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Thoughts on Pirelli, De la Rosa, Heidfeld and Schumacher
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Thoughts on Pirelli, De la Rosa, Heidfeld and Schumacher
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Sep 2010   |  5:07 pm GMT  |  46 comments

Pirelli’s development programme on next years tyres has moved into another phase, with the testing role passing from Romain Grosjean to Pedro de la Rosa, recently ousted by the Sauber team in favour of Pirelli’s original tester Nick Heidfeld.

The first three tests were carried out by Heidfeld, with Grosjean taking over for the recent fourth test. But current F1 drivers will be relieved that the role has now been given to De la Rosa, who has a wealth of experience as a development driver with McLaren, a role he relinquished only this year to take up the race opportunity with Sauber.


Heidfeld spoke about the tests today briefly, on his return to competitive action with Sauber, explaining that he had worked on constructions and compounds. But he was not giving away any insights into how the tyres behave. Something many people would love to get a read on.

Having consulted with several engineers, it seems that Heidfeld’s knowledge will be useful to Sauber’s design engineers at this stage, as the tyre construction in particular is not likely to change significantly between now and the Abu Dhabi test in November at which all the teams and drivers will get their hands on the new rubber for the first time.

Heidfeld made it clear that he has come back to Sauber only for the remaining five races and that 2011 is still completely open.

Meanwhile one man who has a significant interest in the way the Pirelli’s are developing is Michael Schumacher, who worked alongside Heidfeld at Mercedes for half of this season. He spoke this evening about the subject. His difficulties this season have revolved to a large extent around the way that the Bridgestone front tyres perform on the Mercedes, which is not compatible with his style of driving, so some insight into the characteristics of next year’s tyres would be of great benefit to him.

“It’s a question of whether the tyres we have in Abu Dhabi will be the same ones we start the season with and continue the season with, ” said Schumacher. “Yes you’ll get a quick read because you know what the car has been with the Bridgestone tyres and then you’ll know what it is with the Pirelli tyres.

I asked him whether he had pumped Heidfeld for information. The Schumacher of old had legendary attention to detail and was always trying to squeeze out any piece of information that would give him a competitive advantage. Surely, given his current difficulties he would have got the information from Heidfeld?
“Not at all, ” he replied. “I haven’t had one word with him about his Pirelli test. I’m pretty sure what he would tell me wouldn’t be very conclusive. First he wouldn’t want to tell me anything and second he did it in a car that is very different, so what’s the point? I’d rather wait until I make my first experience.”

Schumacher has to approach next year as an opportunity. Next year is a level playing field for him relative the other drivers, all of whom will be coming to terms with the characteristics of the Pirellis from scratch. Remember that it took Alonso and Raikkonen the best part of half a season to master the switch from Michelin to Bridgestone in 2007.

Schumacher also took the opportunity to dismiss the rumours, put about by Eddie Jordan on the BBC, that he is planning to quit at the end of the season. Asked if he wished to deny it he said simply, “Indeed. You can’t get rid of me!”

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46 Comments
  1. jonrob says:

    Another EJ triumph! Though to be fair he did nail Mr Lotus to his seat in the last BBC F1 forum and steal his thunder.

    So Schumi needs to have tyres that suit his style of driving, oh and a car that suits his style of driving too.
    Maybe he should be concentrating on making his driving style suit the car and the tyres instead.
    Nico is showing him a clean pair of heels, in every race. Come on Schumi get your act together, so far you are a waste of money in the team. They would have done a lot better to have Nick Heidfeld in the team instead. If Ross had the balls, he should have dropped Schumi and got Nick in several races back.

    I have a strong feeling that next season will be no better for Schumi, his day is gone, he is now only as good as the average mid grid driver. He should do a Sterling (Moss, who said he could not compete at the top so he would not do it any more and we respect that a hell of a lot more than lots of excuses.)

    EJ may yet be vindicated (if not convicted:-)

    1. Roberto says:

      As far as i know Mr. EJ today only has a commentator job in F1, meanwhile MS won 7 championships and was the driver who made Ferrari reborn. Maybe EJ still has a grudge about MS leaving his team almost after he parked the car at the star on Spa long time ago.

