Pirelli tyres

Paddock Diary: United States Grand Prix day two

2018 United States Grand Prix

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Pirelli have announced the three colours their tyres will use in 2019, but would unmarked tyres increase unpredictability in F1?


Alarm jars me awake as per time shift plan. Although it’s early in Texas, it’s already 11am in Europe, and my in-tray is filling up. I sort various emails, grab e-versions of The Times and Telegraph, get up to speed with happenings and then prepare for my F1 day.


As I’m planning on taking Brit Brekkie at Williams, I grab a coffee from the Drive-Thru Maccie-D en route to the highway, then head north in teeming rain. Still, the journey takes but 10 or so minutes longer than usual, so no problems.


Arrive, set up for the day, then head for Williams, where I end up a the table of Dmitry Belousov, SMP Racing Executive Director, and thus Sergey Sirotkin’s ‘minder’. We discuss the chances of the Russian remaining at Williams next year – fair to middling it seems, but there’s no doubt Sergey faces a fight, what with Robert Kubica said to have found more funding and Esteban Ocon hoping for a one-year deal.

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As forecast, rain in first practice leaves us with little to report on. So a few words on my host for the weekend: Forrest Bond, whom I originally befriended in 2005, and view as my mentor in F1 politics. At the time I’d penned a report on Minardi’s cars being excluded for not complying with the regulations, only to be reinstated by a Melbourne court.

I had studied the verdict and interviewed all major players, and felt immensely proud of what I believed to be the definitive analysis – only to be gazumped by Racefax, run by a Texan who I’d never heard of and had never held full FIA accreditation, yet somehow published the identical documents plus the FIA’s internal paperwork.

I called Forrest to congratulate him and it turned out that, like me at the time, he was driven by distaste for the FIA’s administration during the Max Mosley era. We’ve stayed in touch ever since – eventually sharing sources, material, and collaborating on various political stories. When Mosley eventually stood down in 2009, Forrest officially retired, believing his work to be done.

Forrest has granted us unique access to his archives, which stretch back to the early nineties, and we plan to share some of them with you soon. The accounts of a turbulent period in the sport’s history are well worth waiting for, I assure you.

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12 noon

FIA team boss presser, and I’m gratified to hear Maurizio Arrivabene talk about the need for a fundamental re-launch for F1 – echoing what I’d written earlier this week in my Peak F1 column, which more than cancels the criticism for what certain paddock folk perceive as “negativity”. Given that F1’s FWONK share price has tanked almost 12 per cent in the past week, I get their sensitivity…


Lunch in the Media Canteen: pulled pork, biscuit (the scone-like American version), noodles and coleslaw, followed by brownies. Just as one shouldn’t peer a gift horse in the mouth, so it is with freebie food, though one colleague ungenerously references a scene from “The Shawshank Redemption” (which happens to be one of my favourite films). The alternatives? Walk through pouring rain for lunch at a team.


Meet up with a friend, Nori Yamamoto, whom I met in Fuji in 2007, in the main grandstand lounge. A lifelong F1 fan whose assistance proved extremely valuable during a succession of Japanese Grands Prix, he is currently qualifying as a surgeon in Atlanta, and has travelled with his family to Austin. We meet up all too briefly, but better short than not at all.


Second practice is even wetter and only half the grid venture out for a few laps. The sport talks a lot about building F1 interest in the USA, then the fans who do show up have to sit through this. Some drivers blame a lack of wet rubber but, according to Pirelli, at no stage were teams in danger of running out of their allocations wet/intermediate tyres allocations. The buck-passing will be of no comfort to the sodden fans, however.


Interviews start; Williams duo, Carlos Sainz Jnr at Renault – who laments a shortage of wet rubber – followed by the team’s Nick Chester, Force India’s Otmar Szafnauer, with Mario Isola at Pirelli being last up.


Start, Suzuka, 2018
Peak F1: Is the pinnacle of motorsport facing irreversible decline?
Day (almost) done and dusted, I pack up and catch a shuttle to Victory Lounge (per chance where I‘d met with Nori) for Pirelli’s press conference/BBQ party, where the tyre company announces the sidewall colours for its Hard/Medium/Soft choices per grand prix. The sequence is white/yellow/red respectively, and no wonder: the colours tie in with Pirelli’s corporate identity.

Will the change simplify matters for fans? Well, given that we’re cutting down from an array of colours to just three, it is bound to, but I wonder whether we’re over-complicating matters. How about scrapping all sidewall colours and keeping compounds a secret – as per tyre war days?

I put this concept, which has been aired in the paddock a few times by others, to Daniel Ricciardo, Pirelli’s VIP guest for the evening. He reckons teams would work out who is on what compound. I’m not so sure: the teams may guess what compound the car ahead or whatever, is running, but are unlikely to be sure every time.


Pirelli gig over, I head for New Braunfels. I’m in bed by 10pm, ready for a 4am start as per plan.

