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Pirelli “surprised” by Schumacher attack on short life tyres
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Apr 2012   |  7:19 am GMT  |  563 comments

Pirelli have reacted to Michael Schumacher’s attack on their 2012 tyres, saying that other drivers “were getting on with the job and getting their tyres to work.”

Schumacher suffered a frustrating weekend in Bahrain, with technical problems in qualifying relegating him to the back of the field. He took a tactical gearbox change, which moved him back to 22nd place and although he made a great start and had all new sets of tyres for the race, he only managed to finish 10th.

“The main thing I feel unhappy about is everyone has to drive well below a driver’s, and in particular, the car’s limits to maintain the tyres,” he said after the race.

“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, let’s see what happens in future. If it was a one-off car issue, you could say it’s up to us to deal with it.”

There is some debate among fans about this subject, with fans of hard charging drivers like Lewis Hamilton unhappy that their drivers aren’t able to show what they can do while smoother drivers, who can manage the tyres, are profiting.

It’s an interesting one; F1 has always been about managing tyres as the races are 300 kilometres, so there is an endurance aspect to it, rather than a sprint. However in the Bridgestone era the tyres would last a whole race if required with almost no degradation and the racing clearly suffered.

What makes the 2012 situation so interesting is that the tyres have an operating window that is quite hard to hit, which is why we have seen different teams hitting the sweet spot at different times. In Malaysia, for example Sauber were strong, in China Mercedes flew and in Bahrain Lotus had arguably the best set up for the tyres and Red Bull also managed the race to perfection.

The key thing is not the wear; the Pirelli tyres could last a whole race, it’s the degradation. This means the amount of laptime lost with each lap that passes. The tyres get slower and slower until the lap time is uncompetitive and you have to pit for a new set of tyres as continuing on them makes no sense. This opens up different strategies as some car/driver packages can get the tyres to last longer than others and there is also the tactic of saving new sets of tyres by doing less in qualifying, as Raikkonen and Di Resta did to great effect this weekend.

Schumacher’s heyday was the era of flat out sprints on Bridgestone tyres, when Ferrari had a testing budget from the Japanese manufacturer of over $20 million and so did hundreds of thousands of testing miles. Cost cutting measures introduced in 2008 have put paid to that.

“I’m disappointed to hear those comments from someone of Michael’s experience, ” said Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery. “Others were getting on with the job and getting their tyres to work. His comments during winter testing were that he was very happy with the tyres, and now he seems to have changed his tune.”

While fans are divided, F1 insiders are, on the whole, excited by the 2012 style of racing, believing that the racing is entertaining and the key point is that tyres are the same for everyone.

It is hard for the top teams, who aren’t able to test under the current restrictions and so find that less well funded teams are close to them on performance. In the past they would test constantly, develop new parts that would pull them well clear of the midfield and have the ideal set ups for maximising tyre performance at every event. The races became processional and predictable. The field has closed up and it’s making it much harder for the top teams to make a break and get the results.

F1 should be about excellence, the best of the best. But it’s hard for the cream to rise to the top this season. We’ve had four different winners and three different pole sitters in four races. The top teams will inevitably pull away over the season, because of their resources, but the current structure is making for exciting races, with cliffhanger endings. Tyre management has always been as important a skill as having raw pace in F1.

What do you think?

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I think michael is correct, Pirelli has less experienced and Bridgestone had performed for years…..


I’m really glad that Schumacher actually stood up and spoke how he felt. I only wish other drivers would be courageous enough to do the same.


I voted “it’s not clear cut”.

I am happy altogether with the faster degradation of the Pirellis and the calls on strategy and on the drivers’ sensitivity. However, I feel that race pace is far too slow. And, just maybe, Michael could be right in that the tyres force the driver to drive too much below the ultimate car/driver limit, as a further pitstop would ruin their race.

