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Pirelli responds to fans criticism that tyres are too big an influence on racing
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Apr 2012   |  7:51 pm GMT  |  335 comments

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

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IMO formula 1 shouldn’t be about how well a driver can conserve his tires or how well a car saves its tires. It should be about who is the fastest driver and car combination of the year, tires are just there to enhance their performance. Now if formula 1 sticks with these Pirelli tires, the teams and drivers would be building their cars and driving styles to fit the tires. Is this truly racing? I don’t think so. This does not carry the spirit of the sport. All it does is make it look more exciting while handicapping many of the drivers based on their driving styles. It would be like only allowing NBA players to dribble with their left hands. It’s just biased. IMO this is simply to keep F1 viewers happy, not F1 fans.

People who say the past few years were boring obviously don’t appreciate the sport. When a single driver dominates a race and the viewers say it was boring obviously do not appreciate the sport. The sport isn’t about drivers struggling with the tires nursing them to the finish. It is about racing on the limit pulling 100% out of themselves and the car(notice I said car and not tires).

Let’s put this in perspective, if we were to design a tire that would punish aggressive drivers and apply this tire to every single race in F1 history, would Ayrton Senna be as quick? Would Michael Schumacher or Gilles Villeneuve be as quick? Would all these spectacular drivers be able to display their driving skill and speed with these tires? In simple words, there should never be tires that favor one driving style than another, which is the case with the tires this year.


Why did Pirelli go with Mediums and Softs for Bahrain?

Malaysia is another cookie-cutter Tilkedrome with similar characters and similar hot conditions, yet Pirelli went for Hard and Medium.


I’d just like to make a point regarding the comments about how Ferrari got preferential treatment from Bridgestone.

The Bridgestone tyres were built/designed largely around the Ferrari & Schumacher’s feedback from 2002 onwards primarily because Ferrari were the only top team that were running Bridgestone tyres.

The other teams on Brisgestone’s coudn’t afford to test as much as Ferrari could & that was the primary reason 90%+ of the tyre testing/development was done by Ferrari.

When Bridgsetone was the sole supplier (99-00) Ferrari recieved no special treatment from Bridgestone & in 2001 where Mclaren also ran Bridestone’s both recieved equal treatment in terms of testing & both teams recieved compounds built around there cars/drivers.

The smaller teams running Bridgestone’s did complain about Ferrari doing the testing & the tyres been designed around Ferrari, However with Ferrari the only Bridgestone team able to test every week & Ferrari the only Bridgestone team fighting for the championship what else where Bridgestone supposed to do?

When in a tyre war, Cost’s go up & the development rate also goes up. Bridgestone would often develop a new compound at the test the week before & run it at the next race & only have a few sets avaliable & with Ferrari the only top team running them & often in championship fights it was only natural that they got the new compounds before the smaller teams who were not in the title hunt.


According to Hembrey, Hungary ’98 would never happened when Schuey ran 2 stints running nothing but quali laps to beat Hakkinen when he pitted an extra time. This is what fans crave more than dumb DRS induced passing. They want to see drivers on the limit of themselves not the tires.


Can you imagine putting tires like this on Sebastian Loeb or Peter Solberg cars for a WRC race ? And asking them to go easy on them ? . On the other hand all this “politics”around drivers , this one will be number 2 to whoever I decide makes me sick. Why is everybody against Hamilton? Is he not as good a merchandise seller as others ? I started following F1 a long time ago ,then stopped because Schumi was such a dominant driver , but I think that was his merit.And last year Vettel was almost as dominant.FIA is interfering so much is going to choke the sport, it is no longer about bold drivers and their guts to win ,it is about ratings .


I get it, drive within the package limitations, but the fastest drivers should shine through. A tyre that encourages high loading (fast agressive driving) to keep in an offset operation window (compared to current tyres), any less, temp reduces, graining (low temp degredation, result everyone has to actually RACE all the time …ha


I have to say on the side of Paul Hembrey on this issue. Schumacher’s comments do have the hint of being naffed off that he hasn’t had the results the car deserves (especially with Rosberg dominating China). Lest we forget, this is the same Schumacher who dominated the early 90’s with Bridgestone tyres designed specifically for the Ferrari and thousands of km’s testing at Fiorano…)

Its the same for everyone, get on with it.

There has always been an element of compromise in F1, there is always a limiting factor to the package. A few years ago there were numerous complaints regarding the lack of drop-off in tyre performance.

