Thanks to my friend David Emmett for pointing me to an article about the spec tire situation in MotoGP, I spent awhile contemplating the similarities between the two-wheel series and Formula One—there are vague similarities I admit.
While I was reading the article, which you can see here, I was thinking of Ducati’s issues and how Honda and Yamaha seem to have it in spades over the Italian team (by Italian, I mean German as in Audi). While Casey Stoner was a rare breed that could handle the Duc, Valentino Rossi could never come to grips with it and the pun is intended. The Duc is a difficult bike to master but it is uniquely at Ducati.
The article goes on to argue that the spec tire situation in MotoGP is a detriment to the series and makes this argument:
If you say that the tires are the same for everyone, that’s not a good argument because in order for Ducati to make a bike that works and competes, they have to build a Honda or a Yamaha…not a Ducati.
I am paraphrasing here but the point is, the Ducati needs to look at the chassis design, yoke placement and rake that is similar to the Honda in order to get the tires to work more efficiently. They need to make weight transfer quicker to load the tire and get heat into it to maximize stopping power and mid-corner speed.
Is this very notion a transferable issue to Formula 1? In order for McLaren to make a car that works well enough to fight the Red Bulls, do they, in fact, have to build a Red Bull RB10 in 2014? Is that what McLaren wants to build or would they rather build a McLaren?
Now, my notion here takes a beating as the bikes in MotoGP are closer to road bikes than a F1 car is to road cars so the unique nature of a Ferrari isn’t as translatable as the uniqueness of a Ducati to its core product. I get that but is there a shred of similarity in the issue? We may have to go back a few years to see the difference.
Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Ferrari had a bespoke tire made for the Ferrari and all the nuances that were built into the Ferrari to make it work the way they wanted it to. McLaren, similarly, had a Michelin that was made for their chassis and the two teams engaged in epic battles.
As we mentioned in Podcast #325, stiffer sidewall construction may favor a Mercedes in 2013 or it may not and if that is the case, wouldn’t Mercedes like to have a tire made for their car that exploits it’s ability to generate heat in the rear tires? If you asked Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus F1 what they wanted in a tire today, you’d most likely get four different answers and in the end, isn’t that what F1 is about? Or is it all about “the same for everyone”?
Rumors have been circulating about a Michelin bid for the F1 tender to provide tires for the series and while I am not one to give much credence to this particular news source, it does make you wonder if a series with three tire suppliers wouldn’t be more exciting. Sure, many fans I know say they want a single-source format and even F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone feels the same. They don’t want a “tire war”. Really? Is that what we’re calling competition these days? A tire war? That strikes me as cheap propaganda in an age of aero-dominated silliness. It’s not a tire war, it is a racing series with tires that push the envelope of innovation. Yes, Indy 2005 was a mistake but surely we can move on now?
The fact is, aero wins races. Pure and simple. That is the format of racing we have now. Let’s do what our own Paul Charsley suggested. If you want something spec, make it a spec rear wing with 70% less downforce and bring back mechanical grip. The teams can do whatever they want to with the front wing but too much downforce on the front makes an unbalanced car so they will have to look at mechanical grip and tires could be a key.
I believe in the spirit of competition and to be honest, getting real wheels and tires (18-19”) on an F1 car with reduced aero seems like it would be worth a try instead of all these constructs to increase passing. Passing in F1 was always the singular moment, the Holy Grail…not something that you would seek NASCAR-sized portions of.
As the article about MotoGp says, there is no equitable and easy answer to this issue but the last time I checked, it is a constructor’s series and what we have now is a host of teams trying to build a Red Bull. I’d like a McLaren to be uniquely McLaren but I guess that’s just asking too much…and then there is the other specter of cost that gets thrown about like a two-bit suit. Yes, I am the sound of one hand clapping but such is life.