Carlos Sainz Jnr, McLaren, Paul Ricard, 2019

French and Austrian GPs show F1’s passing problem is “not just the tyres”

2019 F1 season

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The varying quality of recent Formula 1 races show the sport can’t single out the tyres as the sole reason for poor racing, says Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola.

The sport was heavily criticised after a processional race in France. However the following race in Austria provided drama, as well as the first non-Mercedes winner of the season.

Asked by RaceFans what lessons could be drawn from these races, Isola said the variation makes it “even more complicated” to analyse what F1 needs to change in order to produce consistently exciting grands prix.

“Also in Austria race one in Formula Three was quite boring and race two was incredible,” he added, “with the same tyres on the same track and the same drivers in the same cars.”

Isola believes “sometimes we have to accept we have boring races, but ‘we have to accept’ doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work to find a solution to have more exciting races.

“We had the same tyres in Paul Ricard and in Spielberg – we had C2, C3 and C4 – [but] we have completely different result. What it’s telling us is we have to work together with all the stakeholders here to understand which is the right package. It’s not just the tyres.”

He said his view was supported by the consequences of the change made to tyres last year. “In 2017 everybody was saying ‘you have been too conservation and races are boring because you are being too conservative’. The result in 2018 is that we went a lot softer and they were just managing the pace.

“So was it the right decision? I’m not one hundred percent sure. But because we just considered the tyres, just moved the tyres on one side and not considering all the package, that’s the problem.”

Formula 1’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds recently admitted that using high degradation tyre compounds “is not the right way to go” and the sport has been “asking completely the wrong things of Pirelli”.

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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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12 comments on “French and Austrian GPs show F1’s passing problem is “not just the tyres””

  1. Considering Pirelli has been tweaking the tyre specification for how many years now, I think freezing the tyre specification should be tried. The complaints mainly stem from the unpredictability or inability to get the tyre to work, surely allowing the teams to spend more time with the tyres, more testing, more running will help. If they still can’t get the tyre to work, then that’s the fault of the team.

    It just seems like every year the tyres are a talking point for one reason or another. Yet every year they are tweaking the compounds. When running an experiment, extraneous variables should be limited as much as possible. The smartest thing Brawn or Symonds could possibly do is freeze the tyre completely. Remove it as a variable from year-on-year performance, to help judge the impact of their aero changes.

    Too late now though, all this is irrelevant when the 18 inch wheels come in, completely different ball game.

    1. You might have to freeze the tracks as well as the tyres to prevent them overheating.

    2. Pirelli don’t set the tyre specs. They are told what to produce and how, by the same people who are responsible for all the other stupid mistakes along the same lines.

    3. @skipgamer, bear in mind that, at the same time, many of the larger teams are actively trying to push Pirelli in one direction or another in an effort to try and manipulate the design in their favour.

      We have requested for higher pressures from one team, and lower pressures from another; some want a softer and more malleable side wall and more flexible construction, whilst others prefer to have a more rigid form of construction and so forth. Even if the specification was frozen, you would probably still get complaints from the teams over what exact specification Pirelli chose to freeze the tyres with.

  2. Michael Ward
    24th July 2019, 8:11

    “can’t single out the tyres as the sole reason for poor racing”, this is an admittance that the tyres are a contributor to boring racing.

  3. Right, high deg tyres are not the only problem, they just act as a multiplier of the other problems.

  4. Processional races are nothing new, in recent decades they have always been a feature of F1. Why is it seen as such a problem now?

    1. Derek Edwards
      24th July 2019, 22:39

      If it is considered more of a problem now it could well be because most people now need to spend money to watch a live F1 race broadcast. Free to air probably doesn’t need to provide perceived value quite so consistently.

  5. Given how Hamilton did a fastest lap on tires that his engineers felt needed to be changed 10 laps earlier, I wonder how many races became processions because the engineers were telling drivers to back off to save the tires when in fact the tires could have been pushed.

    1. Good point, @velocityboy. Engineers want to avoid the cliff-driving antics of the 2013 Spanish GP.

  6. Cotd right there.

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