On the other side, having a narrow “sweet spot” window makes for unpredictable races and is, I believe, good for the sport.


i hope pirelli make there tyres last a bit longer i dont think many people will want a return the the bridgstone days but with kers and DRS do we really need tyres going off after 7 to 10 laps to aid overtaking or add entertainment the tyre situation is starting to affect qualy too teams not even bothering to go out in Q3 i enjoy a battle between the teams lower down the order as well as the teams at the top but because of the pirellis many teams would rather keep there tyres for the race than waste them in qualy which is a shame. I want to see flat out racing and you can now clearly see with the cockpit view on the tv coverage the cars just arnt going as quickly and drivers are working harder at going slower to keep tyres than going flat out to catch the car in front which i feel robs us fans of wheel to wheel racing. alot of the passing we see on the tv now just shows a car being passed because his tyres are finished and no other reason.


Yes tyre conservation has always been a part of F1 in previous era. BUT the racing came first, and tyre conservation after.

Now we have tyre conservation coming BEFORE the racing.

You can see from the in car cockpit views at how the drivers are not pushing, not attacking the apexes, not braking late at the hairpins etc. Instead they are backing off the gas 100m before the corner to look after the tyres.

You can quite visibly see they are nowhere near the limit.

Hembrey has already said countered his own defence by doing so, that the guy in P1 after the start has an advantage because those in P2 and down will be damaging their tyres.


Hi James,

I would like to know your thoughts about the result of the poll so far (46% agreeing with Schumi)


It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve seen that the fans had a problem with this all season and that’s why I gave the opportunity for the debate.


you always seem to strike the right chord with (your) fans. Can we have some more pics as well, not the usual ones but something little different from a race weekend.


“playing it safe & not taking risks”

This statement sums up F1 now perfectly – no drama (unless falsely created through DRS and tires that last 2 laps)), no true racing – man vs man (senna/prost style), slow drivers who can make tires last, penalties for aggression…

no wonder F1 has lost its headline created ways


What has really struck me reading all thse comments are the following 1)Most people who responded to this column really support Schuey’s comments 2)Folks in the media don’t want to be bothered by details such as ‘racing’ as long as the ‘show/spectacle’ continues. Each race has been won not by the fastest car but the best tire manager. Is this really racing? The sport despreately needs a 2nd manufacturer to end this horrible farce.


I have a degree in Material Science Engineering and for the past few years have had quite a lot of dealings in rubber products for washers and o rings.We use a hardnees rubber tester to check lots of washers in the order of 2.000 to 4.000 at a time, of course we apply statistical tables to approve or reject the lots.We have found the spread in hardness values to be in the order of plus or minus 6 percent.My question is if in small lots the variation regardless of process controls might be considerably higher lets say 10 %, that could make tyres differ greatly in its duration,for argument lets say 15 %. That would mean some tyres could last 20 laps average ,but some 17 and others 23. If you are lucky to get a whole set of the ones that will endure 23 laps hurra, but if you get at least one of the 17 laps, bad luck.I do not fancy Schumaher too much but I think he is VERY MUCH RIGHT ON THIS ISSUE.


Well all i know at this point is that i will NOT be buying Pirelli tyres anytime soon!!!


Oh man! Schumacher makes a statement and the message boards are reeling with comments.

Just shows that this man always makes big headlines for F1! And i do agree with what he has to say… i want to see some real racing based on pure speed than limousine driving to the chequered flag.


Yeah, I know …. its gonna take me an entire day to go through the entire list of posts.


It is a sorry state of affairs. Schumacher is right and I am surprised the other drivers have not voiced their hatred as well.

F1 is lost at this point. The entire reason for formula – the fastest and most talented wins – is now persona non grata.

I agree with all those referencing Senna. He is the most admired, the most dynamic, the driver everyone dreams of. The irony is with the current tyres Senna would NOT have been able to perform at his peak, we would have NEVER seen all those amazing races that have now gone in history.

F1 is NOT more exciting today, it is more Random and more likely to help drivers that can MANAGE tyres but are NOT necessarily the fastest or most dynamic.

All this equates to F1 now been a race of tortoises and not hares. Guess all the golf fans will love it.

Unless something changes fast in the next few races, F1 will continue its downward spiral and its NEW fan base will come from Andre Rieu fans – boring, dull and love slow n steady.


the other drivers do agree with him – read brundles blog on sky about the race.

