Race Blog
2012 Europe

Consistent inconsistency

“What we’d like are racing tyres that after a certain number of laps will fall apart.”

Incredibly, they agreed to it!

Pirelli – like all other blue chip brands – are only in Formula 1 to raise awareness, get their message across, and sell more product. So, one wonders, where’s the marketing sense?

Clued-up petrolheads, knowledgeable fellows that they are, can be confident that their low profile P Zeros aren’t about to ‘drop off a cliff’, sending them and their shiny hot–hatches spinning through Tesco Metro shop windows. Mr & Mrs Average, however, while watching the occasional Sunday afternoon 70 laps might be a little more alarmed – and therefore less inclined to opt for Italian rubber – when TV commentators warn of imminent rubber disintegration.

Pirelli, of course, are doing a fantastic job, fulfilling the brief demanded by Formula 1’s power brokers, spicing up the show – and, I’m sure, selling more tyres to those in the know!

Managing the performance arc of these tyres – F1’s black art in 2012 – is talking point number one and not everyone in the paddock likes the show.

The teams moan, the drivers complain (unless, of course, they win) and even ‘expert’ journalists fail to see the value of the sport’s current unpredictability. “There’s just no narrative” one respected news hound opined to me recently.

Dig a little deeper and F1’s top talent will tell an interesting story or three.

Of how working the tyres over a race weekend is akin to walking a tightrope: one slip and you’re falling. Get it wrong and you’re finished, get it right and you’re making it look easy.

The varying fortunes of some teams illustrate just how fine the line is between success and failure. Take Force India; at Bahrain they were so confident in their tyre wear predictions that they saved a set for the race by not running Paul di Resta in Q3. Those three laps saved worked a treat come Sunday afternoon when di Resta scored eight valuable points by finishing sixth, just yards ahead of Fernando Alonso’s scarlet Ferrari.

Next race up, Spain: the Force India guys were sure they were getting to grips with the vagaries of tyre wear, but instead they had a nightmare. Zero points scored and back to square one.

Obviously at every race data is piled high, everyone learning a little more. Of how drivers with an aggressive turn-in on corner entry work their Pirellis harder, get them up to temperature, have more confidence, and therefore get quicker.

Of how a yet-to-be ‘turned-on’ set of fronts will give the wary pilote a feeling of worn–out rubber understeer.

With all these inconsistencies it is at least good to hear of one playing field levelling consistently. Each and every set (of the chosen compound) of Pirelli F1 tyres delivered to each and every team will give the same performance.

When erstwhile F1 tyre supplier Bridgestone’s rubber was delivered, teams hoped for the best. The theory at the time was that if your allotted set had been packed for freight in the wet the performance would be different to those loaded in the dry.

One can just imagine that the bespoke tyres destined for Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari were produced, packed and lovingly freighted in a hermetically sealed environment!

Learning how best to work F1 tyre strategy in 2012 is a skill set to be studied, honed, perfected and applied, and the first team/driver combination to get it right each weekend reaps rich rewards.

Consistency is, after all, contrary to nature, contrary to life.

So get a grip…

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