The Game Changer

Alonso celebrates in parc ferme James Moy Photography

Alonso celebrates in parc ferme
James Moy Photography

I loved the Spanish Grand Prix. Every lap of it.

I jest not. I loved. Every. Single Lap.

You may ask why, with the world at large seemingly set on berating another race in which tyre strategy played too large a role. I hope I can go some way to explaining myself.

Earlier in the weekend I had a fabulous conversation with a driver in the paddock. I didn’t record it as it was just two friends chewing the fat, and he probably wouldn’t want me to quote him anyway. So please forgive the paraphrasing.

“Mate, everyone is complaining about the tyres. But the guy who wins… does he complain? No. You should ask them why they don’t complain when they do well, when the day before they were saying it was the end of the world. The only one who understands it is Kimi. He says it’s the same for everyone. If you don’t like it, fuck off, do something else. He’s right. If you make the tyres more durable and you only have three stops in a race everyone will still try to make only two stops. It’s the same now as it was with Bridgestone. You always try to do one less stop. By complaining you only damage the sport. It’s the same for everyone. Get on with it and race.”

I loved the opinion. I loved the candor.

There’s nothing more depressing than standing in the pen at the end of the race and asking a driver how his day went, and how happy he must be with his result, only to get an answer that racing to a delta is boring and gone are the days of pushing during a race.

So ask yourself. What did Ferrari do on Sunday?

Did they drive to a delta? Did they try and make one fewer stop than their rivals? Did they hell. They went out and they pushed. Every. Single. Lap.

Fernando Alonso’s opening stint was mesmerising. He was running quali laps on full fuel. It was an absolute joy to behold. And while he might not have been putting in quali laps all day, he certainly wasn’t hanging around.

Four pitstops for Fernando James Moy Photography

Four pitstops for Fernando
James Moy Photography

What Ferrari did in Spain was to completely flip the script. Rather than going into the race and telling their drivers to hold back, they told them to push with everything they had. Four stops was always their intention and it caught everyone else off guard.

Red Bull realised what was going on too late and switched from three stops to four, but by then the race had already been won.

Formula 1 loves a villain and this year Pirelli has been cast into this pantomime role. But, as I explained at the end of the Spanish Grand Prix in my final thought on the NBC Sports Network, the job of a Formula 1 team is to design a car around the variables which are unchangeable. Hermann Tilke used to get the blame for ruining the show for his apparently dreadful circuit design. But is it not the job of the teams to design a car for the circuits on which the championship races? Of course it is. Just as it is the job of the teams to design a car that maximizes the tyres on which it runs.

The problem we’ve had of late is this unfortunate trend towards the creation of a formula based upon the misheld belief that preservation is a better mode of attack than consumption.

What Ferrari showed in Barcelona was that yes you may have to make more pitstops than we’ve seen in the past, but that it is possible to push from the moment the lights go out to the moment that the flag falls. That so much of the press is decrying the race shows, I believe, a disappointing cynicism. Pirelli has become too easy a target.

But should we blame Pirelli for simply doing what they’ve been asked to do and make the tyres less durable? Or should we blame the teams who have seemingly got themselves into the rut of a blame culture that hides the true fact that some have not designed a car capable of maximizing one of the unchangeable variables that has defined the history of the sport?

Because this is nothing new.

Pirelli has become the F1 villain in 2013 James Moy Photography

Pirelli has become the F1 villain in 2013
James Moy Photography

I remember with great fondness an interview I conducted with Sir Stirling Moss about a decade ago about his greatest races. And the one that always sticks in my mind is his explanation of how he won the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix. He lined up in a privately entered Cooper and against the might of Ferrari he won, taking the first F1 victory for a mid-engined car in the process. How he did it holds as much relevance today as it did back then.

The tyres were only good for 30 laps. 40 tops. The race was 80 laps long. You couldn’t finish without stopping for new tyres. The Cooper’s tyres were fixed with studs, rather than the quick hammer release nuts on the Ferraris. Moss couldn’t win with such a long pitstop delta to change a studded wheel.

