Pirelli boss Paul Hembery has responded to criticism from fans and drivers that the tyres are too big a talking point in F1 at the moment, saying that the situation will resolve itself soon and the tyres will become less significant.
This week has seen a flood of comment on this site and elsewhere following Michael Schumacher’s criticisms of the tyres in Bahrain. The 7 times champion said that drivers were unable to push to the limit on the 2012 tyres and added, “I just question whether the tyres should play such a big importance, or whether they should last a bit longer, and that you can drive at normal racing car speed and not cruise around like we have a safety car. I’m not happy about the situation.”
Speaking to the JA on F1 podcast, due out on Monday, Hembery points out that the medium tyre used in the first four races, including Bahrain, was the largely same product as the soft tyre which was used in 18 of last year’s 19 races and was the most raced tyre last year. He argues that rather than the tyres, it’s the loss of downforce from the banning of the exhaust blown diffuser which is mostly to blame for teams and drivers struggling this year. “We are using it in a more aggressive environment than last year, such as Bahrain, for example,” he said.
Hembery added, “In motor racing the only person happy is the winner and Sebastian Vettel had a different point of view. Drivers are under pressure; they want to succeed and if they are not then these things get said. It’s the same for everyone and it will still be true that the best drivers and engineers will always win. You drive within the package, If the package is limited by tyres, you drive to 100% of that package. If you drove to 70-80% of the package, as has been suggested, you won’t get any results. Look at Raikkonen, he’s been in rallying for two years so he’s suffered the biggest change and he’s got a 2nd place straight off.”
We’ve had almost 600 comments on this subject since Monday; over 4,000 fans voted in our poll and 46% agreed with Schumacher, with 33% disagreeing.
On Friday I put the fans’ comments to Hembery and he said, “At the moment, yes they are being talked about, but then again we’ve seen four different cars and drivers win the first four races and I’m told that’s the first time that’s happened for 30 years. I think if someone had told you that before the first race, you’d have thought that was amazing.
“Let’s see what happens at the Mugello test. You’ll see that the teams will work very hard on understanding the tyres. I think you’ll find that the tyre discussion will become less and less and the situation will resolve itself.
“We are at the start of the season. At the start last year there was a lot of discussion and you will find that two or three races from now we won’t be having this discussion. Because the engineers will work out how to maximise the performance on the car they will find a balance and a relative level of normality will occur.
“You have to bear in mind what we were asked to do. We were asked to create these challenges. If the sport wants us to go to a one change, zero degradation tyre we can do that as well. But maybe people have short memories, the sport was in huge decline no-one was watching it. There was no overtaking. We know that the majority of fans like to see overtaking.
“For example Bahrain, the last time it was run there were 15 overtaking manoeuvres, this time we had 73. To give you a barometer of where things have changed. We were only trying to what we’ve been asked.”
You can hear all the Paul Hembery interview as well as insights from Heikki Kovalainen, Jaime Alguersuari, veteran engineer Frank Dernie and top driver trainer Nick Harris in the May edition of the JA on F1 podcast, which will be available for download from Itunes and Soundcloud on Monday