“Don’t blame Pirelli for high tyre wear” – Wirth

2011 F1 season

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Pirelli tyres, Valencia, 2011

Virgin technical director Nick Wirth says he hopes Pirelli don’t get bad publicity for providing F1 tyres that wear out quickly.

Speaking at the launch of the Virgin MVR-02, Wirth said Pirelli had been encouraged to produce tyres that degrade quickly to produce more exciting races:

“The single biggest thing that’s going to be a factor this year is tyres. They went to Pirelli, everybody watched Canada and went ‘ooh – this is what we want! Can we have some tyres that fall apart please?’

“Bridgestone tried a little bit towards the end of the year to repeat frankly what was a cock-up in Canada. And Pirelli have listened.

“I hope they don’t get blamed. I fear they will. but they have listened.

“I’ve been involved, as the other teams have been, with technical discussions, and they have tried to engineer some tyres that degrade, because that’s what people want.

“It’ll be a real shame if the drivers get out of the cars and say ‘these Pirellis…’ and they get bad publicity, because they’ve been asked to do it.”

He added that the onus will be on the drivers to look after their tyres during the races:

Timo [Glock] didn’t cover himself in glory in Canada last year with tyres falling apart.

“I hope to give him a far, far better car this year than I did in Canada. He’s a great drivers and he’s very intelligent and he’ll figure it out. But it’s going to be hard for everyone.”

Wirth expects an exciting season as the changes to the technical rules close up the front of the field:

“I think it could be absolutely fantastic. We had a great year last year, I think the regulations are tighter this year.

“So, guess what, Red Bull’s going to be very quick, well, there’s a surprise. But who knows what McLaren are going to come up with?

“I think it could be an absolutely vintage year. And then you’ve got the noise of the tyres going haywire, plus the movable rear wing, it could be absolutely fantastic.”

Image © Julien Leroy / firstlap.be

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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66 comments on ““Don’t blame Pirelli for high tyre wear” – Wirth”

  1. Well said, Nick Wirth. We’ve already had some complaints which is frankly annoying. No-one wants the 1-stop bores of last year. I hope the teams, drivers and commentators bear in mind that Pirelli have deliberately gone this way and not criticise them because their styles or designs don’t suit the kind of tyre.

    1. what I fear is that after all this to-do about tires that fall off, teams will simply all do 2-stops and nothing changes. In fact, it could bring it back to before where everyone waits for the stops to get by the car in front instead of passing on the track. Which negates the argument for no refueling causing on-track passing.

      Honestly, I think the real issue is the two-compound rule. I’d really much rather see teams be allowed to use any of the four compounds they wish in any combination. THEN we’d see some variety. When you only offer two types and say you have to use both, of COURSE there’s going to be an optimum strategy because there’s only so many different ways you can run two tires between 1 and 2 stops. Limiting the options means more similarity and more similar lap times at similar points in the race. When you have one driver nursing a long stint of the hardest tire towards the end and another driver blasting forwards on fresh super-softs, then you’ll see more time differences and more opportunity for on-track passing.

      1. THEN we’d see some variety.

        Or like you suggest with

        teams will simply all do 2-stops

        Will they all just find the optimum strategy and all use the same tyres anyway?

        Personally, I think it’s fine as is.

  2. I do really like Nick Wirth, he’s talks like a real fan of F1!

  3. Is F1 going the wrong way just to get excitement? I thought racing was about driving the fastest (& best) not saving tires & fuel. I would like to see what happened if all the banned technology was allowed and combined safely to make a super F1 as it is meant to be the pinnacle of technology/innovation and motor sport!!!

    1. The new tyre rules will make it difficult to save tyres so to make them last longer than 1 stint, so the drivers will be encouraged to go for it. And drivers used to save fuel during the re-fueling era too, remember Kimi “I waited until the first stop” Raikkonnen?

      1. But the drop-off is significant on these tyres, so going for it might backfire spectacularly.

      2. LMAO Icthyes, Probably he was waiting to finish his last Vodka/Redbull and before he pits, takes an Icecream nugget to flush it down ….. :(

    2. Saving tires and managing fuel has always been a factor in racing. In the old days, they even had to manage brakes.

      You don’t have to go too far back for a classic example: Senna vs. Prost. Prost got the nickname ‘Professor’ in part from his style, which preserved tires. In contrast, Senna was a little harsher on tires. It resulted in some real battles.