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

You forgot that Hamilton is not allowed to voice his opinions. He will be instantly condemned by the public as being a whinger, disloyal, out of control …you name it.

The public now have the watered-down Hamilton that they were crying out for. Playing it safe and not taking risks.

Drivers should forget the testing at Mugello. It would be better for the teams to send them to Kwik-Fit to learn about how to manage those awful Pirellis.


I fully agree! We had potentially another driver in Lewis Hamilton that could have delivered breathtaking wins in the Senna style only to have his style cramped by high deg tyres. I tell you what James why not let another manufacturer supply durable tyres to those that want them and see just how long Pirelli stay in this business. My guess is that there would be a universal shift away from Pirelli within one race.



It seems to me the majority of your readers do not like current situation with the tyres.

All your responses so far seem to be defending the status quo. Of course I have no doubt you believe your point of view but to suggest that some of readers are ‘losing the plot a bit’ and stating the Pirelli’s are proper racing tyres is somewhat insulting. Of course we know they are racing tyres but the rate of deg is to some of us not what we grew up F1 to be. And yes we know drivers always had to manage their tyres and maybe with Bridgestones it went too far but I think the point a lot of readers are making is that it has gone too far the other way and has robbed us of aspects of F1 we used to enjoy.

Just look at the number of comments to realise its not just bunch idiots posting rubbish (well there are always some) but a genuine plea from a large number of fans.


Don’t get me wrong, I sympathise with the contrary view.

But I was referring to the spikenofnnegative comment due to the specifics of the Bahrain circuit and tonSchumacher’s comments

But the fact that I posted this at all was due to being responsive to comments on the tyres in previous weeks. I listen to my readers


And that’s why we love you.

Grayzee (Australia)

WOW! Having just read through the above 268! posts(is that record?)one thing is for certain.

We seem to very passionate about this topic, and the end result looks to be about even in the opinions.

This what I love about this site. Good solid intelleigent debate.

Well done readers.


1,200 is the record for Ferrari switch story in Germany 2010


schumacher is absolutely correct in his statement.

Of course F1 insiders will think its exciting – they are ‘f1 insiders’ and have to put a good spin on anything that happens in f1.

unfortunately its not the case. Tyres are absolutely dominating this season, as well as the ambient temperature – ridiculous. Of course tyres have always played a key role – but i remember the days when there was refuelling, and when drivers could drive absolutely flat out for the whole race, pushing themselves and car to the limit, every lap, for the whole race.

None of this conservation rubbish, which is absolutely ruining the spectacle. Tyres are creating such dramatic differences in performance between teams as well, and so we simply aren’t getting close fights between the front runners – ok Bahrain was fairly close – but how much of that was Kimi having to manage his tyres, worried that if he pushed, his tyres would go into a downward spiral of degradation?

thats what all the drivers are now thinking. Its absolutely ruining it.


In general, after 25 years of watching F1 I dislike this F1 because it over-inflates the effect of a couple of gimmicks – DRS, KERS and fast-degrading tires – over pure driver skill and racing. I absolutely don’t like the fact that the fastest laps are 2-3 seconds off their Q3 time. With DRS and KERS, they pushed it to the limits for me, that much I can bare and it’s actually cool. KERS more then DRS, but that much I can handle without feeling like something’s orchestrated.

I have no problems with Pirelli per se. But the fact that – while the race is on – drivers are doing more “computing” in their brains with regards to tires then absolutely anything else. That’s just so far removed from what I think F1 should be that I can’t really put it into words. Tires should and always be a factor, but up to a point. Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, not the decisive factor. Wasn’t this the primary reason why they went back to single tire supplier in the first place?


Im going to come at this from a slightly different angle in that I don’t think the current more artificial F1 is good for F1 in the longer term.

Many believe that the current F1 with KERS, DRS & the high-deg tyres is producing good racing with less preditable outcomes & we are seeing statistically more passing.

The shall we say more casual viewer in particular seems to enjoy this while many of the more long-term, dedicated fan’s seem to dislike it.

