In the aftermath of the Chinese Grand Prix some of Formula 1’s leading figures have admitted their growing frustration with the Pirelli tyres on offer this season.
“It’s quite excruciating,” McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh is quoted by the Telegraph, “trying to save tyres non-stop from start to finish.
“It feels painful, and however bad it is for me, it must be a lot worse if you have to drive like that.”
He is referring to the new situation caused by Pirelli’s rapidly-wearing 2013 tyres. Some hail the new era that stands in stark contrast to a decade ago, when quite often the pole sitter would be predictably unchallenged to the chequered flag.
Others, however, say Formula 1 is racing away from racing itself.
“Balance of power? At the moment that’s a bit of a joke,” said world champion Sebastian Vettel on Sunday when asked his thoughts about the respective strength of the teams.
“It doesn’t have much to do with racing, if all you’re doing is going easy on the tyres.
“If you lose five seconds per lap just because of the tyres, that doesn’t have much to do with the skill of the driver or how good is the car,” he told SID news agency.
Indeed, throughout the Shanghai race, drivers and engineers could be heard on the radios wondering if they should go wheel-to-wheel with their rivals, or simply stick the plan of a strategy based on nursing tyre life.
“Previously you could attack,” said Vettel, “but now, when it comes to fights, you’re a bit in the dark. Twice today I didn’t try to defend myself, because it would have just been shooting myself in the foot.”
1997 world champion turned TV pundit Jacques Villeneuve agreed: “I saw a few corners of action and then everybody taking care of their tyres.
“That’s not real racing,” he said on Canal Plus.
According to Niki Lauda and Bernie Ecclestone, the situation could change after Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, with Pirelli reportedly taking a different tack for the European season and beyond.
Told that the status quo is difficult for the spectators to understand, Chinese Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso said: “It’s the same for us (drivers) too!”
Lauda is quoted by APA news agency: “You have to wonder if it’s necessary for the tyres to be so on the limit, when everyone has to go in the box just after starting a race.
“It’s so complicated, especially for the spectators.”