Pirelli are certainly facing a tough time of it as of late in Formula 1. The fact is they are up against Michelin in a sole-supplier bid for for the future, they’ve had two tires blowout at the last grand prix in Belgium and they face stiff criticism from drivers who feel their safety is being compromised in F1 if not this weekend.
Then there is Formula One Management (FOM) who are very happy with Pirelli’s involvement in the sport and for providing one of the more antithetical products the Italian company has ever made…a tire that doesn’t last long.
Pirelli has done a terrific job of supplying F1 and in that context, few could argue with FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone who praises the company for their hard efforts in supplying what F1 asked for in the form of a high degradation tire.
While Pirelli exonerated themselves of any wrongdoing two weeks ago at the Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, there were some drivers who felt the tire maker’s recommendation for 5psi higher air pressure in the tires this weekend at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix was a serious concern. Namely, current world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The governing body of F1, the FIA, and FOM both had glowing complements for Pirelli’s analysis of the Belgian GP tire issue and it seems they have called a meeting in which they asked drivers to stop publicly criticizing Pirelli.
Not only is Pirelli having to defend itself against the HD tire incidents but now the FIA and FOM are having to weigh in and demand that communication be restricted from drivers to their teams and Pirelli only.
This is reaching nonsensical proportions in that FOM may be happy with HD tires as a construct to spice up the show but it has inherent risks and has perhaps run its course. Pirelli are in the unenviable position of having to defend themselves for making a tire that degrades quickly and when circumstances cause an issue with the formula, they are the ones left holding the bag.
What the drivers are criticizing isn’t Pirelli, it’s the HD tires concept as a whole. They aren’t happy about having tires that degrade and lose grip in 10 laps. Unfortunately Pirelli is taking the brunt of their ire while FOM still insists that the fans love the HD tires and it really makes F1 a much better sport to watch.
Perhaps that’s true for many fans, I am not one of them. I would love to see alternate compounds designed for performance and longevity and let the teams pick which compound they will race on a given weekend.
To be fair, Pirelli and FOM are asking to drivers to keep their comments between the team and Pirelli, I don’t want to insinuate that they are not allowed to communicate. Quite the opposite as Pirelli would like to communicate more. They would also like to make more testing part of a stipulation to extending their contract to supply F1 beyond next year.
Gagging drivers is certainly something the political powers of F1 can ask for but in the end, I think that energy would best be used in re-thinking the HD tire issue and moving to a new format in 2017. A sole-supplier shouldn’t be continually battling for their reputation in supplying F1 with what they ask for. Therefore, give any tire company the opportunity to benefit and enjoy their role in F1. You’re looking for long-time partners, not 3-year brand assassination opportunities for them.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT