Analysis of Pirelli’s decision on crucial tyre change
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Apr 2013   |  10:23 am GMT  |  202 comments

After weeks of speculation, Pirelli has today announced that it is changing one of the F1 tyres in its range from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards.

The hard tyre will be changed to be closer in specification to the 2012 tyre, which would make it more durable. It will likely have a larger working range, so will be more versatile. It was the preferred race tyre in Bahrain at the weekend for most teams.

This is a surprise change in some ways, as there was speculation that the soft tyre would be the one to face changes. It proved troublesome in China as it lasted only a handful of laps in the race and the performance difference between it and the next tyre in the range was too great, leading to a lobsided Grand Prix.

The Italian company has come in for criticism from some teams and fans for providing tyres which degrade too quickly and changing the nature of F1 racing as a result. Pirelli says that it is fulfilling a brief given to it by the FIA and by F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone to challenge the teams and to provide entertaining racing.

Pirelli has always maintained that of the 11 F1 teams, eight support their 2013 products and do not want anything to be changed, but lobbying from the two Red Bull teams as well as from Mercedes’ Niki Lauda (even if it is not clear that others in the Mercedes management agree with his position) has been strong from Malaysia onwards. They were looking for bigger changes than the ones announced today and will be disappointed. But as Red Bull has won half the races and taken half the pole positions this season so far and comfortably lead the championship, they are in a strong position.

There will also have been discussions in the post race debrief at Pirelli’s Milan Headquarters of the failures of the tyres on Lewis Hamilton’s car and Felipe Massa’s car in Bahrain. Hamilton’s tyre was a medium compound, whereas Massa’s were both hard compound and although debris was blamed for the failures, no doubt the tyres will be reviewed in light of what was learned from the Massa experiences.

Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said of the change, “After evaluating tyre performance over the balance of the first four races, we took the decision – in consultation with all of the teams – to change the hard compound from Spain onwards, as we did in Barcelona two years ago when we also introduced a new hard tyre for the rest of the season. This latest version of the hard compound is much closer to the 2012 tyre, with the aim of giving the teams more opportunity to run a wider range of strategies in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged.”

For Spain, the hard and medium tyres will be used, the same as in Bahrain, but with the new spec hard tyres.

Pirelli also announced the compounds for the next three races; For Monaco, the soft and supersoft tyres have been selected. This is the same choice for Monaco as the last two seasons, to cope with the low grip street track surface.

In Canada the teams will use the medium tyre and the supersoft; the idea being that these two compounds have a low working range and as the Montreal race is quite often cold, they should cope. Graining can be a problem when the temperatures are low.

Teams will also have an extra set of tyres for Friday morning drivers to use, which will help with development of the drivers but also of any small changes in the tyres.

* Pirelli’s Paul Hembery will appear on the new JA on F1 podcast #4 which will be released after this weekend.

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I do not understand why a lot of fans are complicating this tyre issue. The tyres are not helping F1 period – NOT because tyre management has not always been a part of F1, but because it is affecting it too much to the point where between the Pirellis, and DRS, the art of racing, and to a lesser extent, qualifying is now dead. What we have now is the art of managing tyres (it is not even about strategy), trying to qualify in a single lap whilst not using the tyres too much, the art of sub 2sec pit-stops, the art of driving to specified lap delta, and the art of getting to within 1sec of the car in front. Note, the main art missing from the list is “real hard racing”.

Most people who support the current Pirelli “cheese” tyre claim that managing tyres have ALWAYS been a part of F1, conveniently ignore the main issue – which is tyres have NEVER been this much part of F1. Do most fans remember the face, or name of the Goodyear tyre representative, or Bridgestone, or Michelin? Hembrey has now achieved a Yoda like status, always being interviewed, constantly giving out PR sound bites. Week in week out, race day, qualifying, practice or break, all we hear are – tyres, tyres, tyres.

Tyres were never specifically designed to kill racing, last a few laps, degrade suddenly and litter track with rubber marbles that means you may be doomed if you come off the racing line. The art of late braking in corners is certainly dead. God forbid you try that on the Pirellis, and you may be sporting a bald patch larger the Kojak’s – that is if the marbles don’t get you. Or you simply wait for DRS.

Anyone remember the qualifying duels of yore? Drivers coming out again and again trading purple sectors? That is certainly a thing of the pastIn the ast, drivers rarely went out for a single lap in qualifying (unless stipulated by the rules) or even sat out qualifying because of tyres.