He pulled into the lead but nobody paid it any attention. He’d have to stop and all would be lost. But he didn’t stop. He carried on. And by the time Ferrari figured out he wasn’t going to stop, it was too late. The pack gave chase, but Moss won… by 2.7 seconds from Luigi Musso. His tyres were down to the canvas. He’d been driving on the grass for the last few laps to try and cool them down.

“Was I brave that day or stupid?” Moss confided in me. “To this day I don’t know as the two were very closely related. I did everything you shouldn’t normally do to win that race.”

Ferrari rewrote the script in Spain James Moy Photography

Ferrari rewrote the script in Spain
James Moy Photography

In a way, and although actually completely the opposite of Moss’ fabulous Argentine win in that Ferrari made more stops than expected, that’s precisely what the Scuderia did on Sunday. Because they did everything that, apparently, you shouldn’t normally do on Pirelli tyres to win the race.

They actually raced.

As the Moss story highlights, trying to make fewer pitstops has always been a part of F1. It is nothing even vaguely new.

But, for me, the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix was a game changer. Ferrari’s victory was the perfect riposte to those who claimed that Pirelli’s tyres could not be raced on. Does anybody now have the excuse of saying that it is impossible to push in a race on these tyres, when Ferrari showed that for 66 laps you could… and that by doing so you could win?

With the exception of Lotus the other teams have every reason to feel frustrated after the Grand Prix, as do their fans. Ferrari showed what was possible. It is now up to everyone else to react. For while it might not be achievable for everyone at every race to do what Ferrari did today, what they proved is that Formula 1’s greatest misconception is that doing so at all was impossible.

That’s why I loved the Spanish Grand Prix.

Think about it for a minute.

It’s why you should have loved it too.

Alonso celebrates his win James Moy Photography

Alonso celebrates his win
James Moy Photography

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98 thoughts on “The Game Changer

  1. Yes yes yes! Why does no one else seem to think this?! Pirelli are working to a brief, a brief set by F1. The tyres are the same for everyone, and should therefore not be such a talking point. You take your ingredients and you try to cook the best dish. Finally, finally, finally…somebody dared to fry. It was a joy to watch it and it was even more of a joy that this leap of faith paid off. And I’m not surprised it was Fernando Alonso. This is what Formula 1 should be about – get in the car and give everything you have. For the oldest team in the sport to have ‘gone back’ to this is telling.

    If Alonso was at 80% before, what is 100%? And if everyone suddenly starts hammering it again, how will that change the perception of driver talent? Has Vettel been driving at 100%? Rosberg at 70%? I hope this continues, although it seems Pirelli have sadly given in slightly…

  2. You have some good points but Ferrari didn’t push every single lap. Alonso said he drove at 90% percent. Others couldn’t because tyres were limiting them too much.

    • Uh, take a look at his laptimes compare to the other protagonists ( For the first 3 stints, he was just faster. In the last stint- he was merely competitive. Perhaps Alonso was just having a bit of fun (“oh, I was reading a book along the way”)

      • Your link didn’t work for me.

        Referencing another chart from JA comparing Merc to Ferrari lap times, you say he was just faster but both seem to pit around the same time. If the Ferrari was going all out, and the Merc cars were conserving tires then it doesn’t make sense that they would pit at the same time.

  3. very thought provoking. Yes tires are a factor in F1 and so is the gearbox and brakes. We don’t moan when they fail or slow a car down. We always enjoy wet/dry races when cars do more than normal pits stops because it mixes them up if you are on the wrong tire at just because they were at the wrong bit of the track when it started raining, or thought about going for a lap to many.

    I was one of the ones on twitter moaning about the tires and how they are ruining a sport. But in fact we asked Pirelli for this..and in a way they are giving us what we wanted.. After reading this I am still unsure..

    But in the end the best cars and drivers are up there at the sharp end every race weekend. The mercedes seem to do well round track with slower corners. but the circuit de catalunya doesnt have many slow corners which explains why they were so hard on the tires.