      I don´t want to diminish EJ efforts to stay in F1, but everytime he can he criticizes and doesn´t bother to remember his mistakes, maybe MS should remember him about that embarrasing Vodafone episode…

    2. Steven says:

      My feelings are that next season’s Merc will be built around Schumi and Nico will get screwed with a car that is hard to drive. Now, if Nico can stay competitive with next years car then we will see how good he really is.

      1. jonrob says:

        I completely agree, Nico is showing the old guy how to drive this year. Next year in a bespoke Shumi-mobile if Shumi does not lead Nico by half a second every race all the Schumi-centric effort will have been wasted.
        He has changed so much, he is now far too relaxed, he is taking it easy. The lack of constant testing and constant adoration has led him to sit back now, just waiting for next year, he is not pushing, if he is, how come Nico is so far ahead in the same car?

    3. John says:

      I have to completely disagree with your saying Schumacher is a waste of money. He is still the biggest name in the sport, his return has increased viewership, and Mercedes aren’t fighting for a title here..

      I am certain he has brought in a number of new Mercedes fans. On top of that he is a great development driver, so even if his weekend pace is lacking, that doesn’t discount his overall contribution to the team? Mercedes are in the headlines nowadays not for winning, but for Schumacher. That should mean something.

      I hope they keep him around and give him another year. I was always rooting for him to lose back in the glory days, and I don’t regard him as the greatest ever, I think he has pushed and many times broken rules and basic courtesy, but his accomplishments still mean something and at least to me, I would love to see him stay in the sport, even if we only see the odd flash of genius. I’m glad to see an article rebuking the retirement theory, and hope he comes back to prove people wrong. Also, Eddie Jordan and Eddie Irvine should both take a long walk of a short pier, in my humble opinion.

    4. Lewis Jones says:

      I fully agree with you jonrob. Even if Mercedes had given Michael until, say, Germany (to say a final farewell to his fans) but then replaced him with Nick, that would have made more sense than what has transpired. I have always been a major Heidfeld fan and think that he could easily do a ‘Jenson ’09′ if he has the right car under him. My hope is that he either finally gets the Mercedes drive in 2011, or he rejoins with Kubica at Renault.

      1. Diarmuid says:

        I find it ironic that people are claiming that Schumacher should be replaced by a man who struggled more than almost any other driver because he couldnt get the tyres working in 2008. He was out qualified 13-4 by Kubica. Currently Rosberg v Schumacher is getting beat 10-3 in qualifying. So its not as if Heidfeld hasnt had his bad years and his bad years didnt come off the back of huge regulation changes and 3 years of retirement.

        I really am sick of how much stick Schumacher is getting this year. Here’s another example of a driver getting hammered by a team mate and then coming back strong. Button was beaten 13-4 in qualifying by Giancarlo Fisichella in 2001 and beaten in EVERY race that they both finished. Should Jense have called it a day back then as well?

        Now excuse me but i rate Michaels ability far higher than Jenson or Nick Heidfelds.

      2. Lewis Jones says:

        Diarmuid, nobody questions that Schumacher, in his pomp, was a far better driver than either Heidfeld or Button. 7 World Championships underline this fact. I have never suggested otherwise. Statistically he is the best F1 driver ever and I cannot see anyone beating his 7 WDCs.

        But, he is going to be 42 next year, so I would suggest that your comparison to Button in 2001 (when he was just 21 and starting out in F1) is not appropriate.

        I am merely stating the fact that, for 2011, if I was a team boss at Mercedes, I would base my decision on the hard-headed fact that Schumacher has not really got to grips with F1 since he has been back and is holding up a seat that could be given to someone else, as he can in no way be considered a long-term prospect for Mercedes GP.

        Now, it may be that Heidfeld is not the ideal candidate for this drive. From your comment, it is clear he wouldn’t be yours. Personally, I would have Vettel or Sutil in that seat in a heartbeat.