  4. Rubbish tyres plus flapping rear wing should let almost anyone get past anyone else at some point. But can’t help feeling that all this is necessary because F1 has to be played out on mind-numbingly dull tracks ‘cos Bernie’s pockets say so. And too many drivers play safe, while those who don’t get panned by FIA and rival fans. Spa, Interlagos, Suzuka etc. don’t need the gimmicks. Nor Hamilton and Kobayashi.

    1. How much overtaking do we see at Suzuka?

      What F1 needs are tracks with high/medium-speed corners but a significant amount of long straights too. That way the teams have to put less downforce than they’d like to on the cars. Right now we have a plethora of circuits that are mostly high/medium-speed corners with few real straights or circuits which are a mixture of everything (thanks, Tilke).

      1. I guess I’m talking about quality, not quantity! Like 0-0 games in football, we have to accept that even the best circuits can have off-days. But Suzuka has had some stupendous moments, difficult to imagine ever happening at Abu Dhabi. To be honest the decisive factor is probably hills! (Suzuka, Interlagos, Spa, even Monaco a bit…)

        1. Those moments are quite few and far between, even if they are usually quality and it is down as much to the configuration as the cars, though the new tyres should improve that side of things. Maybe the new wings will cheapen it a bit but remember the wake starts affecting these cars before they hit the 1-second gap, so the difference in tyres will also play their part. Frankly I think the gimmick was unnecessary until the Pirellis’ influence had been measured on their own.

          1. I agree Icthyes, FIA introduce too many changes it makes it difficult to see what’s working. Tyres plus reintroducing KERS was enough, surely, for the season, along with the new and newish tracks. Anyway last year was great entertainment after Bahrain until the last few races when the season went off the boil – and that was down to some conservative driving from the front-runners and McLaren really not keeping in touch (and some consequent over-compensation from Ham). It didn’t need much more to tweak this year.

        2. “quality, not quantity”

          Bang on.

          1. To get quality you have to increase quantity.

      2. This. I cant help thinking that if all the straights were twice as long in some circuits, the teams will be forced to run a more compromised setup and we would get improved racing.

      3. so you are asking for an oval then? there are loads of them in indy car go watch that!F1 is what it is. its that simple

    2. The 500-lb gorilla in the room is aerodynamics, however. Talking about tires and tracks and gimmicky wings is really skirting the biggest issue regarding overtaking: the sensitivity of the aerodynamics of the cars. Shift the balance dramatically back to mechanical grip and I’m convinced you would see more overtaking.

      1. I don’t agree – it’s easy to underestimate the difference the tyres can make because they were black round things last year and they’re black round things this year.

        But they’re so important. They are the point at which car meets road and when you change what’s going on there anything can happen.

        Remember Ferrari’s swing in performance from 2004 to 2005 to 2006 – the tyres were a massive part of that.

        1. That was when Ferrari was on different tyres (or switching).

          When they are all on the same tyres, there is no difference left. Without fuel stops there is virtually NO strategy left in F1.

          At best this tyre nonsense gives us drivers like Kobayashi who bolts on a fresh pair of softs at the end of the race so he can overtake a few people on worn out tyres.

          That’s some entertainment, but other than that it’s pointless.

          1. No strategy because of no refueling stops? Last year the World Championship for drivers was decided by a bad strategic call from Ferrari…
            The refuelling part only makes the pitstop last much longer, which causes a driver to loose more positions because of the pitstop, untill those now in front have pitted.
            More tirecompounds and more freedom to choose between them will make the equation of how to optimize the total race time more difficult and thus create more exitement.
            But if we only want to increase the exitement, then we could make a rule about demoting randomly one of the top 10 drivers after qualifying 10 places on the grid. And make sure it can happen only an equal no of times over the season pr driver…

        2. Keith, I agree with you; clearly tires are incredibly important. But, that’s not really what I was commenting on, per se. I was commenting on David BR’s statement about tires and moveable wings aiding passing, and the implication that it’s the Tilke tracks that make passing too difficult.

          To me, the biggest hindrance to closer racing and overtaking is aerodymanics. Even more so in this era of sole supplier for the tires and homologized engine specs.