    Keep up the good work. Just wish we had NBC F1 in the UK. If you get excited about GP2 and GP3 on the world feed. would love to hear you on F1.

  4. I get what you are saying, but it’s not fair to other teams that Pirelli suit only Ferrari and Lotus. Do you think other teams are stupid? They are not. If they knew they could push hard and win, they would have done it. Obviously they could not.

    • Pirelli produced a set of tyres. Same for everyone. The tyres aren’t designed for specific cars. It’s the job of the teams to design their cars to the tyres. Always has been.

      • While I agree with most of the things, especially that Alonso pushed a lot in the beginning to create nice outside overtakes, I don’t agree that they pushed to the limit every lap, as Fernando admitted himself, perhaps to 90%.

        I do agree, however, that tires are the same for everyone, and their characteristics exhibit different car settings and weaknesses at certain tracks – this is the most important point for me. Tires simply behave differently on different tracks. We get lot of noise now, but in the next races the compounds will be better understood and the bark will be gone.

        On a related note, it will be absolute madness to make tire changes mid-season, as cars are already built around some of their characteristics.

    • So based on your argument the FIA did the right thing banning the double blown diffuser and neutering Adrian Newey’s aero design brilliance, thereby saving the rest of their teams from their own stupidity. People come up with the most pathetic arguments to justify they’re own misguided points of view. Don’t worry, this time next year you won’t be complaining about the tires, you’ll be complaining about the engines!

  5. “The only one who understands it is Kimi. He says it’s the same for everyone. If you don’t like it, fuck off, do something else.”

    Of course, the main reason that Kimi doesn’t complain is because his car is the kindest on its tyres…

    • And why is Kimi’s car kind to its tyres? Because it’s designed so.

      Every team had a glimpse of what the tyres would be like in Brazil last year and every single one could’ve designed their car to suit them. Lotus and Ferrari have obviously done the best job in this regard and are now enjoying the fruits.

      Other teams should just stop being sad and be awesome instead.

      • Wasn’t Lotus the test mule for pirelli tyres? So maybe Lotus has a slight advantage to the data and there for are gentler to degradation of said tyres?

  6. Interesting but no. What happens if Mercedes decide to push every lap? They’d run out of tyres. You can only push as much as your car will allow for it.

      • yup. If you push to hard and run out of gas, destroy the suspension by whacking the curbs too often– too f*$*$in bad. You have to stay within the parameters of the equipment, conditions etc. given to you.

  7. This is the best thing I have read in a long time! Well done chap!

    Ferrari did an amazing thing today, and that is showing all the cry babies that there are ways to go around a “problem”.

    Fernando was incredible today. From the start, you could see his hunger for victory and caught everyone off guard. I heard some comments saying that he was mad, to go like that and destroy the tires prematurely, but he showed everyone was wrong.

    Incredible race, Kimi was fantastic as well, and this year I think the championship is between these two blokes.

    Best regards


  8. at some point in the middle of the race i had a thought what if all the teams and the drivers do what ferarri did no matter how much stop they’ll made, and give the spectators a great race to watch, well i’m only watch the race from telly but when vettel told to not to racing so what he did on the track then.
    but in the other in my opinion, these tyre management gave the small teams a glimpse of chance to steal a position, don’t know which one is better. but it’s a race not a game of preserving rubber

    • I think Vettel was told “not to race” in order to conserve tyres– because another stop would have lost more valuable points. By that point in the race, the gonzo approach was beyond them. Too bad.

      I’m hoping that next time, or perhaps in Montreal, that the teams will have modelled this strategy and we’ll see more racing like this.

  9. You were watching the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona, right? The “race” that was held earlier today? Sorry, can’t agree with anything you’ve written. It was a complete joke. Don’t want to see “contrived tyre management formula”. The argument that it’s the same for everyone, is just rationalizing a product that is crap.