I think its just fine as it is. We’ve got close, unpredictable racing, a super-tight midfield and four different winners in the first 4 races. F1 is about getting the best from the package – who remembers the 80’s when Prost won many races by driving to the fuel economy of the car, and picking off “faster” cars and drivers who ran out of fuel?

The only thing I would change is the rule that says that Q3 drivers have to use the same tyres in the race. Let them strap on fresh options and absolutely cream it in Q3 for a true reading of the fastest car and driver out there. I used to love the balls-out, no limits qualy laps of the past. And then watching as a more considered driver compensated for this during the race, playing out the hare/tortoise scenario.

Craig in Manila

All Schu said (in very simplified summation) was that he didn’t like the tyres as he couldn’t drive flatout like he really wanted to.

In a sortof response, Mr.Pirelli has basically agreed with him that drivers cannot (now) drive flatout for extended periods of time but :

1. We’ve had four winning so it must be good

2. We’ve had four winning cars so it must be good

3. If it’s not good, it’s not Pirelli’s fault, F1 made us do it

4. Blame’s Schmachers comments on him being under pressure

5. Draws Sebastian Vettel into it somehow

6. Says we should wait’n’see what happens at/after Mugello

7. It’s the same for everybody so it must therefore be okay

8. The tyres are sortof the same as 2011 so what’s the problem anyway

Simple !

I spose it could be worse. Afterall, Plan A was for sprinklers to be installed at every track.


That’s such a good summary. Hembry’s response just sounds rhetorical.

More than anything I want to see the drivers maxing out their speed and ability.


I can’t believe that Hembrey [mod[ misunderstood Schumacher’s comments. 70-80% of the car’s ability because the tires are already at 100%. So it is the tires that held him back. I know Hembrey’s argument is ‘more show’ for the fans but overtaking a sitting duck in front of you on a straight line is a no-brainer and does not highlight driver talents. Therefore not a show that I want to watch.
Hembrey it is time to change, stop defending [mod] tires made by Pirelli.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia


In your commentary over the years I have heard you talk about F1 looking forward to great gladiatorial battles between Hamilton, Alonso, Vettel.

Will they ever actually happen? I know that last year we had an unusual year with Red Bull dominating.

However, given how everyone seems to be trying to run their own race strategies in clean air – and the fact that overtaking with DRS had become too often a drive-pass event – do you think that we will get to see these gladiatorial battles in the future under the current rules.

Do you really think that we see Schumacher-Hill/Schumacher-Hakkinen/Alonso-Raikkonen or Alonso-Hamilton type battles over a season going forward?

Under the current F1 set up I really don’t see that we will get to see these types of championship campaigns any time soon.

These guys are our heroes and we want to see them in full flight – hanging things out on the limit. Brushing the walls in Montreal, outbraking themselves by making a risky overtaking move.

The unpredictability from the current tyres coupled with less demanding overtaking skills may produce a tight championship – but it is taking this gladiatorial aspect out of the sport.


I hope so. We’ve had some good ones over the years but the one-on-ones like you see in Moto GP are rare, admittedly. Not sure if this kind of racing will give us that, for any sustained period.

If one car is catching another, its because the lead car is dealing with a limitation (tyres, no KERS or DRS etc)

I still think the racing is good at the moment, it’s very interesting strategically and I think the second half of the season, when teams have understood the tyres better, will be very close


It won’t happen on these tyres, great for strategists I suppose, but isn’t that missing the point? We will never see the Hamilton of old on these tyres as it’s both a physical, and mathematical impossibility as his celebrated skills lie above the cutoff point of these tyres. Hamilton is a high energy racer that needs fairly durable tyres, but perhaps the only slight possiblility I see is for him to do like Kimi Raikkenon, but the McLaren seems to lack the race pace to make that happen. It’s all a great shame that we are to be denied that spectacle, and instead we have the lame overtaking with DRS/KERS and tyres falling away; just where have we come to?


Well I think all drivers have modified their styles to a lesser or greater extent. Drivers like Button probably very little and can continue with their natural style, but drivers like Hamilton it’s a chasm, and they end up going slower. Hamilton pulls it out a little in qualifying, but the tyres take a beating, and an early pit stop is usually on the cards.


+1. And to take it a step further, I disagree with those who would say that Hamilton is exclusively to blame for his lack of pace owing to his inability to adapt his driving style to suit the unpredictability of the tires (!!). If F1 is supposed to be a *spectacle* w/ entertainment value, how is that value enhanced by forcing a dynamic, high-energy driver like Hamilton to dial-down his aggressive, attacking nature and become a robot pilot who complies with what are basically orders derived from the logic of a computer – emotionless? Adapting his driving style to suit the tires in this case is something I’m glad Hamilton seems unable to do successively, for it’s his style in applying his massive talent and ability that made him such an exciting and emotionally-satisfying a driver to watch.