        I have merely noted that if I was Ross Brawn, I would have at least given my third driver a chance midway through this season, as Force India have done, just to see if he is able to perform better than one of my regular race drivers. Even a Friday practice would have been interesting, just to see how the two drivers compared.

        I admire Schumacher greatly, but I will not fall sway to the cult of Michael that seems to infect his fans. My question is this: ‘Has this year’s performance been good enough for a 7-times World Champion?’ and my answer is: No.

  2. Robert Lujan says:

    I hope Schum stays and with a more even playing field we can see what he is capable of. It is great to hear that Nick is back. Pedro is where he belongs, testing. My other wish is that Sutil gets into a competitive car next season. Preferably he stays where he is or he gets a spot at Renault. Which in my view is a long shot now with their new Russian sponsors. Will it really make a difference for Heidfeld next season? Yes he knows what the tires are like now, but what about next season? Will Sauber really hold onto him for next year just because he did the Pirelli tests this year? I fear not. Time will tell and hopefully I am wrong.

  3. Jim says:

    De La Rosa was a very sensible choice for Pirelli, after being ousted from Sauber. Sadly I don’t think his performances really stood up to scrutiny this year, especially against his rookie team mate. He has already passed his full racing potential, but his feedback data will be invaluable to put Pirelli on the right track.

    Will also be interesting to see how Button fares with the new tyres. We all know if the car is right for him, he can be electric, but if it isn’t, then his times drop off the edge of a cliff.

    Would be sensible for Merc to fire Schuey – he is clearly not fast enough this season, and lacks long term potential. Bring in Raikkonen. He can’t be any worse – and he would be desparate to prove he deserves a second chance. Financially I’m sure both of them would want similar amounts, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

    1. Andersson says:

      Kimi really does not come across as desperate to get a chance in F1!

      1. Jim says:

        Kimi approaching Renault on the off chance the might offer him seat suggests he’s pretty keen to me!

    2. malcolm.strachan says:

      de la Rosa certainly is a good choice; he’s the only driver to test with Pirelli thus far that has actually driven on the 2010-spec Bridgestones. With that in hand, he’ll be able to give a lot better feedback with direct comparisons.

  4. Andy C says:

    Glad to hear about de la rosa. Mclaren rated his development feedback very highly.

    In many ways the tyre situation could keep people on their toes as such a major change may upset say mclaren or redbull and not Renault.

    Already looking forward to another great year!

    James,
    To what extent will pirelli copy the construction type/approach of bridgestone? I’m assuming large profile I’m f1 tyres is relatively unique.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      What do you mean by “construction”? The angles and number of belts in the tire? Or the general size and dimensions of the tire?

      If you mean dimensions, the tire will virtually look identical to 2010 tires, albeit with a Pirelli logo.

      1. Andy C says:

        Yes, I was interested in the tech construction of the tyre (rather than the dimensions), as in would pirelli buy some of the knowledge gained by bridgestone or go down their own totally new path.

  5. Jim says:

    Also, what’s this i hear, James, about you not doing commentary on the new F1 game (out tomorrow btw)? Massively disappointed; some of the phrases on the last one were comic genius! lol

    1. Nico says:

      There is no commentary on the new F1 game.

    2. Martin B says:

      There isn’t any commentary on the new game. Oddly, I had it on preorder and got it on the 23rd, 1 day early!

      I read somewhere that codemasters said they didn’t put commentary on it because they wanted to give the game more of a ‘you are the driver’ feel, rather than a TV viewers feel.

    3. Andy C says:

      Anybody know how to make the steering less sensitive to joystick movement? Trying to get round a long sweeping turn is a nightmare….

  6. TheGreatCornholio says:

    Hmm, not sure what the rules are for the tyre test but would the teams be able to turn up with a 2011 car and sneak in some test time? Probably not but it’d be rather interesting if they could.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      They could… but I seriously doubt that any team would be so far ahead in design for 2011 that they would have an entire car ready to go.

      I wouldn’t bet against a modified car with ballast to simulate KERS, as well as a preliminary design for a single-diffuser. I am pretty sure that those two details would be the only real differences.

  7. Taylor says:

    I am so glad that Schumi has confirmed his stay in the next year F1 season. Hopefully he can responded well next year for all the nay-sayers.

