The British Grand Prix was a major turning point in the 2013 championship. A series of dangerous high-speed punctures for four drivers led Pirelli to overhaul their tyres and introduce new limits on how they could be used.
Tyres are such a fundamental part of a car’s performance that this could not help but affect the competitiveness of the teams. But who gained and lost the most?
This table shows how many points each team scored before and after the changes to the tyres, and shows whether their average points haul at each race rose or fell after the British Grand Prix:
|Rounds 1-8 avg.
|Rounds 9-19 avg.
The first and most obvious question is did the change in tyres alter the destiny of the constructors’ championship? It’s hard to argue that it did: Red Bull were ahead before the tyres were changed and they were ahead afterwards.
That’s not to say it had no effect – far from it. Up to and including the British Grand Prix Red Bull had a slight edge over their rivals but were not yet dominating. After it they had a much more comfortable margin, demonstrated by Sebastian Vettel’s nine consecutive wins at the end of the season.
Given that Red Bull were the most vocal critics of how fragile the tyres were at the beginning of the year, it would be easy to put this all down to the tyres. But bound up in this is the question of how much effort they and their rivals continued to put into their 2013 campaign as the second half of the season wore on and a Red Bull victory looked increasingly inevitable.
Mercedes, for example, went into the summer break saying they’d decide after the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix how much effort they would continue to expend on their 2013 campaign.
Ferrari repeatedly said the change in tyres had disadvantaged them, yet also admitted some of the performance upgrades they brought to the F138 failed to produce the expected improvements.
There’s no mistaking which team gained the most in the second half of the season – Sauber enjoyed a more than sixfold increase in their points-scoring rate after the tyres were altered. They also made progress with their car’s aerodynamic set-up which coincided with the change.
In India Monisha Kaltenborn said the new aerodynamic package “counts for more than 50 per cent of this improvement”. But she added: “I think to be fair about it, the change in the tyres was – unlike last year – not against us this time, but we benefited maybe more than others from it.”
Lotus, who out-scored Mercedes and Ferrari after the tyres were changed, are one of the most interesting examples of how complicated the effects of the tyre change were. Although the switch to more conservative tyres did not suit the E21, it allowed Pirelli to pick more aggressive compounds, which did suit the Lotus.
What’s more their two drivers responded to the new tyres in different ways. Romain Grosjean clicked with them very quickly and his second half of the season was vastly better than the first. Kimi Raikkonen, however, was less happy with the new tyres, especially the post-Silverstone restrictions on set-up.
But again it must be stressed that there was more going on than just a change in tyres. Raikkonen was also less happy with Lotus’s long wheelbase chassis which was introduced in the second half of the season, and asked them to bring the original car to Abu Dhabi. Qualifying indicated he might have cracked the problem – alas his season soon came to a disappointingly early end.
The second part of this article will look at how the drivers were affected.
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Image © Sauber