The problem will come when things begin to return to normal, Maybe we get a tyre war, Or Pirelli pull out & we get longer life tyres again which see’s a drop in the action.

If or When that happens many of those who jumped in when the races were all a bit crazy will tune out again.

Same will be true if we hopefully see the back of DRS & KERS in the future.

Eventually those attracted to F1 because of the artificial stuff brought in to artificially spice up the show will leave & this will only hurt F1.

Nascar is going through this right now.

They went down the entertainment route & in many cases used artificial means to spice things up, They allowed contact which produced more action & this brought the fans in.

Recently however the races have featured better racing but less contact/cautions & bigger margins of victory & while the race fans love it, The casual audience Nascar brought in are now all tuning out & grumbling that Nascar is boring while the other fans are all loving the great racing.

1 example is the Bristol oval which used to feature tons of contact, 20+ caution periods & the casual viewers all loved it. They altered the track in 2007 & its now a better track for racing but features a ton less contact/cautions & track attendance & tv ratings are down substantially. The race fans love it but the casual fans hate it.

Texas the other week was a great race but featured no contact & only 1 caution & the winner won by 6 seconds, Again casual fans hated it but the actual race fans all loved it.


Nascars Tv ratings are down 8% so far from last year, ( Bristol race has lost 1.5mill viewers from 3 years ago) which shows the “casual” fans are gone and while Nascar was chasing them, alienated their core fan base who are also leaving. With the current situation in F1 with all the gimmicks you could see the same thing happening.

Martin one time F3 driver

Seeing that Paul di Resta and Sergio Perez are the best ‘tyre cnservationists’, if one of the top 4 teams hire them both, set them on different strategies, then at least one of them would likely win or get on the podium in every race, voila, job done !

( haven’t got time to read all the comments here, so appologies if anyone already come up with this idea..)

Regards, Martin


I think the key take away here is that it is impossible to make everyone happy.


The amazing thing is that NO ONE is forced to watch what they consider to be horrible, artificial racing.

Euro fans are spoiled for choice with dozens of different racing series, strata, and championships. Maybe you all get your fill of action watching European and national F3 championships, BTCC, Formula Ford, DTM etc. Canadians get none of that, apart from NASCAR North (ew). I may be silly for thinking that on track action adds to the excitement of a lazy Sunday morning, but it’s what I like. Call me crazy.


“The amazing thing is that NO ONE is forced to watch what they consider to be horrible, artificial racing”.

Have you seen the global TV ratings for F1 now – hardly anyone IS watching F1 now.


I haven’t seen them. Who published them and where? (All I have heard is that attendance is up at OZ and China had record attendance.)


Worlds most technologically advanced racing cars, world’s best drivers all driving around trying not to break their egg shell like racing-tires.



In view of the results in Formula 1 and to make matches more interesting the World Tennis Association has decided to force Rafael Nadal use quick degrading string for his racquet.They will last no more than 6 games and if he tries to do Aces it will degrade quicker. Every time he changes his racquet one or two games will be awarded to his opponent. The same will apply to women ,but to make it more attractive the strings will come in colours matching their shorts. I am sure the great drivers of the past would be really upset about this.


Or quickly degrading outsoles supplied by Pirelli. Whenever Nadel change shoes / wipes his face, his opponent is allowed to serve and win points!


+1 Looks like its Pirelli’s dream.


James Allen, I’m ashamed of you F1 journalists that support these cheese tires.

You argument is that no driver is dominating and that is entertaining? Really?

God save us if other sports decide this is good enough reason to tinker with fundamentals of their discipline.

Part of your job is that you guys are supposed to be custodians of the sport always in support of the keeping the sport at its root which is showcasing the fastest drivers (not most tire conserving drivers) in the world competing in the fastest cars.

F1 is at this point shameful. It is not F1, it is something else.

Tires that you cannot properly race on for more than one lap without losing serious performance are not racing tires.

It is a now a fact that drivers drive flatout more in an endurance race like LeMans than in an F1 race. How the hell can that be right????

Can it be ok for long-distance runner to exert more energy and skill over 200meters in a 5km run than 200meter specialists in a 200 meter race?