I want to put my neckout and say that I love the challenge of tyres that don’t last. If you look back at the history of motorsport, the main challenge was making the car last the race distance – the clutch wore out, the brakes wore out, and the tyres wore out too. If you drove the wheels off your car for a whole race distance it would break. The challenge of GP racing was to go quick while nursing the car, to make sure you had pace at the end. In these days of composite materials, even a race like Le Mans can be driven like a sprint. In some ways that is exciting. But it is also exciting to watch engineers, strategists and drivers rise to the challenge.


Exactly! Look how many times in the ‘great’ races of the 1970s and 1980s the top drivers didn’t get to the chequered flag because the car broke.

The point is that many cars are at a similar level now, which makes any variation – like tyre life management – seem huge


I agree tyre life management is part of racing. But a tyre that needs changing on lap 8/9 of a 50+ lap race?!?! That sounds more like tip toeing around the track hoping your car doesn’t slide and that you don’t lock up. It has been said before, the drivers that can nurse their tyres better are benefiting at the cost of hard racing. Having said that, this is not Pirelli’s fault, they are doing what was asked of them. Personally I think the tyres are too fragile and have a very narrow margin of optimal operation. Hopefully teams and Pirelli alike will find a happy medium throughout the year. Let’s not forget that it is early days, 2012 is a very long season!

What about giving the drivers a new set of tyres after quali? Maybe we would see everybody on Q3 trying to set a time instead of saving tyres and everybody would start the race in an equal footing.

Lawrence Lavery

An interesting and relevant video regarding the above discussion.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

How about making it actually worthwhile to bother qualifying at the upper end of the grid?

And thus giving some reward for actually pushing the car limit.

Perhaps narrow the points gap for the top 3:

1st: 25 to 22

2nd: 18 to 19

3rd: 15 to 16

and awarding points for Saturday qualifying

1st: 3 points

2nd: 2 points

3rd: 1 point

That should improve attendance on Saturday and give teams something to think about in terms of trading off between qualifying and race strategy.

Why not reward qualifying….this is the only true measure of a man in F1 these days. Not tyre nursing.


Like it how Rosberg has now come out in favour of the tyres and possibly playing a little brinkmanship with Schumacher?! 🙂


I have a simple solution!

For next year bring back refuelling exactly like it was (start the race with the fuel level left from qualifying). Because the lesser weight from the car at the start tyres will last longer anyway. The ones with higher tyre degradation simply do an extra fuel stop which makes them quicker (lighter) on a stint therefor leveling out.


Bring back refueling & we would just be stuck with what we had last time, racing done in the pits & not on the track.

That was the biggest flaw of the refueling era, the racing was determined by the strategy guys in the pit lane running there computer simulations.

All the racing & overtaking moved from the track to the pit lane & if you look at overtaking figures, They plummeted from the very 1st refueling race at Brazil in 1994 as passing started to be done in the pits rather than on-track.

Take monaco for example, Pre-refueling we were in double-digits for number of overtakes all but twice (88/92), with refueling we only hit double digits 3 times (05/06/11). We went from 29 overtakes at Monaco 93 to only 3 in 1994.

we also ended up with many races where due to refueling strategy you had 2 (or more) drivers fighting over a position despite been nowhere near each other on-track.

2004 French Gp, Alsono/Schumacher fighting hard for the win, Ferrari go onto a 4-stop strategy & then the 2 of them were nowhere near each other with the eventual pass occuring in the pits with Alonso nowhere in sight.

Without refueling we would have got to see a proper on-track fight with them in close proximity & any overtake would have had to happen on-track, far more exciting than what refueling gave us.

I hated refueling to the point that if it ever came back into F1 i’d stop watching. i’ve no intrest in watching that sort of dull strategy racing again!


I think racing would be better and more interesting on an XBOX or PS3 than watching cars run on these lame tyres that fall to pieces after 8-10 laps.

Maybe we can create Formula GT-5 or Formula Forza? Anything to get rid of this ridiculous tyre-situation.


Well the tyres had added unpredictability to the first part of this season as they did to the first part of the last season. Eventually all the teams will understand the tyres and the pirelli tyres will not be something to talk about. The same happened last year.