  8. F1Maniac says:

    I’m glad Schumi has yet again said he isn’t quitting. I am so sick of all the rumours that keep getting started by those in the media.

    Thanks James for posting stories steeped in that elusive quality that seems to elude many others……….FACTS!

  9. Nick F says:

    There was a change to the tyres this season too. They narrowed the fronts. Also the cars were a lot longer and had a different weight balance. I’m not sure that going into the season Schumacher was disadvantaged relative to the others for technical reasons. I just think he was rusty and a new crop of very good drivers had entered the sport since he was last in it.

    I hope Schumacher stays racing next season and the car is more competitive.

  10. Matt says:

    Rain forecast in Singapore for all 3 days!

  11. Richard Foster says:

    All the stories about Schumacher leaving are absolute rubbish! Like Button said a while ago he really has to stay until he put some sort of result together and next year is the perfect opportunity.

    James I would be interested to hear what your thoughts are on the stories and also what your observations are of Schumacher in the paddock? Does he look like a guy thinking about leaving?

  12. michael grievson says:

    I’d love to see heidfeld at Renault with kubica. It would be great for the team. Extremely consistant and would helpmpish Renault to the gront

  13. Icarus says:

    I thought they are still retaining Grosjean, along with de la Rosa for testing. At least that’s what autosport reports.

  14. Jarv says:

    I have to be cynical but does anyone know exacly how much information these people can give to teams on tyres that will actually be of great use?

    Do they have the information that would enable a team to reproduce exactly all the tyre spec’s or just say “one of the compounds understears very badly”.

    … or prehaps they recomend a few select “people” that could be offered a new job in the team?

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      A hypothetical comment could be: “It takes two laps for them to fully come up to temperature. The tire begins to fall off a little after three quick laps, but if you drive at 9/10′s for half a lap, the tires cure and you can push hard for the rest of the stint, but they’ll be about 3 tenths slower for the next 20 laps, and then lose 5 hundredths per lap over the next 15 before they totally fall off. The front tires are a little weaker than the rears, and despite a range of set-ups, the fronts always tend to wear faster than the rears”

      The teams could tell from that that they need to ensure the tire-heaters stay on until the very last moment, and the approximate life of the tire. Knowing the life of the tire, they could run simulations to determine the best strategies for the first few races. Also, if they knew the fronts were weaker than the rears, they could design the car to have more front grip to ensure the front tires survive better, and that they can abuse the rears a bit more.

      Heidfeld would be able to pass on most of that type of information, and perhaps a bit more… so he’ll be of great use to anyone that secures him for 2011.

  15. onyx says:

    Why all this enthusiasm for Heidfeld?!He is a journeyman.Has he ever repeat ever had you on the edge of your seat during a GP!?Hopefully KK will show him up and he can go and drive in the DTM or something…

    1. Sut says:

      Spot on Onyx.
      Nick is reasonably quick and reliable but not exactly inspiring.
      Maybe he’s a nice guy but no personality has ever come over in 10 years.

  16. Brace says:

    Hi James
    Totally unrelated but I’ve just came from my first Guns N’ Roses concert since I started listening to them some 15 years ago.
    I’m so happy, I just wanna share it with everyone! :)

    Oh, and while they were playing my all time fav song “You Could Be Mine”, on the huge screen behind them there were F1 action packed video clips playing to go with the song!
    Is that amazing or what!!! :D
    There was even Kimi’s McLaren. :)

    1. My girlfriend – there
    2. My fav band and song – there
    3. My fav sport – there

    The best moment of my life! :)

    1. Andersson says:

      Kimi went partying with Axl Rose and they apparently became friends and this is why Guns’n’Roses is making references to him. They apparently mention him in some album credits too.

  17. Six Tenths says:

    “The Schumacher of old”

    Worth re quoting and thinking about.

    So, has he lost the fire, interest, or will he wait and see how things go on the new tyres ?

    From the sounds of it, the most adaptable driver in the field in 2011 will be able to showcase his talents, I have an idea who that might be, but none as to why Heidfeld would leave his excellent opportunity with Pirelli, halfway through, for just a handful of races in the Sauber ?