          1. Actually I agree. Maybe I’m getting this wrong, but wasn’t it Newey who basically said that? Shift to mechanical grip and do more to allow driver error (bad gear changes, etc.) and you’ll get more overtaking. Increasing tyre wear doesn’t bother me, I think it’ll be good in terms of strategy and some on-track clashes, it’s the rear wing flap and all the fussy rules and conditions that are going to surround its use that bother me. KERS too, though as a McLaren fan I guess it’ll be good for them this season.

          2. Agreed. Thankfully, (I hope), the changes coming in the next two years are going to address this dirtying of air through aerodynamics.The rear wing is going to disappear, and front wings are going to be simplified to the old tea-tray style. Cars will be able to create aerodynamic grip on the bottom of the cars. Certainly the cars will not have that cool look without the rear wing or aero appendages, but we fans aren’t into it because of the looks. I hope this plan works. Certainly the cars will look more like giant overpowered karts, but aren’t they anyway?

  5. Virgin technical director Nick Wirth says he hopes Pirelli don’t get bad publicity for providing F1 tyres that wear out quickly.

    Actually, I expect Pirelli will get good publicity. Bridgestone were too interested in having a positive brand image of tyres that were both grippy and durable, and it had a negative effect on the races. But Pirelli seem to have thrown their lot in with the Formula 1 party line of “improving the show”, though they’re actually making good on it. Increased tyre degradation has been proven to produce more exciting races, so if the races this year are good, I don’t think people will care that Pirelli’s tryes go off faster than a bucket of prawns left out in the sun.

    1. People keep referring to Canada when they say that tyre degradation makes for better racing, but I’m not quite convinced by that. What made Canada interesting was not just the tyre degradation, but the fact that it was unexpected. If everyone knows how long the tyres will last, they’ll allow for it in their race strategy and we’re back to square one.

      1. Or more precisely unexpected by Red Bull. Thing is, if the tyres drop off very quickly then it’s inevitable that you’ll have cars with fresh tyres or different sets catching others – add in the new ‘automatic overtake’ gizmo and it’s a done deal. I like the idea of the tyres, but the adjustable rear flap just seems annoying and too rule bound: only in set areas and only the driver behind within a certain distance… FIA are going to make that up as they go along, so with all the conditions and each circuit different, how do we differentiate between some genuinely exceptional driving and a track passing opportunity that even Jeremy Clarkson after 20 pints couldn’t mess up?

      2. Yes and no. What made Canada was the consequence of the tyre situation: mixed strategies and multiple stops. The Red bulls went for hards at the start (qualifying), McLaren and Ferrari went for softs. Hopefully we’ll see more of this, as the “qualifying” tyres won’t be able to last long enough to stop the front-runners from pitting and coming back out behind the non-Top 10 qualifiers (the rule might actually do some good this year), but they may want to risk it for grid position.

        1. What made Canada was the consequence of the tyre situation: mixed strategies and multiple stops.

          Which is what Pirelli have said they are aiming for.

      3. exactly. The teams hadn’t gathered enough of the right data to know when they’ll need to pit. So they couldn’t strategize accurately.

    2. If they can sell themselves as “the company who made F1 fun”, then they’re laughing.

      If every F1 commentator is saying “these useless Pirelli tyres will go off in three laps, the Bridgestones were much better”, then they won’t like that much.

    3. kenneth Ntulume
      9th February 2011, 9:24

      PRISONER? u may need to get out of it…
      What good publicity is in these editorials…..Pirelli tires in f1 degrade so fast that drivers are forced to change them often…..
      U might understand it or even like it as an F1 fan, who has above average understanding of the sport, BUT to the majority of passive mortals….what they will get in their heads, will be Pirrelli tires dont last….bad brand PR

  6. it’s ideal for Pirelli, they can give crappy tyres and say “You wanted” :)

  7. At the end of the day, if more people start tuning in to F1 to watch some exciting races, then Pirelli will need to be publically thanked by some of those Team Principles and drivers, who i’m sure will receive a few more $’s due to the higher viewing figures.

  8. I agree with what Prisoner Monkeys has said. They will receive a lot of good publicity from the press that operates within F1 and motorsport.

    However, I’m not sure how far this good press will go. If you were to look at Pirelli from an outsiders point of view, from someone who doesn’t follow F1, then you would think “why are these tyres falling to pieces so quickly?! I don’t want them on my car!”.