Real racing is now so scarce that we foam at the mouth when we see any, like Bahrain (Button vs Perez), or the fight for the lead at the US GP 2012 (Hamilton vs Vettel). The epic battles between Senna, Mansell and Prost would never have happened in this Pirelli era, banging wheels, sparks flying, all the way into the corner daring each other who will brake the latest. Or the epic battles between Schumacher, Hakkinen and Alonso. We would have certainly not enjoyed Montoya, Raikonnen and Kubica in this era, and we were quite lucky to enjoy a bit of Lewis. Where is the real racing I ask you? Where is proper overtaking?

Oh, how I miss F1.


The delamination of the hard tyres must be rather serious for safety reasons. Then why are the softs being left as is.


Actually the more I think about this the more it might not be such a bad thing. Teams that can’t make the softs last will now be tempted to stay on the hards longer because they will now last longer and save them additional pit stops- but of course they will pay a lap time penalty compared to the softer tyres. I still don’t agree with the principle of changing the compounds mid season other than for safety reasons.- I will be keen to hear podcast James.


interesting points on both sides of the argument however people tend to forget that the so called ‘single file’ racing on the bridgestones was not exactly the fault of the tyres. it was the aero configuration that caused the problems.

i do not like a tyre company calling the shots, despite their protestations that FIA/FOM have told them to spice it up.

what particularly needles me is that hundreds of millions are spent to achieve technological excellence in the cars and that is all brought undone by ‘trash’ tyres? seeing sixteen guys change wheels in two secs does nothing for me except spoil the race. a driver drives his heart out for track position and gets rolled in the pits? really…….


Fabulous thread since we have a lot of James’ replies, and at times that what I’m after. Just select find and type James Allen and go about reading his replies. Makes a great experience and this thread is exactly what I was looking for.

But one question still remains, RBR and Merc were lobbying and complaining about the soft tyres and not the hards, wonder why they’ve changed the hards even though James, you’ve mentioned it’ll help RBR and others a bit but I’ve still not understood… Clearer in podcast??? maybe??


Clear as a bell

We gave a discussion between Mark Gilland, myself and Paul Hembery


Well, Mercedes is known for overheating the rear tires starting from 2010. The working range of hard compound is going to be lowered. So, that’s worse for Mercedes. As for Red Bull… I don’t know. If they are eating tires more than others, that suggests me they are overheating them for a bit just like Mercedes. Lower working range is not going to help them I think. At least in theory should be like that. And Lotus is probably going to have serious range of strategies. The more durable tire doesn’t meant it does not or can’t degrade. It’s just scaling of their duration time with relatively no impact on Championship. Lotus are still going to have couple of % more life in their tires, Red Bull are still going to be top team in Q3 and etc.


I read that the working range of the hard would be widened, not lowered. It might be widened solely to the lower side, but the range is not moving wholesale lower.


Listen to the new JA on F1 podcast today, it’s all explained in there.


No idea why F1 cannot get it’s act together like IndyCar has with the red stripe and black stripe tires. The reds have more grip for a shorter period 15-20 laps and the blacks have slightly less grip but last longer – usually 25-30 laps. The red stripe drivers have the advantage for 15 laps until the cross over period from lap 16-20 and then have to hang on when the blacks come in to their own and the black strips drivers start reeling them back in.


Irrespective of the tyre-change. The teams on top will benefit anyway, don’t see why people complain. It reminds me of a restaurant where no customer is happy at all. The customer always wants to complain, whether it’s a small issue or big issue. The point of the matter is, we need to stop complaining of the tyres and enjoy the racing. I say racing as it is a ‘race’ on Sunday. So stop bad mouthing F1 and enjoy your sport.

You won’t find rugby or soccer supporters complain so much as F1 supporters do. No wonder someone asks me why do F1 supporters complain so much as oppose to other sports.

In a nutshell, I still and do believe Lotus will do very well in the next coming races. Before China and Bahrain, they hoped to have great back-to-back races, and they did. If you watched the pre-season testing, you’d find Grosjean doing 24 laps on the medium tyre, imagine how many they will do on the ‘new’ hards. So a one stopper might be on the cards.. Let’s wait and see.. And regarding the selection for the next races, don’t expect RBR to dominate. Maybe claim a pole, but not run away with the race.