What would be the point of having Bolt, Micheal Johnson and co run a 200m race if they would be forced to jog for 180 meters because their running boots can only sustain a 20 meter sprint (if such thing ever existed )?

or would it be ok to have tennis or pingpong balls you cannot smash with because they would break and you would lose a point (so that the best and hardest hitting players can no longer dominate)?

This is exactly the scenario the current Pirelli tires introduce to F1. Drivers came up in karting, junior formula etc learning how to extract the max from their equipment, how to push consistently, take corners at max speed possible, overtake etc only to come to F1 to be told

“chill chill chill…you know where you would normally brake? Yes, brake 10 meters earlier if you want to finish this race and have a good result” and so on.

This whole gimmick with super degrading and unpredictable tires is absolutely no worse than having shortcuts, sprinklers and so on on the track. As a matter of fact, you could argue something like a sprinkler creates more of a challenge for drivers hence has more credibility than pancake tires.

I sincerely hope Rosberg and Schumi’s comments are the beginning of a serious movement that will turn the sport around from this ridiculous path it has chosen (shame on you M.Whitmarsh and co for championing this bulls**t)

Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Superbly put. Your analogies with running shoes and tennis balls are spot on.

The silly answer is to say that “well, everyone has to play by the same rules”. Sorry, but that does not wash.

That is akin to saying that all snooker players should now play with MDF cues so that they make more errors and mix up the order a bit. The better, more aggressive players like Ronnie O’Sullivan will just have to lump it. He is then told by some “fans” that if he doesn’t like it he can always go to the US and play pool.

I’ve come to accept that Pirelli really is not part of the sport….they are merely paid to manufacture tyres to spec.


Of course journalists support the tyres, they improve the show! With a better show comes more viewers, comes more TV dollars, which secures their jobs.

F1 is an expanding sport, moving into new markets where the fan is casual and not hung up on good ol’ days of fossil fuels and processional races. An exciting race makes a new fan. The show is all that matters.

For ALL Pirelli dissenters: how do you feel about T20 cricket? Or introducing challenges in tennis? Sports change, fans should keep up or shut up (and watch something else).


Why are you blaming Whitmarsh?

He only said, that it is crucial to exploit the tires, what’s wrong with that?

If all the teams are in this artificial situation, and nobody can (or want) to change it, then the only way right now is to exploit the situation to the maximum…

If they can, they will certanly try to persuade Pirelli.


You have eloguently spoken what is in my heart to, bauss!

I also don’t get a journalist like you isn’t more critical of the way the sport is changing. To me and I suspect a lot of others, the core of the sport is racing and doing laptimes against a computer delta going at 60-70% of their max is not racing anymore.

If however the entertainment value of the sport is more important to you than real racing, I can understand why you like this 2012 championship. Also, hearing you found racing boring for many years may explain your current preference for entertainment races.

Your own poll does show you are in the minority though and as a journalist I would expect you to rethink your position on these tires as clearly something is wrong with this form of F1 when opinion is thus divided.

I would not be surprised if the opposition against the tires will grow so big that something will need to be done shortly.


Schumacher is biased.He definately drove in the era of the race being composed of 2-3 sprints.

I’ve always personally felt that GP racing should involved some form of car/tyre management – it’s an endurance event.

Also, Pirelli should in no way be held responsible for the tyre in its current form – they’re performing miracles with the balance of grip/longevity they’ve been asked to produce.

If there was any improvements to be made – I’d suggest the fall off in performance could take a little longer giving more room to respond/drive around tyre performance rather than the very sudden cliff we have at the moment…


MSC is spot on.

Tyres with a narrow operating range are a problem because the teams cannot change the set up after qualifying. It is common that the weather is different on race day. So the teams are stuck with a saturday setup for a sunday race. it makes the teams look stupid. Another issue is that the driver who gets out in front is uncatchable because all the other cars are tripping overthemselves once the pitstops start. The rest of the field is just churning. What we are seeing is not real racing but just drivers on massively different tyres.

I think the FIA need to allow teams to tweak the setup for sunday.

Otherwise the 2012 champion might not be the best driver but the best meteorologist!

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