Michael Schumacher said today that he is very pleased to have launched a debate on F1 about what kind of sport we want it to be; one where the drivers push to the limits or one where they have to manage the tyres.
And in the paddock today the other F1 drivers have been giving their views on the discussion. The younger ones, who by and large have limited or no experience of racing on the Bridgestones used up to the end of 2010, say that they are quite happy to race on the current tyres. Others have mixed views with some drivers like Mark Webber on Schumacher’s side and others, like Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, seeing it as part of a modern F1 which is more entertaining for the fans.
“I just think that they’re playing a much too big effect because they are so peaky and so special that they don’t put our cars or ourselves to the limit,” Schumacher said on the CNN network recently.
“We drive like on raw eggs and I don’t want to stress the tyres at all. Otherwise you just overdo it and you go nowhere.”
Webber agrees with his rival,”Always drivers want to push to the limit, it’s in our DNA, ” said Webber. “THe last couple of years it’s changed. There’s a large element of pacing going on and that’s a new trade for us, at this level. Sometimes it can be a bit frustrating, the engineers can get frustrated with how powerful the tyre can be. We can have phenomenal tyres but the racing might not be as exciting. So depends who wants to do what for the sport.”
There’s no question that the moves made on the rules in the last 18 months have made the races more spectacular with a ten fold increase in overtaking at a track like Barcelona compared to the Bridgestone days. Many fans have had their say on this site and elsewhere and there is strong support for Schumacher’s point of view. But at the same time, F1 is aware that it needs to broaden its appeal and the sport has changed from a series of short sprints, to a spectacle full of uncertainty as drivers are forced to react to the tyres’ performance going off. As Webber says, with tyres that degrade at 0.01s per lap and refuelling, the drivers push to the limits, the fastest car will always win and it’s not much of a race. With the current rules, there are times to push (especially in qualifying and at key stages of the race) and times to conserve. It’s an ideological question of what teams, drivers, fans and administrators want F1 to be.
Vettel said this afternoon, “The racing in the last couple of years, since we changed a couple of things, has become much better. I had a race here where I followed Felipe for 60 laps. Nowadays you know that your chance will come in the race. We get a completely different inside the car from what you see outside the car. You have to look after your tyres more than three years ago. Take 2009, we were allowed to refuel, we had new tyres and they lasted longer with not much degradation, it’s a different quality inside the car because you can push every lap. Now we fuel the cars up, the cars are much heavier, it puts a different stress on the tyres. There’s more overtaking, which I imagine is seen as a better quality from the outside, because things happen.”
Alonso agreed with Vettel.
Some other voices from the drivers are as follows:
Sergio Perez “You have to manage your tyres in the first lap to have a more consistent pace and then after that you can push. I find it okay, I have no problems at all with it.
“Perhaps in Bahrain it was a bit too much. But I think it makes the race more interesting for the team, for the drivers, for everybody. It makes it really great because of how you have to approach the race. I’m happy.
As for this prospects for this weekend’s race in Barcelona he said, “It’s going to be a dramatic race for the tyres. I expect high degradation, but it’s the same for everybody. It’s not easy, you have to adapt all the time to different condition. Yes you want to go flat out but you have to take care of the tyres.”
Romain Grosjean: “I think you know what the deg is before the race and then you have to play with it and adapt yourself. For sure you cannot run at 100% for all of the race and it’s part of the game. The driver has a big influence on the tyre. It’s a lot of work with the engineers to save the tyres and see how you improve yourself and if you can make a difference at the end of the race, then good.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “I don’t know any different, Michael has spent more time here and known different stages. I’ve come in and driven on the Pirellis and I haven’t had a problem with it. I’ve adapted to the situation. I don’t know about driving on raw eggs..but for me I’m driving in F1 and it’s awesome.”
Mercedes CEO Nick Fry observed that one of his drivers doesn’t like the Pirelli way, while the other one, Nico Rosberg, welcomes the opportunity to do a better job with the tyres than his rivals. This debate over tyres, he said, “Is a question for the teams and the organisers to answer and we support Michael on having a strong point of view on this. It may not be a point of view that other drivers share, but it is a perfectly valid and intelligent point of view.”
For all the latest news from the F1 paddock in Barcelona including reaction to the debate on F1’s direction, go to http://connect.jamesallenonf1.com/f1-news