McLaren not expecting “radical shift” in tyres

2012 F1 season

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Korean International Circuit, 2011

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale says he’s not expecting Pirelli’s softer 2012 tyres to be too “radical”.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in Neale down-played the scale of the change for 2012: “I don’t think there’s a radical shift in either compound or construction, looking to move dramatically away from where we are, I think it’s more of a trend and evolution in that respect.”

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said the new soft tyre being used in Brazil this weekend is likely to serve as the medium compound in 2011.

Discussing the 2012 tyres Hembery said: “Everyone is going to have to forget everything they’ve learned about the compounds this year. While the names are going to stay the same they’re going to be very different products.”

Neale admitted the soft tyres had been too soft for them on occasion in 2011: “On one or two of the circuits this year the soft tyre has been perhaps a little bit on the edge of where we’d ideally like it.”

However Neale added “we’ve had some terrific racing this year” and credited the tyres for improving the contest in F1:

“Like you guys I suspect we’ve all really enjoyed the racing this year where we’ve had tyres that drivers have had to be quite [careful with] at times, or at least trade outright pace for long-term performance. That’s added a dynamic to the challenge for the drivers.”

He also praised Pirelli’s handling of the teams’ occasionally conflicting tyre requirements: “Pirelli also have been very good at managing all of the teams’ expectations.

“So there isn’t division among one team or another and we’re not able to influence them any more than any other team and I think it’s important, from a governance point of view, they hold that mid-ground.”

Jenson Button has often been able to make the softer tyres last longer in 2011 but Neale expects him and team mate Lewis Hamilton to remain evenly-matched in 2012:

“In terms of Lewis and Jenson I think broadly the nature of the racing will be the same in that we’ll still see drivers pushing to get the tyre warmed up and making sure they can get a hot lap out of it in qualifying, which means that, depending on the nature of the car, some will be able to do one lap, some are going to take three of four laps to do it.

“And yes, if you’re really aggressive and flashing all over somebody’s rear view mirrors as you swing around behind them, trying to overtake them, you are definitely going to damage the tyre. And I’m sure if Martin [Whitmarsh] was here the answer to that would be ‘make the car faster, get out in front’, and I’m sure he’d be right.

“But I think it’s pretty much the same for both drivers.”

Neale also took the opportunity to dismiss speculation over a future link-up with former engine supplier Honda, saying: “That’s all wide of the mark.

“We are wedded to, very happy with and enjoying out partnership with Mercedes-Benz. We’re not quite sure how or where that broke from, in truth. No, I can scotch the rumour and say that we are entirely focused on our Mercedes-Benz relationship.”

2012 F1 season

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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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16 comments on “McLaren not expecting “radical shift” in tyres”

  1. I know Pirelli have got some critisism recently about the tyres lasting longer & degrading less & how Pirelli have changed what there doing, However Reading the comments Pre-Season I believe Pirelli are exactly where they always said they wanted to be.

    Pirelli always said there aim was for most races to be 2 stop races with some drivers doing 3 & others parhaps trying 1 & I think thats where we are.

    I’ve been much happier with the way the tyres have worked the past few races compared to earlier on in the year. The races feel more like races now rather than tyre endurance stints (for lack of a better phrase) as we saw once or twice earlier on (Istanbul especially).

  2. Making teams face the challenge of unknown tire performance at the start of every Grand Prix seems unacceptable. On one hand this tactic somewhat levels the playing field for all teams yet on the other hand reflects the inability of some teams to adjust to this unknown factor.

    In theory the big dollar teams have the resouces in place to adapt and at the opposite end the teams continue to struggle and frankly are so far off pace it is ridiculous.

    And almost everybody is raving about the job Pirelli have done this year. The difference between the haves and have nots is having a fat enough wallet to adjust to the all over the board Pirellis and the constant need to figure how the tire presented today will work best.

    As the story says McLaren are guessing at what kind of tire the new tire will be. If they are having to guess then what is being done at HRT?? Might as well have handed them a loaded gun with a single round in it.