    • It’s not so hard to read and understand what you just read. He said that perhaps others should start racing like Alonso/Ferrari did in GP Spain. Race. Others have the same tires, should be racing, too.

  10. Even if Ferrari did push “every single lap” (which they didn’t), what about the other 10 teams on the grid?

    Drivers being told not to overtake. Drivers being told not to defend. On board footage of drivers, including Ferraris, coasting around shifting early and staying off the kerbs.

    No one ever goes off the track anymore pushing, why do you think that is?

    F1 is just a time trial this season, they may as well run the race one by one and award the race to the ‘optimal package’. Seriously, at least the cries are starting to be heard, why dont you come and join us?!!

  11. I think I have seen the strategy of “doing an extra stop and going flat out” work about a dozen times in IndyCar/CART. Some of it even without “push to pass” (the US version of DRS). There is a lot of merit in lateral thinking in race strategy (see Penske, Roger). As was once very famously shown by Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn.

    Great blog post Will.

  12. Just a thought.. maybe in the future if the tires stay like this.. how about a min. amount of laps you can do on each type of tire. a bit like a pit window say min off 12 on softs – 17 on mediums and 20 on hards.. would this ever work in F1?

    • @ re1axinmood:
      Ideas are a good thing, re1axinmood; but no: this one wouldn’t work!

      As you know, racing is about competition; and whilst this has always been a juggling act to a greater or lesser extent, it should not be primarily about driving to a prescription to cope with an ever-increasing plethora of contrivances or contrived rules. In fact, this is the fundamental problem and the underlying reason we are discussing things here in Will’s blog.

      In the first instance, race drivers want to showcase their racing ability. This is something which comes to the fore when drivers and teams have a greater choice; not an ever increasing list of what they can or cannot do or when they can or can’t do it. A driver’s concern should be primarily focussed on out-driving an opponent in wheel-to-wheel action when the situation arises. Any contrivance or rule which reduces the likelihood of this is anathema to all (especially drivers) and is therefore fundamentally flawed. What we want is essentially the same thing an excited public came to watch all those years ago when racing began: ACTION!

      This was the fundamental reason behind DRS (which I do not to divert attention to here), but if the situation with tyres becomes an overwhelming priority, as has become the case, DRS becomes irrelevant and is made to look … well, just silly!

  13. This is an interesting and thought provoking article. I agree with a lot of it – although I also didn’t particularly think the Grand Prix was a classic. Largely because its catalyuna…typically a low overtake circuit.

    What I dislike about the Pirelli tyres though isn’t reflected in your article. I dislike the concept of a ‘cliff’. It means that the tyres have a definite life span. So the teams have to work within that life span to create strategy. I’d prefer the tyres to be durable but to get gradually slower (I.e for a team to be able to not pit if they wanted). The old goodyears used to be able to do that and we’d see a genuine mix of strategy. I feel that the cliff prevents that. So we see 3 or 4 stops, not 1, 2, 3, 4 or even none.

    • Excellent point, that. The issue is not so much degradation versus conservation. Rather it’s about avoiding the risk of hitting that cliff and completely ruining your race because a ‘bad’ lap time costs you not an extra second, but an extra 4 or worse!

      • I feel the owners of many of these comments are new to F1. I highly recommend they watch some, slightly, older races; 2008 was a gong show because the deg was so high on the Bridgestone. Drivers would not attempt passes because it put them into heavy marbles giving them 0 chance of making the next turn. Does anyone remember the notched tires of the early 2000’s???

        • Some people should watch pre-refuelling era races. They were about conserving everything, except we just didn’t hear about it because of the limited info during the race. Now we have all the team radio, there’s no mystery.

          Sadly if enough of the press bleat on about how bad the racing is because of the tyres, enough people will start believing it instead of just enjoying it.