    1. Mat says:

      Didn’t we see the Schumacher of old back in Hungary? First it was that the car didn’t suit him, then it was the limited testing and now it’s that the Bridgestones don’t suit him. I am so sick of people constantly making excuses for the guy.

  18. For Sure says:

    While it is well-known fact that when you get older you get slower, I think it is very very hard to understand the reasons why he lost so much of what he has while he looks to be in a great shape.

    I think Schumi gets slower but not THAT slower.

    James, would you say that the missing link is the testing?
    Sometimes I feel that he is forced to keep going to exams without studying while the other guys studied the tyres for a years before the exam.

  19. Rich says:

    surely a great driver should be able to adapt his style to any situation or tyre. If he can only drive a car with a certain type of turn in and that’s whats he has been given through out his champion winning years, it say mountains for his team mates who often weren’t far away on performance bearing in mind the team number 2 status! His team mates were able to cope in other words.

    1. Diarmuid says:

      Name one of his team mates that had 3 years in retirement, was 41 and came back to regulation changes which included return to slicks, completely different aero, no traction control or engine braking, etc.

      Look how much Kimi and Alonso struggled when they had to change to bridgestone from Michelin. That was just a tyre change. Schumacher has had to adapt to that and then some.

  20. Andy C says:

    Just reading the rumours of a three ways swap between Kubica(Ferrari), Webber (Renault) and Massa (Sauber) and thinking silly season has reached full flow again :-)

    I would absolutely love to see Kubica at Ferrari by the way. I think he is a bit special, which is exactly why I dont think Fernando would want him there.

  21. Dele Atanda says:

    I often find it baffling how the media have such short term memories on Schumacher’s performance. It’s even more surprising when the commentators are an ex driver and an ex team principal. Maybe it’s the job that corrupts them.

    I remember the extreme criticsm rained on Michael Schumacher when he joined Ferrari. The media and many of his critics said he was solely motivated by money etc. Now a decade or so later people forget how he struggled at the back of the grid for the first three years with Ferrari before winning the constructors championship in his fourth year and then finally the driver’s in his fifth. Clearly he had vision, stamina and patience not accorded him by his critics.

    When one takes into consideration that Merceds is pretty much a new team this season the situation is even more extreme. Anyone who has run any sort of motorsport programme knows that generally they are a minimum of three year exercises where the first year is about setting up the team and operations, the second is about performance and third is about consolidating and securing your continued progress.

    I am relieved that Michael has himself reminded the media of the sort of time commitment that is necessary to get a team up to championship winning form in this week’s Autosport.

    It would be nice if the experienced BBC F1 commentators could provide some real racing world insight into Mercedes’ and Schumacher’s performance this season rather than pandering to the tabloid like sensationalistic approach they seem to be adopting currently.

  22. Richard says:

    I’ve been wondering for some time whether this “isn’t it awful, Schumi’s getting beaten by his team-mate” story, oughtn’t to be “isn’t it amazing, Rosberg’s even quicker than Schumi”.

    Could it be, James, that Rosberg is really, really special? Might he be a future multiple World Champion? Might we be looking back on this season very differently in ten years from now?

    1. James Allen says:

      Possibly, but did he shows signs of that in the last few years? Did he suddenly become extra special?

      1. GabrielV says:

        Maybe he improved with the help of Schumi like Massa did. Having someone with the vast amount of knowledge that Schumi has in a team will always be beneficial to a younger teammate don’t you think?

  23. Dave Aston says:

    The first two years of Lauda’s comeback he scored fewer points than teammate John Watson. Nico is impressive, but I don’t believe he’s a future title winner. Heidfeld has looked good in the past against Kimi, Webber, Massa, in the same car, yet has never really looked like a star, which is I imagine why he never got a top drive. That said, Sauber made a good call taking him after the Pirelli testing, and should probably keep him for 2011. It doesn’t matter who is in the second Sauber, Kobayashi will be scoring most of their points, and getting the fans off their seats – He IS a future star.

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