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2018 United States Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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21 comments on “Paddock Diary: United States Grand Prix day two”

  1. Forrest has granted us unique access to his archives, which stretch back to the early nineties, and we plan to share some of them with you soon. The accounts of a turbulent period in the sport’s history are well worth waiting for, I assure you.

    Nice! Please save these for the inter-season break :-). Those are the dull days that we need to tide over, especially as 2019’s seats are fast filling up.

    1. Precisely what I thought when I read that bit :)

      1. Agreed. I’m expecting stuff surrounding the likes of Max and BE and Briatore and Benetton and MS/Ferrari pre and post-Senna. The kangaroo court that took place within F1 that saw MS allowed the 94 WDC after hitting Hill and having illegal cars on numerous counts, and then MS being ripped away from Briatore’s hands and set up at Ferrari by Max and Bernie.

  2. How about scrapping all sidewall colours and keeping compounds a secret – as per tyre war days?

    So the teams would know their own compound, but can’t visually identify the car ahead?

    I really like this. Not sure TV broadcasters would enjoy it, though :-)

    1. I think there is also a possibility that the teams figure out which tires others are using pretty quickly but the spectators and commentators have no clue what is going on.

      1. @socksolid – that definitely feels like what would actually happen :-)

      2. I could also see a situation where some fans get a knack for identifying the compounds and get confused why some of the commentators cannot…

  3. Will the change simplify matters for fans? Well, given that we’re cutting down from an array of colours to just three, it is bound to, but I wonder whether we’re over-complicating matters

    I think the move to consistent colors is the only sane way. Having 9 or 12 different colors only guarantees nobody except the hardcore fans know on which tires the cars are on during the race. What pirelli has been doing makes no sense at all. Unless I watch all the sessions and put effort into learning the different compound colors and their order I have no idea whether the driver is on the soft, medium or hard compound. The names themselves are also totally meaningless in current system. The medium is not the medium tire and soft compound could be the hardest tire available during a weekend. Just nonsensically stupid the current system is. It is like it is designed to be as complex as possible. Makes as much sense as forcing the teams to use random colors on their car every weekend. Good riddance.

    Whether the tires should be marked at all is a topic worth thinking about. Theoretically it could add unpredictability but it could also just make it even harder to follow what the tire situation is during the race while the teams have it all figured out.

    1. @socksolid – agreed, re your first para. And I’m definitely happy about the choice of 3 colours as well, instead of the newer shades that were forced upon us by recent changes.

      1. One reservation I have with this set of colours @phylyp, @socksolid, is that in the past white and yellow could sometimes be surprisingly hard to differentiate depending on lighting (and weather, think China fog), especially for the Sky tv team :)

        1. @bosyber – think big. Think LEDs. Wait… LEDs on the wheels!!

          (Oh, dear God, what have I done? FOG might actually run with this)

          1. Yes, the wheel could spell out the type of tyre for us less astute people, e.g. “Soft”, “Med”, “Hard”. They could also include “Pirelli” as well.

    2. I will second this…

  4. I strongly suspect that the teams would quickly figure out who is on what tyre.
    The B teams and their suppliers would instantly share their information surely?

    1. @nullapax, during the pre-season tests, quite a few observers were able to tell reasonably quickly as soon as the teams started doing moderately long runs what tyres they were using, even if the tyres were not always painted – it turned out that it didn’t take too long to work out from the initial times and the relative drop off to work out what tyres they were on.

      The teams would therefore probably work out fairly quickly what strategy their rivals are on – the race simulation stints during the free practise sessions would probably give the game away soon enough for them – but it would probably make things more confusing for the fans.

      1. but it would probably make things more confusing for the fans.

        Yes, that’s a good point. Currently F1 is trying to appear as though new fans are important. Not having a colour implies the tyres are all the same, so different colours do at least suggest there’s a difference between tyres.
        As I think about it, why not paint the compound’s initial, e.g. “S”, “M”, or “H” onto the tyre as well or instead of a colour band? While this probably won’t show up on a regular shot, often there are slow motion replays of cars during a race, and then the initial will appear, again reinforcing the idea of different tyre types. If you painted the initial twice or 3 times away from the colour band then it would also momentarily appear at certain speeds as well.

  5. Not that I’d care too much, but purple would be a better coloring to refer the softest compound available for a race weekend than red, for example, because it’s the coloring code for session best sector and lap time, so, therefore, it’d be more fitting for this purpose than red.

  6. There’s three F1 sites I visit daily, this one, Joe Saward and thejudge13. Yes, really.

    I like to get a broad perspective on things and don’t comment much, lurking is enough for me.

    One reader asked a question to Joe Saward in the comments on his site, if Joe read an article by you on here. Reply: ‘I don’t read Dieter’

    Is there some beef between you? And why?

    1. Thanks for pointing towards a couple of new sites – I’ll check them out later. ;)

    2. I don’t read him either. I have trustworthy sources.

  7. I don’t like it. Not Soft and Not Hard tyre should be White.

Comments are closed.