Ferrari will obviously come out good but they need to resist the charging Lotuses.. Merc isn’t as good as many claim and McLaren might spring a surprise with the new package.. Should be fun to watch!


“I say racing as it is a ‘race’ on Sunday”

When it’s against a drivers interest to defend a position or chase drivers in front and DRS overtaking is a formality – is it a race or a glorified time trial?


I think it’s a good decision that will benefit all and seems to be backed by most. An increased working temp has to be a good thing. one of the most frustrating aspects has been drivers for who seemingly get a good set-up on to the car only for a track temp change from 5 degrees to completely change that. And visa-versa some drivers have almost lucked into a set-up. this decision should change that a bit.


Who here thinks F1 will be racing the same crazy tyres in 5 years?


Bad news. I was planing to go to to the Montreal race but no more.

I just want to see racing.

F1 is trying to be more “environment friendly”. How is shredding tons of rubber good then?

How this translates for regular cars?

They should do the opposite. Encourage production of long lasting tires and give extra couple of points for extended usage e.g. using last race tires to qualify and such.


I would go

Montreal is a fabulous experience


Agreed. I have been there 4 times since 2005 and it’s always been amazing. You can actually walk the track immediately after the race. It does get very very hot so bring some sunscreen and a hat. Turn 1 is always a great place to sit. One thing i miss about living in Toronto is the short commute to Montreal every summer.


Thanks for the advice, I was thinking what corner to camp by.

I am actually in Toronto, and it seems I’ll have a place to stay at in Montreal.


Here we go, making me reconsider… 🙂


It would be nice to at least have the opportunity to go…

Some people.


What was wrong with the tires that changing the compound of the hards will fix?

We’ve seen all of the extremes of weather, in the first four races: cold, hot and dry, hot and wet, and the behaviours of the tire range across the conditions is now known.

Unless there is a bona-fide safety issue, then the compounds just should not be changed mid-season.

I think the tires have been great this year; they’re even better than last year.

Whether you buy the direction of formula one, to insert clauses in the formula to improve the spectacle, or you don’t agree with it, IT DOESN’T MATTER; that is the direction, anyways.

Talk to Bernie.

I fully acknowledge the contrivances, but there is no going back to the 1950’s for this sport! No way; we’re not going to get that again.

We have the sport almost completely corporatized, now. Neither does it matter whether you, or I, like that, it’s just the way it is.

So given that predicament, the formula that we have now, has these, ‘contrivances’.

But everybody has it the same!

The formula is now about working to the common specifications so that your car can get around the track faster than any of the other cars.

I think Bernie is doing a great job.

Credit where credit is due, there; but changing the tire specification, mid way through the season, without a bona-fide safety issue, and/or unanimous consent from the teams, is wrong.


This is disappointing at a certain level. It was great to see a new team at the top in RBR after all those years of lobbying by Ferrari when they were dominating the sport. Even though we have a team with a different ‘culture’ and raison d’etre at the top, the political status quo is unchanged.


This I agree with, plus it was the same when McLaren were at the top…

And I should imagine in a few years time it will be someone else at the top of the pile.

But… then I guess people will have another team/driver they don’t like to moan about…


Need a comma there in the last sentence, between ‘like’ and ‘to’ … first time I read it, it read as though one driver was free of complainin’ by F1 fans.


Durable is the word I’ve been looking for in F1 tyres! Now to get rid of the non-durable ones and just use the durable hard ones. Let’s go racing!


How many stops will each car make in Monaco James?


It was a one-stop race last year, my guess would be two this year with a few one stoppers trying to do something different.

Depends a bit on temperature. If it’s warm it will help the soft


I think it would be very brave to 2 stop at Monaco. The eventual winner is usually the guy who comes out in front after the usual 1 stop. Stopping a second time would require building a lead of some 25 seconds in order to pull it off. That’s a tough ask around Monaco, where track position is everything, assuming a dry race. Still, anything can happen in F1 and it wouldn’t surprise me.


There is no way the Softs and Supersofts will be able do a 2 stop race, let alone a 1 stop. Mark my words, Monaco will be a farce! Can’t wait for it!


Well, Monaco is its own type of race. Drivers can get away with degrading tires more, b/c it’s so hard to pass on track, even in the DRS zone. Very hard to have two DRS zones, unless they added Beau Rivage (same or separate detection point).

The supersoft lasted quite a while in Australia, while the soft went off fast in China. They need to go softest in Monaco though, just for grip levels.


