On Pirelli and glass houses…
The FIA today announced that the Young Drivers’ Test at Silverstone on July 17-19 would be opened up to regular F1 drivers “to allow teams to use drivers they deem fit to carry out tyre development work in a bid to solve the problems we saw at the British GP”. Even more significantly, the FIA says it will seek approval to “change the Technical Regulations to allow modifications to the specification of the tyres during the season without the unanimous agreement of all competing teams”. This, I think, is to be applauded, bearing in mind that Pirelli wanted to revert to Kevlar constructions after the first Bahrain incident and were forbidden for doing so by the teams, who could not come to a unanimous agreement. (Lotus and Ferrari were going well at the time and understandably did not want to see any major construction changes at that point.) It also seems likely that the ridiculous (current) requirement for Pirelli to define its 2014 tyre specification by September 1, 2013, will be re-written. Less comforting is the closing threat in the FIA statement today: “the FIA has asked Pirelli for an assurance that there will be no repetition of the tyre problems at this weekend’s German GP or at subsequent grand prix (sic).” I may be reading too much into it, but that to me sounds like a governing body potentially wanting to discipline a tyre supplier – the only tyre supplier that would step into the void left by Bridgestone – for making future mistakes. What would happen, for example, if Sebastian Vettel in Germany this weekend suffered exactly the same sort of tyre failure that took him out at the first corner at Abu Dhabi in 2011? Does anyone outside Red Bull Racing and Pirelli know exactly what happened on that occasion? Judging by the number of different opinions in the pit lane to this day, I think not. Surely the role of the FIA at this time – when Pirelli have been subjected to massive criticism from all quarters – is to re-assure the F1 tyre supplier that it has the support of the people who matter. Pirelli have made mistakes – and will continue to make mistakes – because that is the nature of the F1 business. Indeed, it is the nature of life. I make mistakes – plenty of them. The F1 teams make mistakes. The drivers make mistakes. And so, come to think of it, does the FIA. I seem to recall some FIA fuel rigs under-performing a few seasons back – and who ratified the regulations that are now being changed mid-season? Of course Pirelli have had a bunch of problems – but then so did Michelin back in 2005, at Indianapolis. I think it’s interesting that a number of F1 people who now dream of a Michelin return were the same people who refused to race at Indianapolis that year (when some sort of race could have been put together to save Michelin’s face in its biggest market) and who in 2006, at Monza, openly accused Michelin of cheating. Pirelli spend several hundred millions of Euros per year supplying tyres for F1; they don’t have to do it – and I’m sure that at present they wish they weren’t doing it. In the absence of Goodyear, Bridgestone and Michelin, though, the alternative three years ago was for the F1 industry to produce its own tyres, with the vague hope of a sponsor branding the sidewalls. Instead, Pirelli stepped up to the plate and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. In my view, it now behoves the F1 industry to stand squarely behind Pirelli, to give them the scope they need to do the job and not to threaten them with some sort of discipline if/when something again goes wrong.
WELL SAID, AS USUAL. ALTHOUGH HAVING ONE TIRE SUPPLIER HAS ALWAYS BEEN A HUGE CONCERN FOR TIRE DEVELOPMENT AT THE F1 LEVEL. I REALLY DISLIKE SPEC RACING IN ALL IT’S FORMS.
Spot on commentary from one of the best in the business.
Well spoken, Peter. Would be nice if it were well heard. Of course no one has ever found themselves standing corrected after opining that F1 is the case study for a dysfunctional organization. Perhaps Pirelli’s PR problems are multiplied as a result of trying to make EVERYONE happy – a bad way to do business and for that matter, life. If you’re not torquing at least one person off a day, you’re just not trying hard enough!
Can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy your blog(s) and TFL…
I yeay that completely, very well sad.
Peter, I agree with you, Pirelli will make mistakes, everyone will, but this is patently UNSAFE. I am just watching the race now (and I still not have seen Perez’s incident). The Lotuses (Loti (?)) only had 2 seconds to react. So, either we a) make the kerbs not usable by the drivers b) Stop racing until we figure it out. How long until we stop being lucky?