While this unpredictability might be great for most fans, for me it has something wrong. It is not always the BEST team that benefits from it, sometimes it is the LUCKIEST. We have not really seen any team finding the sweet spot in all the races. Which means that it was not only their skill, that made them find the sweet spot, but also their luck i.e. the temperature in the race was making it easier for a team to find the sweet spot. The same team in the next race would not find the sweet spot as the temperature was different and it was harder for them to find the sweet spot again.

So in a way the tyres are a big wild card in there for the first races. Most fans do not understand where the unpredictability comes from, and they do not care. So it is great for these fans. However most people find it stupid to see how a lottery unfolds, even if they had bought a lottery ticket. The same do I, so as I understand that this is a lottery, I do not find so much meaning in seeing who wins it.

Ce la vie


Now now, Hembrey taking a cheap dig at Schumacher by quoting kimi coming back and already achieving a podium.

Mr. Hembrey should understand, It was not a personal attack on Pirelli by Shumacher, rather a question raised to make racing more better.


Yes, not very subtle is he. Also noted that he said the best teams and drivers would always rise to the top, which is in effect another dig.


Wondering why MS didn’t complain while he and Ferrari were winning 5 championship’s in the expense of others, while having a special arrangement with Bridgestone valued at $20M. Pity you Micheal. He Knows why Ferrari is struggling. The link between MS and Ferrari’s struggle is, the missing BridgeStone tires and the special arrangement. MS wont complain, if the same special arrangement is put between Mercedes and Pirelli. A true champion, wont complain like a cry baby and MS is not a true champion like Senna or Prost. When Kimi is able to adjust and manage his tires and win a podium after a two year long break why MS is complaining?. Because he is not greater than Kimi himself. The pity thing is, when Rosberg is able to handle the tires and win a race, MS is crying?. The funniest part is the drivers who raced with MS, all are able to handle the tires and no one is complaining.

I like the Pirelli tires and the way they are designed. It makes racing more exciting. No more boring MS era, who will always win by tire advantage or breaking some rules. Way to go Pirelli, keep racing as exciting as this. Let the lame champions who are not able to cope the change run away and hide in their mama’s basement.


Alexander Rossin was commentating on the GP2 races over the weekend. They also use Pirelli tyres that are similar to the F1 tyre & that includes high degredation.

He said that compared to Bridgestone or Mchelin tyres, they feel like driving at 85-90%. You can’t slide the car at all, and he compared it to driving in the wet. He thought it was the tyre construction – softer sidewalls.


You know what the problem with current F1 is? The fact that people only look at overtaking as a number & that people want this number to be as big as possible.

In the past we had less overtaking, However the overtaking we did see was truly exciting to watch & the lead up to it often had you on the edge of your seat.

Now we have tons of passing (Its not overtaking) & very little of it is actually exciting to watch, I actually find DRS passes to be extremely dull & unintresting, Passes caused by tyres is just as bad.

Its fine to say “we had 73 passes” however if 95% of those passes were boring to watch then its just as bad as having watched none.

Last time we were in Bahrain there may only have been 15, However at least those 15 were real overtakes that were exciting to watch!

Simply having 73 passes doesn’t make a race exciting as its the quality of an overtake that makes it exciting!


“But maybe people have short memories, the sport was in huge decline no-one was watching it.”

Thats actually not true, Both TV & attendance were just as strong before Pirelli came in as they have been after.

F1 was not in decline & more people than ever were watching in 2010.

“There was no overtaking. We know that the majority of fans like to see overtaking.”

There was overtaking, statistically 2010 featured more on-track overtaking than any season since 1989.

As a fan, Yes I do like to see overtaking, However I like to see real overtaking, real hard fought for overtaking & not easy passing due to DRS or because one drivers tyres are a few seconds slower than the others.

Its true that since 2011 we have seen a massive increase in the number of passes, However very little of it has been that exciting as most of it has looked way too easy due to DRS & tyres.

I would rather see 1 real overtake than 10-20 easy passes caused by DRS, KERS or silly tyres!


A couple more races I think will reveal the pecking order.

After the 4 races I’m fine with this year so far.


Do you think Red Bull and Lotus were nursing theirs tyres ?? One full second faster than everybody and 3 pit stop no more !!


They were going as fast as they could on Pirelli tyres without overly degrading them. If they had pushed more the tyres would have been destroyed very quickly. The reason they were faster than anyone else was they had the balance of the car sorted to suit the tyres.


Hi James,

Diff topic… Any news on Ferrari new car passing crash test before they attend the coming up testing?

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