Mark your words?

3 out of 10…


Mr Allen,Sir.

You have been envolved with Motor Racing as we

in Oz land say for “Donks” that say a question

for you.

Can you remember a Tyre Co,a suppliers to F1 grid

such as Dunlop,Goodyear,Michellin,Bridgestone other

then current suppliers Pirelli change the compound

of its Tyre to apease the certain teams?.in the

compotition that just began,it would be call “Farce”

would it not?.

Is Pirelli that desperate for the extension of

their contract with FAI, thus the exlusivity and

monopoly of supply.

Bottom line, sumthing is missing a – compotition!

Your thoughts please.


Pirelli has made changes during a season before, at the same stage in 2011 it made a change to the hard, for example.

I think this is more of a hot potato because there has been lobbying and it doesn’t look great if it seems a change is made to suit some teams

In practice, this probably will help Red Bull, but not as much as a change to a soft tyre to be more like the 2012 model would have done


Well I don’t want even “probable” help for Red Bull. They should suck it up and get on with it.

I said it before on this website, that Bernie needs strong Red Bull because Horner is his biggest ally among the teams. And only way Horner’s word is going to be worth anything is if his team is winning. So that’s why Bernie will always keep lobbying for every little detail that can prevail any given decision into Red Bull’s favor. Almost all of the Championships in the last 7 years have been won by the smallest margins and, as I said, every little thing that Bernie manages to sway into Red Bull’s favor, is what counts at the end of the year.

I’m seriously getting so disgusted by this “sport” that I’ve been following fanatically since 1993. This amount of lobbying reminds me of the worst, most pathetic moves by Jean Todt and Max Mosley, back when they were head of Ferrari and FIA.

I can’t believe that some people are allowed to publicly slag off the tire supplier without any consequences. It’s completely unethical and extremely unprofessional, as things like this should be done behind firmly closed doors. Any dissatisfaction with tires should be discussed in private and any public slagging off (because that’s what it really is) should be punished first in money and then with sporting sanctions, should they continue.

This kind of shameless lobbying is completely unheard of.


I’m really tired of hearing fans and teams complain about tires, and I think it’s especially distasteful for teams like RBR and Mercedes, via Lauda, to politik in public via a willing and compliant media. James, at least you attempt to stick to presenting facts with, when appropriate, insightful analysis. But I wish some influential, competent journalists and pundits would start calling-out Red Bull, for example, for pressuring a supplier to change their product to benefit that one particular team. Likewise, I wish those same media folks would take time to educate the fans as to what it means when Paul Hembery says, “You drive to the limits of the package,” which has always been the case in any motorsports with a set formula.

And why do I find Nikki Lauda to be so distasteful a character? Gah!


Niki Lauda is not a distasteful character. Unlike some others he wants to see no Team orders but genuine races, which is what we all want to see.


I’m guessing they’re changing the hard compound in response to Massa’s 2 tyre failures last time out. Don’t recall which compound failed on HAM’s car. Seems to me they’re just playing it safe and it has nothing to do with any complaints from teams and punters. Just my theory.


In the post it says that HAM’s tyre was a medium – white sidewall


When do they have to give back sets of tires? After FP3, or before it? 3 sets of each is not enough now, it seems. Especially if you have a failure in a set, like Lewis did.


‘More entertaining racing”? Entertaining for whom?


For people who enjoy motor sport, irrespective of who wins.


Even if the same team (and driver) wins every weekend?

I have no problem with the best team winning all the time, but if a team has a really fast car that’s demanding on its tyres, to the point that it is eating them too fast, then this team built the wrong car. It’s as simple as that.

Changing the tyres to suit them is neither fair nor entertaining.


So driving around at 70-80% of the capabilities of the car and driver because they are forced by the tyres to do so is the pinnacle of motorsport to you because it manupilates the show that it is more entertaining for the lowest common denominator?

Then WWF was the pinnacle of wrestling.


Ok then, name a motorsport were conservation is not part of the game. F1 is not a sprint racing series.

In fact, name a time in F1 where conservation was absent.


The usual American Wrestling crowd.




Why moan?… just don’t watch!


Good advice. I already have stopped watching the far-east ones live.


“…It will likely have a larger working range….”

like·ly [lahyk-lee] adverb, adjective

1. probably or apparently destined

So in keeping with the rest of the schlock Pirelli have foisted on F1 over the last 2 1/4 seasons, it’s still a guessing game.


