Pirelli tyres this season: Good, bad or ugly?

Mercedes AMG F1 mechanic with Pirelli tyres. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday 12 April 2012.

Apr.27 (GMM) Pirelli is getting the credit or the blame – depending who you ask – for F1’s unpredictable pecking order so far in the 2012 world championship season.

2012 Formula 1 season gets underway in Australia

2012 Formula 1 season gets underway in Australia

For the first time in almost three decades, four different cars – McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull – have won the opening four races of the season, while others – Lotus and Sauber – have displayed potential winning pace.

“The explanation is Pirelli – it’s the tyres,” Swiss commentator and former F1 driver Marc Surer told Servus TV. “It’s been a question of who can make them work, and that is depending on a number of factors.”

Some cars, for example, require the tyres to be running hot and working hard before they deliver their pace, whilst others only find the ‘sweet spot’ in cold conditions. For most, however, it’s just a mystery.

“We know we were slow (in Bahrain) but we don’t understand why,” revealed Melbourne winner Jenson Button.

Publicly, teams like McLaren are hailing the invigorated ‘show’. Privately, they may be looking back ruefully on the Bridgestone era.

Sebastian Vettel in familiar pose after nabbing pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain GP and became the fourth of four F1 winners this year

“Bridgestone made great tyres that could hold on for the whole race,” Surer continued. “The only tension was when the two at the front were going to pit. Now, there is a stress factor that has been produced by the tyre company. Sometimes, maybe, it’s a bit too much.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, the former HRT driver, doesn’t agree with Surer’s final point, nor Michael Schumacher’s claim that Pirelli needs to rethink its approach to making F1 tyres.

“The tyres are not blowing up, they are not blistering and it’s always a challenge for both drivers and engineers to set up the car properly and get the maximum out of them.

“A tricky situation,” he told gocar.gr. “We have to give thumbs up to Pirelli for the work they have done.”

It is on Liuzzi’s point about the situation being “tricky” that F1 team bosses completely agree about.

“The challenge is how to use the tyres, how to set up your car,” said Mercedes’ Norbert Haug.

Agreed Red Bull’s Christian Horner: “I think this year the tyre has dominated performance and I think it’s crucial to try and understand how they work.”

“It’s clear,” Lotus’ Eric Boullier added, “that the key for performance is the tyres.”

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  • usman fasih


  • Bec

    ” Pirelli is getting the credit or the blame – depending who you ask”

    Well the old saying goes:
    ‘A bad workman always blames his tools’

  • CJ

    Pirelli are not to blame they are making what Bernie asked for and yeah they are ugly and useless , imagine how you would feel if your the engineer and team spending many millions of dollars on producing a race car that can not be used to its fully potential!
    Thats what we F1 followers are watching on the track every race on these sub par tyres thanks Bernie your a chump.

  • McLarenFan

    To be honest I do not understand how the tyres are UGLY but there you go. I did however like the idea of 17″ rims that were being bantered around before Pirelli came in to force.
    Last years tyres were good for racing this year I do find the artificial factor of slower running to save tyre wear annoying.
    I would prefer to see the drivers wheel to wheel and I think the DRS and KERS is making that work but the tyres should last giving us say a 3 stop race and still have to do both compounds.
    At this present rate people are going to be up in arms if suddenly HRT, Marussia or Caterham take pole then the win just because they manage to work the magical sweet spot of the tyre.

  • Kevin

    F1 is slowly being eroded from leading edge of 4 wheel performance into scripted circus. The tires are junk, and artificially hobble the cars and teams with no benefit to the sport. Single brand tire rules are similarly useless. While the secret tires of MSC/Ferrari were the opposite extreme, there should be less fakery in F1. Get rid of single engine format rules, toss DRS, dump KERS and step away from this single brand junk tire folly. while racing is indeed entertainment, F1 should always be a step above that – or it risks becoming nothing more than female roller derby- fun to watch, but utterly pointless.

  • Butterfly


    In 2014 everybody will have new V6 turbo engines, restricted wings, hence no need for DRS (it could work, but the wing will be so skinny it would make no sense to implement it), KERS will see a much tighter integration with the powertrain, those ugly noses will go away, etc.

    As for the Pirelli tires, well, the teams asked for it and Pirelli delivered. I’m sure Pirelli would be happy to provide good tires should the teams ask it do to so.

  • Kartik

    Bring back 2011 tires and that makes the races so much enjoyable
    They can push Harder and There is no need to conserve tire’s
    Eg: For Hamilton this tire wear will be trouble some in future races due to excessive wear by him but last year he managed to get ahead even though he fall back
    Please Bring 2011 tires and we can see some real racing on track rather than Conserving tires ……

  • Sennauno

    For every driver moaning about the tyres there is one team mate far ahead of them, coincidence?

    Schumacher won most of his races and championships in an era where there were few variables in the race. His bridgestones were specifically made for him and Ferrari, no one else was allowed to have and that were faster than everything else and were significanlty responsible for most of his WDC’s

    These days drivers racer the variables to get the maximum result in the race rather than just the one who is the quickest over one lap. In Michael’s era the strategies and variables were mostly determined before the race began which is why we had boring processions and predictable results based on grid positions.

    Throughout F1 history it has been in-race variables that have made for exciting racing, and real opportunities for racers. Right now tyres are a significant variable (like they were during the tyre wars) but so are fuel, KERS and DRS. The quality (not the quantity) of overtaking has also been poor due to this fact…maybe a better compromise can be found soon

    What i yearn for is gradual tyre degradation – not the current fall off a cliff stuff. So i’d hate to say it but i slightly agree with Schumacher becuase everyone is having to drive conservatively



  • s u

    schu is right and this mor on sennauno should agree that they have to drive conservatively. the only uncontrolled variable now is the tyres because the fuel, v8 engines and other components of the car have been controlled with the rules that is the concorde agreement among teams.
    it is a tyres and component updates issue that teams need to sort out and the principals say at the latter races the teams who are dominant will remain above as have been the big four.

    bridgestone was far better than pirellis as have michelin, and goodyear.

  • asas

    this sennauno is antischumi as always.

  • fawxx

    actually this season’s tyres seems to be harder to operate.

    however, its still the start of the season and that most, if not all the teams have yet to understand the tyres. if the complains still continue at, lets say, hungary/ germany. its time for them to do something abt it.

    and i personally agree with Sennauno’s point about the gradual drop off.

  • Matt_D

    Six races, six winners. Unless you’ve got your head stuffed up your buttocks, you’ve got to realise these results are based on a lottery and completely undermine the point of having the best drivers in the best cars.

    And the F1 press are leading the chant, “Oh, what an ace season this is!” Bollocks.