Pirelli has been the topic of some conversation of late regarding the tire compounds used in 2012 and the impact it has had on Formula One. If you’ve followed the discussion about the criticism of Pirelli by Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Michael Schumacher and McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh here, then you know that the tires have become the single most important element this year.
The conventional rebuttal is that it is the same for all teams and while that notion is understandable, is it still desirable to have the temperamental notion of tire management deciding race outcomes rather than a combination of car, tires and driver? Pirelli motor sport boss Paul Hembery offered a rebuff of the current criticism telling AUTOSPORT:
“The season so far has been fantastic: we’ve had four different winners and four different championship leaders,” Hembery said. “So the competition has never been closer and part of that is down to the fact that everyone has exactly the same opportunities and challenges with the tyres.
“It is down to them to make the best of it. Formula 1 has always been a meritocracy; in the end the best engineers and drivers will always succeed.”
While I agree with him on some points, what I feel may be missing is the fact that the teams are making the best of it and that is compromising the integrity of F1 or what it has traditionally been about. Having tires that need management is one thing as drivers push the limits of man and machine to win but having temperamental tires of such impact brings about an endurance racing mentality that Schumacher spoke to in which teams are just driving for target lap times to keep the Pirelli’s underneath them until such time as they can push for the win in the waning laps.
The good news is that Pirelli are a class operation and can easily adjust this parameters to find a median of degradation, durability and quality product. In my opinion, they did this to great results in 2011 when the original compounds were too degradable and they adjusted it mid-year to make a great tire capable of being pushed but beneficial, and possibly race-winning, for those who managed them.