Posted 11 June 2012 - 14:48
What do we want from tyres? There are two key issues.
1 - Tyres should reward a driver who can drive at the very limit. Reward him for getting that judgement right. It should punish him for getting the judgement wrong and going over the limit and abusing the tyres i.e big lockups, wild power sliding etc. It should also punish those drivers for not being brave enough to seek the limit. What do I mean by that? Well, if a driver takes the safe option and drives at 8 to 9/10ths, it should punish by way of a largely reduced lap time whilst not translating into a significantly increased number of laps per stint. The problem now is that if a driver goes at 10/10ths and gets the judgement right without overdriving and abusing the tyres, he will hurt the tyres signficantly and might get say 10 laps out of them. Whilst a driver who drives at 8/10ths, though having a slower lap time, will get so much more life out of them say 30 or 40 laps, that when you account for the 3 saved pitstops compared to the driver driving at 10/10ths, the driver who is cruising is actually benefitting.
2 - The window of operation is much too narrow. Even if the teams or drivers understand the tyre, all that needs to happen to undo all their good work is an unexpected 5 deg C change in track temperature and all their good, solid, correct and deserved work is undone by pure bad luck. Whilst another team who tried, but did not correctly set the car up for the expected temperature, may simply luck onto the perfect setup due to purely good luck. That is, a team who didn't deserve it may actually benefit from getting it wrong. There is another problem. Each driver is different, they have different driving styles and setup requirements to get the best pace. With the tyres very narrow operating window requiring a specific setup to get both pace and life out of the tyres, it boxes a driver into a specific style. It's going to benefit some drivers whose natural technique is aligned with that, whilst it severely hampers another driver that has a very different style. Sure it can be argued that it is up to the driver to adapt and to a certain extent, yes drivers should be able to adapt but there's a fine line where we don't want to make it such that every driver is forced to have a particular setup and particular style to make it work. There are many analogies, but in my opinion a close one that comes to mind is say UFC/MMA fights where each fighter has his own style. The specific requirement of these Pirellis is akin to suddenly putting full boxing gloves on all the fighters and therefore significantly hindering a grappler's technique. It is no longer MMA, it becomes a different sport. Similarly, this is going away from F1 and more towards an endurance style sport.
Now to the above, the old argument that's presented is that F1 of old was always about equipment conservation because reliability was so poor that a driver going flat out was going to blow up his engine. Yes, but there are two good answers to that. One is that the poor reliability wasn't enforced, rather it was imperfect engineering by the teams not getting on top of reliability and as you can see today, there is a solution as reliability has vastly improved. Hence conservation was not by design, but instead a by-product of imperfect engineering. The second answer is that in F1 of old, drivers could certainly push for a lot longer and harder than now. The tyres could certainly take half a dozen laps of 10/10ths driving without sh*tting themselves. Of course later on during the race the driver might have to take it easy to preserve his engine, mechanicals to bring the car home. But as there was no such gimmick as DRS, a driver could go for a hard outbraking manouevre to overtake someone knowing that it's not going to mean that his tyres are going to fall off the cliff in the next two laps because of it.
Another problem with the tyre discussion is that any criticism about the tyres is being viewed in black and white and out of context. What I mean by that, is criticism of the tyres does not mean that most of us want tyres that last forever and can be abused without consequence. Certainly not. As I said in my point 1 above, the perfect tyre should reward a driver for driving at the limit whilst punishing him if he abuses them. It should be able to withstand 20 laps if driven on the very limit before grip levels fall of significantly, but if abused then sure it can fall off the cliff after a handful of laps. However it should also not be able to go for that many more laps, say 25 max, if a driver plays safe and drives well below the tyres limit. Why should a driver, who is toodling around at 8/10ths not taking any risks, be rewarded with a tyre that last 3 times as many laps compared to a driver who is driving his balls out and getting the judgement perfectly right at 10/10ths?
My 2 cents, no agenda, no driver or team favouritism, just my view based on my personal opinion of the aspects of F1 I find most enjoyable which is engineering/technical solutions/innovation and drivers pushed to the limits of car control.