Formula 1 tyres debacle causing split between team bosses

Pirelli tyres took a pounding in Barcelona
Pirelli tyres took a pounding in Barcelona

In the aftermath of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, the words on everybody’s lips are the same: Pirelli tyres.

Indeed, so crucial is the impact of Pirelli’s controversial product this year is that rumours are swirling that Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz may have renewed his threat to pull out of Formula 1.

Reports say the Austrian met with fellow billionaire Bernie Ecclestone in Barcelona, shortly before hinting to reporters that he is losing his patience.

“Formula 1 tyre management is not a race,” Mateschitz told German newspaper Bild. “The tyre is a means to an end – it’s how you transfer the potential and performance of the car and driver to the road.”

But he said the current situation “contradicts” the very idea of motor racing.

Dietrich Mateschitz (AUT) CEO and Founder of Red Bull. Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday 4 August 2007. BEST IMAGE
Dietrich Mateschitz not happy

Whether Mateschitz threatened to quit or not, or whether the Formula 1 chief executive heard Mercedes’ Niki Lauda say the 2013 tyres are “the biggest joke”, Ecclestone is now on board.

“The tyres are wrong,” he is quoted by the UK newspaper Express, “(and) not what we intended when we asked Pirelli to produce something which did a half race.

“Pirelli know it and they’re doing something about it. We’ll go back to last season’s type of tyres, which gave us some close racing,” he added.

As ever in Formula 1, however, it’s not that simple. The complaining is not universal — especially among teams who have made the tyres work for them so far.

“It’s not as simple as that to just change the tyres,” Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali told Auto Motor und Sport.

Eric Boullier happy with the 2013 tyres
Eric Boullier happy with the 2013 tyres

Lotus team boss Eric Boullier agrees that pulling the rug from under teams who are not complaining is “not fair”.

“Pirelli was asked to build tyres that last 20 laps, and they’ve done that. If our car can do it, the other teams should work just as hard,” he told German RTL television.

Pirelli is also protesting about the fairness of the current situation; criticised if they do nothing, and potentially accused of favouring Red Bull if they make a change.

“If we do something that helps them,” Paul Hembery is quoted by the Guardian, “we can understand that Lotus and Ferrari won’t be happy. We will be damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

He is quoted by Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper: “It would be much easier and cheaper to produce tyres that last the whole race.

Paul Hembery
Paul Hembery says it would be easy for Pirelli to produce long lasting tyres

“Anyone can see the amount of tyres we are manufacturing and taking to the race tracks. We could greatly simplify our task. As I’ve said, it’s a choice between one or another kind of competition.”

On the Formula 1 grid, competition and politics speak the loudest. “The more frustrating the results,” Welt newspaper correspondent Simon Pausch said, “the louder the complaints.”

Times journalist Kevin Eason, characterising Mateschitz’s words as a “declaration of self-interest’, added: “(The) Tyres (controversy) is only a symptom of deep confusion and malaise in Formula 1.

“Costs, 2014 engines, division of wealth etc,” he added on Twitter. (GMM)