    That is the biggest problem Pirelli needs to overcome, and do that by working together with the teams, drivers, F1 press. If a driver steps out of his car and blames the tyres for his slow Qualifying lap, then this will look bad. The driver might have previously said that they enjoy the fact that it makes for more interesting racing.

    It is all to do with context and understanding.

    I personally welcome the addition of high degradation of tyres, and think that this will definitely improve the season.

    1. smifaye hits Pirelli’s problem right on the head.

      Who wants tyres that fall apart for their road cars? and Pirelli is only in Formula 1 to increase brand awareness and sales of road car tyres.

      It has to be clear from all that Pirelli are producing tyres to a specification, and that includes high degradation. Equally, as already said, the drivers must not blame the tyres. Now they must admit it is the car or driver style that is too unfriendly to the tyres or, in the case of qualifying, that they timed their lap all wrong or was too quick in the warm up lap or whatever.

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        8th February 2011, 13:53

        Not only that, but it seems to go against the idea behind the slightly ‘green’ intention of re-introducing KERS and the 2013 proposals. Reduce fuel usage, save energy . . . and use more tyres?

    2. Well, to be honest, look at racing tyres in general. Who would put up with changing tyres about 3-6 times in a 1000 km ride?

      That is what they are doing on track now. It is racing, the tyres have more grip, but last only a short while. Easy to understand that.

      1. Actually, my experience with Pirelli is a little different but with the same result you mention. In 1972, I scraped my money together and bought a new Corvette. As soon I was again financially able, I bought a set of Pirelli’s to put on the car. I had more punctures caused from the widest assortment of road debris you could imagine at a rate of about every two weeks. The final straw was a flat caused by a piece of 14 gage copper wire. I have never bought Pirelli’s since.

        1. That would not be accepted on a race car as well, just hope the testing got rid of those kind of problems. But I agree, that Pirelli never really had a quality image for me.

          Seems they did a lot of work to get back into the picture lately though. When I was looking at what winter tyres to buy in October last year, they were pretty close behind Michelin, Goodyear and Continental, beating Dunlop and Bridgestone according to tests. That was unexpected.

          1. I agree, that Pirelli never really had a quality image for me.

            Apart from the calendar.

        2. thats lame,about not buying the pirelli`s because you got some punctures, everytime i put a new hoop on my bike(michelin or bridgestone) i seem to attract punctures,but it doesnt stop me buying them again ! ;) omo :)

  9. The mandatory pit stop rule needs to go. Then we’ll see who can make those tyres last!

    1. It’s bizarre that it’s there given how unnecessary it will be with the increased degradation. But imagine at Monaco someone staying out and winning with a gaggle of 6 cars behind them because they can’t get past!

      1. Yeah, it would be awesome, because that 6 cars would *have* to find a way past, can’t wait for the pitstop.

        Remember Monaco ’92 that was one of the best & intense endings ever. No overtaking.

        1. No overtaking.

          I think a lot of people are under the assumption that overtaking makes for great race (Viewers perspective).

          1. @mike-it does make for a great race, alot better than no overtaking ! ps are you not a viewer?

    2. Indeed. That or fuel stops need to return.

      The whole tyre “”strategy”” is ridiculous now.

      Either give the teams a real option at stragety or make them race for it. Don’t add in a bit of dice throwing just for the heck of it.

    3. I agree, if the tyres will be constructed to make it impossible and impractical to go with less then 1 stop, even favouring 2 stops, why force a change.

      Let the 3-4 stopper on super softs stripping them in a moment battle it out with the guy risking a no stopper on hards, taking care of them and holding on by his teeth in the end. All the more fun on the road for different strategies.

  10. I’d like to see a return to tyres that just about last a full race distance, suffering degradation toward the end. That would really provide a chance for drivers/cars that are kind to their tyres to make a stop less than some others, and provide an exciting conclusion to races.

  11. I won’t blame them if Canada repeat many times this year but good racing depends a lot on track design & car aerodynamics.

    1. If the teams did the Canada race again, they would all use the same strategy.

      Red Bull and Ross Brawn would have learned from their msitakes and it would be business as usual.

  12. Well, the tires are the obvious choice – it’s the bandage over the wound called “stupid tracks”. Just have a look at Valencia, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, Germany … slow, slow, slow.

  13. A good approach from Nick Wirth and totally agree. Any person with half a brain cell would not base their assumptions on Pirelli’s production tyres on Formula 1 information. They’re a million miles apart!