  14. Sorry Will, aside from a ‘good’ podium crew, this was just another race in a long line of mediocre races. I don’t think anything has really changed – Ferrari hit the sweep spot for Barcelona, and I think that’s really all there is to take away…
    Aside from a few cheap thrills – again, the main thing thoughts I’ve taken away from the races lately relate to an overwhelming sense of waste – of driving and engineering talent.
    Incidentally I really wish we were in a ‘Moss-era’ in regards to tires – one where a driver could actually conceive of running and entire race distance on one set of tires. That’s *real* seat-of-you-pants strategy…not the current ‘who can respond best to the contrived situation we’ve laid of for you’ style strategy…

    • I completely agree about your thoughts on the possibility of going far further without stops.

      It is a simple equation:
      Excitement and real action is more likely when there are a greater range of possibilities; not when fundamental components deliberately limit them!

      Although I sympathise with a tyre supplier which essentially provided what was asked for, I’ve always maintained that there should be at least the possibility of going at least half race distance before stopping!

      (I hope you followed at least half of that sentence!) :-)

  15. While a sub-20 second pit delta at Barcelona helps, I’ve been soooo waiting for someone to try the opposite tack like Ferrari did today. I’m a data analyst/architect, and I’ve been wondering about the parameters that may have been blocking such a strategy. Who knew that critical limiting value appears to have been *imagination*?

    If all the lights dim in the UK this evening, understand it’s all teams’ supercomputers being fired up to consider the heretofore unthinkable. Good piece, Will.

  16. You definitely make some great points that I always try to iterate myself. Pirelli are not to blame for this. Not at all. As you rightly point out these tyres are being made to a spec that has been set out by the governing body.

    You are also right that some teams are doing a better job of designing a car to better handle these tyres, which was evident this weekend. Mercedes had a storm of a car when it came to quali, but turn over 24 hours to race day and its not worth stink at race pace. Again, you are 100% right on saying that they should do better in designing a car that is better suited to the tyres and being able to use them in such a way to make it count (IE: get points on the board)

    However, where you are differing from my opinion is that the tyres are just another ‘ingredient’ in the mixture that is something the teams have to deal with. Yes the car has to be designed around them to make them usable, and yes every team will do it differently. But the point still stands that although Ferrari did push today, both drivers said they were not pushing 100% at any stage during the race. This means that in the hypothetical situation that each team did sort the cars out to maximise the performance these tyres can give them, we would have a grid that is consisting of drivers pushing to 60/70/80/90% (or whatever it may workout to be) all achieving more or less the same lap times because thats all the tyres allow. Driver skill no longer comes into it at all.

    This was very evident with Massa and ‘Nando in quali this weekend. I would consider Alo to be a much better driver then Massa, all things considered, yet due to the situation we now have their quali times just a single thousandth off from one another. Showing to me at least that this is just the limit of the car with this set of rubber on, rather then the skill limit of the driver.

    Don’t get me wrong, your points are very valid in a sense that this is not anyones ‘Fault’, certainly not Pirelli, and that some teams are doing a much better job then others. But I still feel that these tyres are taking from the sport and not allowing drivers to really show us the skills that they have which is what made the classic races so good!

    • Remember, F1 is a team sport composed of rampant, but not unfettered, invention– with most of the cash being assigned to winning teams. This means car, strategy, driver etc. It takes the whole package- and that’s what makes F1 so interesting. If you want just a driver competition- there are other series for that.

      • Defiantly a valid point there ill admit, there are other series out there where the packages are closer matched to make it driver v driver.

        However in a series which is often claimed to be the Pinicle of Motorsport, drivers skill should still be a part of it. Currently, this weekend shows that two drivers of different skill level (massa and alo in quali) were able to achieve effectively the same time with the same car showing that really, any driver who’s skilled enough to drive f1 is ok. It’s could get to the stage where it’s no longer about the driver at all!

        (Sorry if formatting is off, on mobile and having some issues)

        • Except their practice and quali times weren’t at all the same. Here are the sector times for quali for Alonso and Massa: Q1:, Q2: and Q3: For Q1 & Q2, they just need a time that stands up- and Q3 strategy is to find your best position, while leaving some of the car for the race (remember, no changes while in parc ferme).

