[Updated]In the aftermath of the decision by Pirelli to make some changes to the 2013 tyres from round 7 in Canada onwards, there has been a backlash from those teams whose cars were working well on the tyres.
Lotus boss Eric Boullier and now Ferrari’s Horse Whisperer column have attacked the change and Red Bull in particular for lobbying behind the scenes and in the media for a change in tyres.
Pirelli is caught in the middle and whatever changes it makes from here onwards it will be perceived by some fans as having affected the outcome of the championship.
However last night the FIA indicated that any changes to the specification could only be made for safety reasons, not sporting ones as it entered the debate for the first time. Teams are due to learn in Monaco what the essence of the changes will be and the indications are that they will be relatively minor.
Pirelli is at fault for going too far with the 2013 tyres and for making them a larger talking point than the personalities in the sport. People tune into F1 because of personalities; it’s about Prost vs Senna, Alonso vs Vettel, not about hard versus medium.
The mistake of this season was in moving the centre of pressure too far towards a technical topic and away from the world’s best drivers expressing themselves on the race track. That imbalance has turned many fans off and this been recognised at the top.
However the essential truth to remember when sifting through the messages coming from the teams is that F1 teams will only ever speak out of self interest.
For example, as the Horse Whisperer pointed out, Red Bull won the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix with four stops and made no complaints at all. On Sunday they tried to do three, were forced to make a fourth at the wrong moment and ended up missing the podium. A volley of complaint ensued from Red Bull and especially from the owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, that F1 2013 is not real racing.
It was the same in 2009 when some teams thought of the double diffuser and the ones who didn’t tried to ban it, or 2010 with McLaren’s F Duct, which received similar treatment.
The difference here is that the argument involves a third party, Pirelli, and is much easier to target a third party than it is to face up to one’s own problems.
Arguably Pirelli made a tactical mistake when announcing the changes this week; rather than discuss a desire to cut the ideal number of stops down to two or three, which panders to the lobbyists, perhaps Pirelli should have focussed on the need to solve the delamination problem which we have seen in the last two races on Ferrari, Mercedes, Force India and Toro Rosso cars.
The priority in making a change from Canada onwards is to ensure that the tread block stays on the tyre in all situations; whether the problem is caused by debris cutting the tyres, overheating or manufacturing issues. That has to be solved in this raft of changes.
But beyond that the task is to produce tyres that are slightly more durable, but maintain the same shape and profile as the original 2013 tyres and perform in a similar way, so as not to handicap teams like Ferrari and Lotus that had found clever engineering solutions.
This is likely to be the outcome; tyres that are no so significantly different. But as the subject of tyres is so little understood by most of the media and many fans, the truth is likely to get lost amid claim and counter-claim.
Whatever the outcome and the changes, there will be complaints and factions who believe that it has decided the championship.
The reality is that until the new tyres go onto the cars in Montreal, it will be impossible to say who has won and lost with the changes. In all probability what will happen is that the engineering solutions of Ferrari, Lotus and Force India will continue to work, but the wider operating window of the tyres and increased durability will mean a reduction in the margin of deficit Red Bull and others suffer. It will being them closer together, but with the tyre-friendly teams still at an advantage.
But we will have to wait and see.
Despite their mistakes, one has a twinge of sympathy with Pirelli for being caught out with this year’s tyres by not having adequate test facilities, as the teams cannot organise themselves sufficiently well to provide a test car for them to work with.
Last year they reluctantly agreed to allow a 2010 Renault to be used to test 2013 tyres and then when Lotus turned up this year with a car that was engineered to work well on its tyres, there were complaints that Enstone had benefitted from the tests.
Now we have such an absence of trust between teams that there is no test car.
The only workable solution is to have an extra day or two after certain Grands Prix where teams can run development tyres and the process can become functional again.
Remember that when Bridgestone and Michelin were competing there were three or four days of testing after most Grands Prix. Bridgestone had a test budget of $20 million for Ferrari alone.
The Horse Whisperer sees it like this, “Maybe the brain cells that control memory only operate selectively, depending on the results achieved on track by their owners.
“A classic example of this is the current saga regarding the number of pit stops. Voices have been raised to underline the fact that various teams, some of whom got to the podium and others who were quite a way off, made four pit stops in the recent Spanish Grand Prix, making the race hard to follow.
“It’s a shame that these worthy souls kept quiet two years ago when, at the very same Catalunya Circuit and on the Istanbul track, five of the six drivers who got to those two podiums made exactly the same number of pit stops as did Alonso and (Ferrari’s second driver) Massa last Sunday in the Spanish Grand Prix.