  14. I’m sorry but the tires should be designed to last! In my opinion they should just design a tire that can go full distance and let the drivers skill show who is best.

    A lot of the above commenters are hypocrites when it comes to tires. I remember 2009 and 2010 season these same people complaining the tires were falling off and the cars behind couldn’t catch up because the dirty air was running them down. Canada is one track of the season.

    Artificially making the tires fall off to improve the show is stupid, especially knowing the consequence of the car behind having to fall back simple observation would prove this to most, it is mind boggling to me to see people want this.

    In any other category be it GT1, ALMS, GT2 and the 24 hour le mans I saw drivers on tires that had been through 4 stints and were at the end of their life it showed teams were willing to gamble on strategy. But without the tires lasting it would of just been a processional pit stop within 5 lap job of the leader like F1.

    “Any person with half a brain cell would not base their assumptions on Pirelli’s production tyres on Formula 1 information. They’re a million miles apart!”

    How is an assumption though? Considering this company and Bridgestone always say the data collected goes on road tires on the BBC and in other press sites? I think anyone with a brain wouldn’t buy them anyway too expensive compared to comparable tires unless you got money to burn.

    1. I agree entirely. The tyre supplier should bring one compound of dry tyre to a race and everyone has to use the same. That compound should be the one that is expected to last a race distance at full pace, just.

      That would:
      a) force drivers to overtake on the track
      b) remove the risk of negative publicity for the tyre manufacturer
      c) reduce costs
      d) be greener
      e) get rid of the ridiculous minimum one stop rule

      Back in the day (before my time) the tyres would be used for 4 or 5 races! I don’t think we need to go that far, but I think moving so far in the opposite direction is unecessary.

    2. What’s driving skill for you? boring tires preservation?
      For that you can always watch your endurance racing. I can’t be bothered because in my opinion this isn’t racing at all, but rather a pure engineering exercise, and what can be more boring than that for most people?
      Or maybe, driving skill in F1 this season will be making full use of fast tires combined with the adjustable rear wing so people like Kobayashi will actually gamble on strategy with more pit-stops and more overtaking? Isn’t that more exciting than just some strategy variations(I want to watch racing not a chess match), like in endurance racing which may result in some drama in the pits but surely has nothing to do with ON-TRACK overtaking which is what most fans want. Is that a mind-boggling concept for you too?

  15. I really like what Wirth is saying. Pirelli are doing a great job because they listened to what everyone wanted and they didn’t have much time to prepare and test so I’ve got nothing but praise for them so far.

  16. Tires showing quick laptimes may degrade fast.

  17. “It’ll be a real shame if the drivers get out of the cars and say ‘these Pirellis…’ and they get bad publicity, because they’ve been asked to do it.”

    The teams and drivers should agree on what they want, they can’t change their minds.

  18. I dont’ blame Pirelli. I blame the Asphalt.

  19. The Best type of tires were from 2006 Bridgestone vs Michlin. Proper racing tires. lasted about 20 or so laps with maximum performance then dropped off. Those battles between Schumacher and Alonso, they would push to the limit and always stop within couple laps of eachother. It was seat of the pants most races. It should be impossible to have the best tire that can last the entire race as last years bridgestone’s did. Tires should be quickest in early laps and then start to degrade as the run ends. Obviously the Medium or Harder tires shouold last longer maybe 30-35 laps so you can do 1 less stop, but the tire should obviously be considerably slower at the expense of saving time for the extra pit stop.

  20. This is the problem with a control tyre. The sole supplier can never get any good publicity. They already win every race, so there is no PR value in that. With a sole supplier, either the tyres are too good, and the races are boring, or the tyres are not good enough and all the drivers, engineers, and in turn the commentators, and journalists complain about them.

    It’s a lose lose situation for the tyre supplier.

    At least with two or more suppliers, they can get some good PR mileage out of winning races, even if they winning driver had to change tyres 4 times during the race.

    1. It might be good to see more than one tyre supplier taking part, especially now that refuelling is banned.

  21. kenneth Ntulume
    9th February 2011, 9:48

    My dilema is?
    Everyone is quoting Canada, therefore a need to recreate Canada with tires….NOW the Big one is, what will canada be with these tires, meant to create Canada in other circuits…ope it wont be a circus

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