          During the race, their lap times were not at all the same– surely this points to the differing driver skills? See:

          Agree with your comments about the so-called pinacle of motorsports– IMHO we’ve lost that. Rev limiters, pump-gas, DRS, normally-aspirated cars, financial maximums– these all seem like handicapping to me.

    • I don’t understand when people say things like, “driver skill no longer comes into it at all.”

      I mean, how do you think the car is getting around the track? These aren’t slot cars. The driver has PLENTY of input on how the tire degrades. How about throttle input upon exit? Turning radius on corner entry? Who do you think has to make those decisions?

      I actually REALLY like the tire degradation for one reason: more pitstops = a better “team” sport. It’s not just the car setup and driver skill that matter. If your car has to pit four times, the guys have to be good all four times. I love that a TEAM wins the race, not just the driver.

  17. @willbuxton I watched the Race on NBC Sports today. I usually love your finishing thoughts. You did a good job today on that and again in this article. Pretty emotional and Philosophical one.

    BUT I beg to disagree due to the following reasons

    1) You said teams should not complaint about the tires because they should build the cars based on the tires and not the vice versa. I agree to that argument if you say that FIA will make the tire specification and a Reference implementation tires ahead of time so that teams can understand what the tires are going to be and design the cars around it. that is a fair game. I mean you can’t change the rules of the games as you play.

    2) Pat Humphrey said the following today which is counter to your argument.

    “So if I said we were going to make a change, I know I am going to have the podium people today not happy – then you [the media] will be here at Silverstone telling me we have given the championship to Red Bull. It will be damned if you, damned if you don’t.”

    “Unless you all want us to give Red Bull the tyres to win the championship. It’s pretty clear. If we did that, there would be one team that would benefit and it would be them.”

    Does that mean that Pat Humphrey is given the job of – “Do what you can to stop Red Bull from winning the championship this year” ? I believe Pierlli should be making Tires and Not deciding the Track order. It specifically means that Pirelli has designed tires to make Ferrari happy.

    That is like Imagine Herman Tilke saying Let me design a Track so that Red Bull cannot Win there.

    3) If you want to make sports interesting there are other ways to doing it. It is ridiculous that a tire manufacturer is asked to make tire such that a particular team should not win. Jimme Johnson won 5 championships in NASCAR. he almost won it last year and he is leading this year. Did anyone ever complain NASCAR was boring. Did Nascar ask Firestone to make tires so that Jimme Johnson does not win again. They made sure that racing is interesting that is it. that is all fans want.

    4) They said if Seb wins today then Silverstone ticket sales will go down. I request FIA should make the sport Interesting to make Silverstone ticket sales to go up rather than asking Pirelli to stop Vettel from winning.

    While your argument today was perfect theoretically, It is not relevant to today’s scenario because today’s tires were made to stop Red Bull and make Ferrari Win. I am not saying this Paul Humphrey and Pirelli are saying this.

    • On your second point: Humphrey said that because we all know what kind of tyres Red Bull has voiced to prefer with the car they made for the current campaign. That does not, in any way, mean that they ever designed the tyres against RB in particular; and how could they have, without access to their car.

      Certainly the RB folk were less than happy when things weren’t going their way with the tyres last year, too, but no-one outside their payroll could’ve said for certain that they weren’t going to improve in that regard (which they probably DID but less so than the main competition).

  18. Pingback: Pirelli are an easy target, but F1 is better off because of them | G-Force - A Formula 1 Blog

  19. Hi Will. I agree with most of what you’ve said but would you have said the same thing if Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Hamilton or Rosberg’s tyre had delaminated?

    I think people are also forgetting that the Circuit de Catalunya is also a high wear circuit, with its long, fast corners and heavy breaking at the slow corners. Tyre wear was always going to be higher there.

  20. Thanks for this article – I agree 100%!

    F1 is much more interesting nowadays: Strategy games instead of knowing the winner after lap 2. To me, Pirelli is one of the best things that happened to F1 in recent years and, as you said Will, they were just doing the job requested by the FIA.

