The Pirelli Tyre World Championship or erm F1

So with my return to the blog I thought I’d start off with a recap on the big competition in world motor sport: Formula 1.

Like many of the previous seasons the talk of the F1 town has been the Pirelli rubber that all 22 (down from 24 last year after the demise of the ill-advised, ill-named HRT squad) cars run round on every Grand Prix weekend. While this has seen some commentators declaring F1 boring and not what F1 is about its a hollow argument and is no more “artificial”  a restriction than aero rules or the ban on refuelling. All teams have the same tyres and the same amount of them every weekend with only the dry tyres changing with a selection of 2 of the 4 compounds chosen each weekend.

However this season many have argued that Pirelli have possibly gone a touch too far but Red Bull have really been drumming up support to try and get Pirelli to produce a more durable race tyre (which they could do quickly as making bad tyres that are safe is actually a greater challenge). The main reason for this is the fact that Red Bull feel that the tyres are holding back their car and with a more durable rubber underneath the RB9 it would fly. Now this could well be the case but other teams have designed their cars with looking after the black balls of rubber a whole lot better in mind and are benefiting from it. Either way like last year we’d expect the teams to get on top of it as the season progressed either by increasing their down-force levels or by better thermal management of the tyres. This was confirmed by Jenson button claiming that last year that by the end of the year it was full on sprint racing and that at the Circuit of the Americas (the last dry race of the year) it was a lights to flag pedal to the metal.

This was all pretty normal stuff but I agree we’ve seen a little too much chess from these tyres compared to other seasons and the tyre de-laminations have been a cause for concern. So Pirelli had put forward some proposals for changing the tyres back to the 2012 spec which some teams liked and others didn’t and was eventually shot down by the FIA. It essentially highlights the difficulty Pirelli have in developing tyres for Formula 1 as they have no Formula 1 car. The Lotus team did provide Pirelli a car last year but it was the 2010 R10 car (which the team can run as much as they like as it is not considered “current”) as the Toyota TF1 was too old to produce realistic forces on the track any longer. Furthermore the acquisition of a HRT 2012 car did little to help the program as the car was so woefully off the pace last season.

What’s a tyre company in the firing line supposed to do?

This caused the tire company to go to the teams and ask for some assistance as they needed some representative cars to test modifications to the tyres upon. Ferrari dutifully responded and supplied a 2011 Ferrari and Pedro De La Rosa and Mercedes also responded and supplied a car and some drivers after Barcelona. Up until Saturday this was what the teams had all thought was the case and there was little to write about other than that Pirelli were looking at the de-lamination issues that have caused tyre failures and everything was fine and dandy. (This being not only a race ruining issue of luck but also one of safety)

Mercedes and the Pirelli Test

Come Sunday morning we all spat out our cornflakes on the news coming from the TV Coverage in Monaco that Mercedes had completed the 1,000km test (~ 3 Grand Prix distances) using their current car and their current race driver line up of Hamilton and Rosberg. This has put both parties in the firing line of official protests and stern words from the rest of the paddock, despite Eddie Jordan’s confusion over the issue (no surprised there – since I was away from home on Sunday I had to grab the BBC coverage and I swear he’s struggling to put together a sentence these days) its seems a night and day breach of the rules. In season and private testing has been banned since 2009 (with the exception of Mugello last year, the young drivers test and some straight line tests) and it applies to the current seasons car and the previous seasons car. The reasoning behind Mercedes being “allowed” to run the 2013 car is that Pirelli can request a current car for testing provided that all teams are asked to provide one – this doesn’t quite seem to have happened. Additionally the FIA has come out and stated that this provision doesn’t trump the in-season testing rule and this was clarified to the teams last year. Finally it is also my understanding that all teams have to be invited to provide one observer each if they wish to do so to each Pirelli test, although we’ve had no word on whether this was offered to the teams either.

Although most teams aren’t convinced of the advantage Mercedes would gain running round on mystery rubber it is none the less still a major issue and one that will definitely need to get clarified. This is the first major flouting of the testing ban since it was introduced with the exception of Ferrari’s filming day to run new parts but that was a legal grey area that was soon closed.

In the background of all this is still the concord agreement and the 2014 onwards tyre supply contracts to sort out,

testing times indeed

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