Pirelli responds to criticism by pledging changes

By Jerome Pugmire, AP, 14 May 2013
© Pirelli

Pirelli will make changes to its tyres from next month's Canadian Grand Prix after widespread complaints from drivers at last weekend's Spanish race that they shredded too easily.

Tyres cut like paper, rubber flew everywhere and cars flitted in and out of lanes as drivers made nearly 80 pit stops in Barcelona, turning the race into a chaotic spectacle and leading teams to demand instant improvement.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery said in a statement Tuesday that the tyres will feature a revised construction including elements from this and last year's tyres to combine durability with performance.

"Our aim is to provide the teams with a new range which mixes the stability of the 2012 tyres and the performance of the current ones," Hembery said. "As a company, we have always moved quickly to make improvements where we see them to be necessary."

Pirelli does not have time to make modifications in time for the Monaco GP next week, so changes will not be ready until next month's race in Montreal. However, tyres should be less of an issue in Monaco, anyway, because the razor-thin nature of the windy circuit makes it very difficult to overtake and speeds are slower than in other races. The race distance is the least on the calendar, thus reducing the pressure on the tyre.

Most drivers had planned for a three-stop strategy in Barcelona but had to change tactics and switch to four. That hurt Red Bull in particular, with both of their cars finishing behind the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso, who won the race, and Felipe Massa, who was third.

"After evaluating data from the first few races this year, we've decided to introduce a further evolution as it became clear at the Spanish Grand Prix that the number of pit stops was too high," Hembery said. "The Spanish Grand Prix was won with four pit stops, which has only happened once before in our history. These changes will also mean that the tires are not worked quite as hard, reducing the number of pit stops."

Three-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel, who drives for Red Bull, led the voices of concern by saying that "we are not going to the pace of the car, we are going to the pace of the tyre," with 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve adding on television that "at this rate, F1 is going to become a pit-stop contest with a few race laps thrown in."

Even before Sunday's race there were clear signs of degradation when Force India driver Paul di Resta lost the tread on his left-rear tyre in the second practice.

Pirelli believes debris was also to blame for both of Massa's punctures in the Bahrain GP three weeks ago. Fears that the tyre is not resistant enough were also highlighted by Lewis Hamilton's left-rear tire failure during Bahrain practice.

Hembery, thinks some of the criticism has been unfair, especially as Pirelli has had to do testing on older F1 cars, but he now hopes debris will become less of an issue in future races.


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