Formula 1 Insight

Where The Rubber Hits The Road

On reflection, it seems to me that the variability of the performance of the Ferrari cars in Hungary and previous races is essentially a matter of weather. In Hockenheim, the temperatures were unusually low and Ferrari complained that they could not get the tires up to a decent operating temperature. As temperatures increased over the Hungarian weekend, so did the pace of the Ferraris. The race was held in extremely hot conditions and suddenly Massa was the class of the field.

Nick Heidfeld

When it is remembered that McLaren are supposed to be very hard on their tires in warm conditions, it makes sense that they should thrive in the cool races and Ferrari fare better in the heat. And it is not just the Ferrari/McLaren duel that is affected - BMW too are beginning to suspect that the heat was the cause of their woeful performance at the Hungaroring.

"It must be about the tyres," added Theissen. "It (an oversteer problem) was both drivers, for the entire duration of the race, on both tyre compounds."

Even Bridgestone admit that they were caught out by the unseasonally low temperatures encountered in Hockenheim and probably should have brought softer tires. One wonders how they are going to select compounds for the new circuits on the calendar, Valencia and Singapore.

But the pattern is becoming fairly evident; tires are having an important influence on the races, with some teams happy when the weather is cool, others more cheerful when temperatures are high. This has made for an extremely close championship but I wonder whether it is healthy for tires to play so large a part. Surely the intention of having one tire manufacturer was to lessen the effect they have on relative performance of the teams?

We all know that the idea behind the insistence on there being two compounds available at each race and that teams use both was so that the focus (and therefore advertising coverage) remain on Bridgestone as supplier. But this has failed in practice - we talk of hards, mediums and softs and never mention Bridgestone.

If Bridgestone were to bring all four compounds to each race and then allow the teams to work out which is best for them in the race, would there not still be attention upon which team is using which tire? Limiting the tire company to two compounds that can then prove unsuitable for the conditions results in the tires having far too much influence on the races and has safety implications too.

Cost is cited as a reason for just two compounds being transported to each circuit but I cannot believe that it would be much more expensive to bring additional types. If safety is an issue, surely it has priority over the matter of costs anyway?

It seems to me that there are only two ways to go on this issue. Either we say a control tire is a control tire and Bridgestone must design one tire for all circumstances (apart from wets - they can continue as they are, of course), or we allow four compounds but let the teams choose which they prefer at each circuit. Taking the second option, tires will still be talked about and there might even be more interest in which tire each team is choosing. At the moment it is hardly an issue since almost all the teams adopt the same strategy; but if allowed to choose, it is fairly certain that Ferrari and Toyota would be going for softer tires than teams like McLaren and BMW.

Variety is the spice of both life and racing. We do not need the FIA interfering with things like tire choice in a vain quest to enliven the show - let the teams compete and there will be a show regardless.


Steven Roy
I was surprised to read recenlty given Max's enthusiasm for all things green that Bridgestone make all their F1 tyres in Japan then ship them to their European HQ and from their ship them to the race track. Since they are shipping two dry and two wet compounds the additional cost of the other compounds is so small as to be irrelevant.

Surely in F1 we should not be compelling anyone to run an entirely unsuitable tyre yet at some races that is precisely what happens. It makes far more sense to let everyone choose the tyres that are best suited to them. So if Lewis needs slightly harder tyres let him have them. If someone else can gain an advantage by running softer tyres let him have that advantage.

There is a big difference from letting a driver have a free choice of four different tyres to have a tyre war between manufacturers. When we had two different tyre companies they were constantly evolving new compounds and new constructions rather than deciding on a very limited range of specs at the start of the season.
Date Added: 04/08/2008

Isn't the latter option you described what they did a few years back? - I seem to recall when teams had to choose before qualifying which compound they wanted for the rest of the weekend.

You're right - the tyres are having too much of an effect on the racing now there's a single supplier.But I'm still surprised McLaren haven't fixed this problem yet so I'd say they are as responsible for this as the FIA.
Date Added: 04/08/2008

Steven: I agree, the amount expended on research and development of new compounds is what caused concern about rising costs in the tyre war - and that has always been true, as Avon and Pirelli found out very quickly. With one tyre supplier, the costs are cut immediately, since the pressure to develop new compounds is lifted.
Date Added: 04/08/2008

Francois: You are correct that it used to be that each team chose which tyre they would use before qualifying and then had to stick with it. But I see no reason why they should not choose just before the race, when it will be fairly clear what conditions are going to be like.

I can't see how you can blame McLaren for not fixing the problem, however. I think their current form indicates that they are getting on top of their problem with high temperatures (they are more consistent than Ferrari, at least) but ultimately they are subject to whatever tyres Bridgestone chooses to provide. If it were easy to tune the suspension to suit the tyres, all the teams would be doing it, believe me!
Date Added: 04/08/2008

The expense is in having to produce enough of all 4 compounds to supply every team with each compound all weekend, isn't it? Racing tires are handmade at fairly great expense, and if you double the number of compounds, you double the expense. And you cannot tell Red Bull they can't have the hard tires because McLaren has already claimed them. If no one uses the supersofts, you have what, 20 x 7 or 8 sets of wasted tires. That said I wish they would at least not force the teams to use both types. If Kimi is faster on softs and Louis likes the firms, let them have them all weekend.
Date Added: 05/08/2008

Steven Roy
THe cost of manufacturer isn't really a problem because if the tyres are not used at one race they will be used at the next or the one after that. The only additional cost is shipping more tyres around the world and giving Bridgestone a bit more paddock space.

If there are 4 dry and 2 wet tyres they would be shipping 6*8*20 = 960 tyres per race which given how much freight gets shipped to a race is nothing. Especially as they are shipping a substantial portion of that already and they are not going to need more tyre fitting equipment or even more wheels.
Date Added: 05/08/2008

In truth, current tire regs are just FIA's way of saying that they don't want the teams to be able to get more mechanical grip than their rivals through tire selection. The political lines that lead to this decision were the grounds of safety, which offensively accuses teams of not being able to choose a tire that won't self-destruct before the end of the race, and cost control, which is a line typically used in F1 by anyone that wants to have their way with something, and has very little to do with actually saving teams money.

There is no reason why teams can't have their choices of tires for a race, FIA simply don't want it.

You may have already noticed that teams are starting to focus work on the last parts of the car to be strictly regulated: the controls, like McLaren's torque-map paddle, and the suspension, like most teams' use of the J-Damper.
Date Added: 05/08/2008

And what the FIA don't want, we don't get, Chunter. Sad but true.

The engineers will be getting a little bit back with the change in regulations for next year. Let's hope that we see some refreshing new ideas.
Date Added: 06/08/2008

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