have been
Nine times Rally world champion Sebastien Loeb has confirmed that he was offered to drive a Torro Rosso in the 2009 Abu Dhabi Grandprix. “Things were already very specific, but back then my focus was on the WRC. I had suffered an accident, a damaged tyre and an engine failure, which had cut into my lead in the championship, so I had to concentrate on rallying.”
A second obstacle was the lack of an FIA super license, but that could have been corrected with his participation in an official test. Loeb had already experience with an F1 car, having driven a Red Bull RB4 in the season-ending official test in 2008.
Other ‘unusual’ guests in Formula One tests or demonstrations include Colin McRae (Jordan, 1996), Tommi Mäkinen (Williams, 1999), Jeff Gordon (BMW-Williams, 2003), Valentino Rossi (Ferrari, 2006, 2008), Alessandro Zanardi (2006, specially adapted BMW-Sauber), Richard Hammond (Renault, 2007), Adrian Newey (Red Bull, Goodwood 2010), Vladimir Putin (Renault F1, 2010), Tony Stewart (McLaren, 2010), Tom Cruise (Red Bull, 2011)