    Formula One has adopted some bloody awful ideas this season and act as if they are really good for what Formula One has morphed into. Those ideas are DRS, the Dumb Racing System, KERS or CURS, the Completely Uneeded Racing System and Pirelli Candy Tires, sure are pretty but you never know what flavor your going to get and You build a Track, maybe we like it and maybe you lose your event, it is not up to you.

    F1 is a mess and the fan base is starting to erode. Week after week, the fans support much of what I have been saying. Time to address these complaints and return F1 to its glory by stabilizing rules and their effects.

    1. I think you’re right. But F1 faces à decline in fans. And investgations showed that lack of overtaking was /is one big contributor to that decline.

      So I appreciate FOTA’s efforts.

      But for me, those things can go too.

      Maybe à solution would be to make sure races are free to watch on big screens in highly populated cities in Africa and Asia.

      That way you get through to world’s future middle class…

      1. “But F1 faces à decline in fans”

        Thats actually not true.

        Even during past seasons that featured less overtaking the TV viewing figures were extremely strong. Only time there was ever a significant drop was towards the end of 2002 & again in 2004.

        Track attendance has also remained high on the majority of circuits despite the ticket prices & global economic worries.

        1. Whilst overtaking – or, rather, exciting races – affect how many people keep watching during a race, evidence from British TV when ITV showed F1 was that the intensity of the championship fight was the largest factor in race audiences. In the years when Michael Schumacher annihilated the opposition, race audiences were significantly lower than the years when he won them by a slender margin – yes overtaking was no more prevalent in those years. The cars simply found themselves closer on the road.

      2. Your comment about over-taking was true and seeking a solution was in the cards. The idea of DRS and in particular how it is used is so completely stupid that I simply can’t understand how it could ever have been even proposed for how it would be used and then accepted.

        The proper way to use DRS is how it used on Fridays. Allow the driver to use his best judgement as to when and were it is best suited.

        “Free to see” races???It costs me $175 US a month to see the races televised on SPEED. How about you?

  3. I think neale has forgotten to speak to hembery about next years tyres !!!!

  4. May be McLaren is trying to send a message to Pirelli?

  5. That old age argument of Evolution v Revolution :)

    LH was afraid he was going to get “Lion Claws” next season after the “Octopus” they started with :)

  6. A really nice and informative article. I must say these McLaren phone ins have been a really nice way to communicate with the world so far.

    It offers the ease of a press statement combined with having really interesting content by virtue of them being asked questions. Thanks guys.

  7. This is what I have an issue with. If trying to overtake takes the life out of your tires then you are basically killing racing. How can that be good for racing.

    It is not like tyres last more than 20 laps or so, atleast on the first stint they seem to last around 15 laps. Usually there are only so many overtaking spots in a lap, that would mean you are facing atleast 2-3 laps of burning your tyres? Then you are on the back foot because now you have to pit at lap 13 or 12.

    Look at Mark Webber two races in a row his rear tyres were done when he was trying to overtake Button.

    And then we complain that racing is very processional, ofcourse no one wants to take a risk of aggressive overtakes and compromise race strategy.

    And then FIA comes up with 2 DRS zones to fix these issues. Which in turn makes us shout farcical overtaking.

    I like Bridgestones better, these Pirellis have become comical at best.

  8. “And yes, if you’re really aggressive and flashing all over somebody’s rear view mirrors as you swing around behind them, trying to overtake them, you are definitely going to damage the tyre. And I’m sure if Martin [Whitmarsh] was here the answer to that would be ‘make the car faster, get out in front’, and I’m sure he’d be right.

    Did he really say that? That does not sound very positive towards overtaking at all really, does it.

  9. Looks like that has neutered Lewis Hamilton. He better start racing like Jenson – that is no overtaking until the guy in front makes a mistake or has more worn tyres. Boooring!

    1. I don’t think it’s as extreme as that. However, if you do believe Button’s approach is ‘boooring’, remember, you don’t get points for bravado, you only get points for bringing the car home in the points!

      1. As a viewer i am not looking at who is getting more points, i am looking for racing. So I have to agree with Mr Zing Zang booooring! Bring some life back into the tyres.

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