Not foisted…

Requested to provide.


I guess I am with most everyone else, scratching my bald head. I expected a little more tweeking considering the reports from Sky saying that the driver’s meeting was fairly tense with all the driver’s except Lotus complaining about the tires.

This will all shake out to be in favor of RBR as leaving the tires the same would have as well. Lotus doesn’t have the pace and RBR seems to be more and more on top of the tires and how to exploit them for race day.


All teams attended this meeting in Italy. So this decision received an Ok by all the teams. Full stop.


Nope, Pirelli has the last word backed by the FIA. The teams can say what they want on this, it will not dictate the outcome.


Really?… sure about that are you?


I really don’t understand this decision and to be quite honest- whilst Im not a fan of these tailored for show tyres, I believe that whatever the tyres are at the start of the season – you must stick to them. Otherwise it is perceived as biased toward the complaining teams- ie Mercedes , Red Bull and perhaps Ferrari after Bahrain.

James on the subject of Felippe Massa tyres- Paul Hembrey clearly stated that it was a debris issue on both occasions ( Im not surprised given the chunks of carbon fibre off one of the Saubers at Bahrain) are we to assume this is what has triggered a change in the hards given both times it was the hards on the Ferrari ??

There are 4 tyre compounds and if teams can’t work with 2 selected choices each weekend – that’s their problem. Why is it that Lotus can live with whatever is thrown at them and the others can’t . Bahrain showed that Red Bull can do pretty well in even extreme conditions without too many dramas. The only thing I can think of is that there was a genuine safety issue with the hard compound that was discovered at Bahrain- that’s the only thing ai would consider reason enough to cause a change.

I really believe that their should be more gaps in the tyre selection- eg Super Softs and mediums , or Softs and Hards at more circuits given how each team and car set ups seem to vary according to tracks. This gives teams to race to their individual strengths and end up very close at the if the race.


I read what Paul Hambrey said about Massa´s tyres and the debris on track. When there is debris on the track FIA sends SC. FIA didn´t see the debris or they thought the debris was not important enough to send the SC. What happened to Massa showed FIA was wrong.


Exactly I was just waiting for someone’s tyre to pop- & sure enough it was Felipe!- really silly decision not to call SC. then again. Conspiracy theory no1- someone did not want to disturb Red Bulls Race advantage


You mean Vettel´s advantage. If it had been Webber leading the race. FIA would have sent 10 times the SC.


It is a bit stupid that a team spends hundreds of millions of pounds to develop a car that treats it’s tyres in a certain way only for Pirelli to start changing the compounds.


Come on!

1st. Races were becoming too short. Needed to slow these cars down.

2nd. As I’ve posted, China quali and race times were same or better than 2012. That with no DRS in Quali and no defusers on race day.

3rd. The 2013 tire is fine. It makes these teams earn it.

4th. Look at the Driver’s Championship and WCC table. Do you see some giant monkey wrench being throwin into this list? Seems to be like the heavy hitters are where the heavy hitters usually tend to be.

5th. GP is a 2 hour even. a 3 stopper means each set of tires last about 25% of the GP distance. What’s wrong with that? Seems perfectly logical in the life of a GP.

All this complaining about tires is drama for drama’s sake. This mild change by Pirelli is just to shut the complainers up. It’s not significant enough to make a difference. And that’s a good thing if you ask me!


All red herring arguments. This is not racing.


Back to the PS3 world for you then…where thanks to a few quick menu settings to your liking tires never wear, crashing into a wall is but a bump, and cars defy laws of physics.


its only going to benefit redbull


You are wrong in that. RBR was doing fine on the hard tyres. They wanted the soft tyres to change, just like Mercedes. Pirelli changed the hard tyres as a slap in the face to RBR and Merc complaining so audibly.


Although I’m not a fan of these tyres, rules are rules and should be observed. The tyre allocations for ALL races should he set out at the start of the year by the FIA not Pirelli and then that announcement should be stuck to. Someone suggested Pirelli have to much influance over the racing and I have to agree, that’s why the full allocation of tyres should be made public before the season opener and changes ONLY made on safety grounds or if a unanimous decision is reached by all the teams. Pirelli cannot be allowed up continue making changes off their own back any more. It’s obvious that some people have more influence than other and steps need taking to prevent these people getting things the way that suits them. See the season out with the tyres it started with!

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