That’s the most balanced review I’ve seen so far. Good one mate
The crux of the problem is the fact that Pirelli were instructed to produce a tyre that degraded significantly during the race, to provide extra thrills and spectacle. I am sure they are capable of producing a tyre that would last the whole race, but that was not the requirement. It’s down to Ecclestone wanting to spice things up “for the spectacle” It shouldn’t be about tyres, but about cars and drivers.
First and foremost:
Pirelli should be given Carte Blanche to produce tyres which they believe address all the safety concerns. They are best qualified to manufacture a decent product, whether that involves reverting to Kevlar or any other method of carcass construction. If the FIA refuse to permit them this latitude, then they should refuse to supply tyres for the next GP.
The teams? Some will find that the delivered product, as redefined, will work well for them, while others will find it a convenient scapegoat for a poor race result. The bottom line is that each team will assess and set up their chassis to address the new rubber as they are best and uniquely qualified to do so.
A day or two of open tyre testing would allow everyone an equal opportunity to gather data and make whatever adjustments might be needed.
There shouldn’t be any dead drivers – or track workers – as a result. If you think Pirelli are dealing with a difficult PR situation now, imagine the alternative scenario involving a funeral or two.
A sensible ruling body should know how and when to make sensible rules or veto and rewrite unworkable ones. Now is the time for the FIA to do so.
Great post, nicely balanced. One thought I have – had Pirelli cited safety concerns for a return to Kevlar, I understand 100% team agreement is not required. If that’s true, they surely missed a trick. Too proud perhaps?
Well said Peter. How much of this problem falls into Bernie’s lap with the goal of making tires different in the name of adding excitement to F1?
I agree! More, Fia’s responsibles cannot judge or take decisions as a fan (like me… I’m simply a fan) do: in front of TV past Sunday, my first reaction was against Pirelli because “more than one driver suffered the same problem, as a constant”. Now, after a few days, having had the opportunity to analyze multiple parameters, my idea more reasoned (and no longer simply as a fan) is definitely closer to your opinion, dear Peter, than the Fia statement and position vs Pirelli.
“I think it’s interesting that a number of F1 people who now dream of a Michelin return were the same people who refused to race at Indianapolis that year (when some sort of race could have been put together to save Michelin’s face in its biggest market) and who in 2006, at Monza, openly accused Michelin of cheating.”
what a great point. the irony…
Great post as usual and by the way nice interview for It’s a F1 life. nice to learn a little bit about your back story. jp.
Interesting stuff. Anyone would think all Frenchman have a bit of Balestre in them.
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Another EXCELLENT post by without a doubt the best F1 journalist there is…
Thanks – but let’s not exaggerate now…:)
Yes – it still hurts me to think how much pain Michelin had to endure that day.
To be fair to Bernie, he put the Pirelli deal together when no-one else seemed sure of what to do.
They did indeed cite safety concerns. The subject was pushed and pulled and eventually the pre-British GP compromise was reached. Now, post-race, sanity has prevailed.
Thanks Peter. Hope you had a good trip home and all’s well.
Agree – but the point of my piece is to highlight the buck-passing that seems to be going on. Of course Pirelli want to build safe tyres; pre-Silverstone, however, they were not being allowed to make the changes they wanted to make. Now that has been rectified. At the end of the day, as I say, everyone makes mistakes. Brakes fail on cars; rear wings collapse. Everyone needs to work together here.
Thanks – very kind.
Many thanks. Kind of you to say so.
So do I! I’d like to see four tyre companies in F1…:)
Peter what makes you the best in my opinion, is apart from the way that you connect with all fans/enthusiasts via Twitter and this blog etc. Is that there are no drama or making a hen of a feather in your journalism, it’s because of things like that.
On top of that you’re a true gentleman.
There are a lot of F1 journalists, that can’t even be bothered to answer a simple question, those are at least to me, just simple divas, and can’t however how many “spygate” stories or other scoops they find be at your level.
Thanks for all the great work you produce and that you still takes the time to interact with us fans.
Many thanks again. Too kind.