    I don’t get why Mercedes appears to be such a sore loser. Rosberg did 3 stops, just like Kimi. So it is possible to do one stop less even for them. If Mercedes or Red Bull are on top Monaco, the tires will be “good enough” again…

    So please all stop moaning and destroy the sport we love!

  21. LOL. It was a pathetic race as usual F1 is less a racing event and more to a Hollywood drama. It seems like you weren’t around when guys like Senna, Prost, Lauda, Fittipaldi, Clark to name a few were RACING! Google does names and find more about the sport F1 used to be mate.

    • well, back then -we- were complaining about engines that blew up, toxic fuel compounds , suspensions that failed- resulting in death yada yada yada.

      I think Will made the point- play the hand that’s dealt to ya and quit yer yappin (albeit written with a British accent)

  22. Will,
    I agree wholeheartedly. It was so refreshing to see a race raced. I wonder what it was like for Vettel to be 40 seconds back and unable to do anything?

  23. I love how you simplify the situation, Will. You do what you can with what you’ve got; it’s the perfect phrase for F1 and life in general.

  24. Well I hated that race, it was a non race tires, tires, tires. Then I started to read your Blog and i’m thinking Will your a nutter, how could this possibly be a good race? But I put that aside and continued to read and then it clicked, I was pissed about the tires, when really I should have been more focused on the teams… they had let us all down by not going for it…come on gents let’s Race!

  25. I usually like your blogs, but what a load of nonsense this one was, I don’t agree with a single word, and my favourite driver won too.

    How exactly did Alonso push every lap? he was coasting..

  26. Sorry Will, that’s crap. Ferrari lucked into the setup that allowed them to push all race and still make it. The RBs didn’t have a setup that would allow them to push, make 4 stops and still make the stints last. Good luck to Ferrari. But where were Ferrari at Bahrain? Nowhere! Because they didn’t find the sweet spot and someone else did. The car was just as fast and competitive there. The best example of this extreme randomness is China last year when Rosberg was the only one to get the tyre use/degradation balance right and galliped away to the win in a car that had no right claiming victory without the tyre variable and couldn’t do so at any other point if the season.

    It’s the inconsistency that annoys the fan that needs a storyline or narrative during the course of the year. Skipping Monaco, will Ferrari employ the same strategy at Montreal and gallop away purely thru pushing? No, they won’t. And the reason they won’t is not because they might get beaten by a car with superior pace ie the aero of the RB9 or straightline speed of a Merc, but because someone else will stumble into the ‘tyre window’ and claim victory.

    • “Ferrari lucked into the setup”

      Alonso front wing.

      ” But where were Ferrari at Bahrain? Nowhere! Because they didn’t find the sweet spot and someone else did. ”
      Massa, two tyres damaged with debris.
      Alonso, DRS broken in first few laps.. two times.

      Ferrari may have won in all the GP’s

  27. Agree with the article, every single word.

    Seems that people here wants a stone-made wheels like before. Not me, no more procesing like “races” anymore.
    Yes, indeed you can push: just watch your tires and o more pitstops. Made a car thats fits for it and thats all. Ferrari did, Lotus did it even better…

    Teams do your work, stop moaning.

    And of course, change tire types at this very moment is adultering the competition, helping some teams (exactly those how didn’t make their job well), over others.

  28. The reason I loved the race was that Fernando Alonso finally managed to win his home race for the first time since 2006…a very long time. This was the perfect treat for an Alonso fan.

  29. Thank you, Will! I totally agree and have been trying to get these points across. Thank goodness for this!

  30. Spot on Will, but so many self-proclaimed “F1 racing fans” whose team-driver has been unable to adapt to this easy situation will never acknowledge it. And these very same people have been calling others “cry babies” for years… Ha. Some teams have understood what to do and worked to deal with new requirements, and some others simple did not, those who are now demanding “rules” to be bent once again, to fit their ” real speed machines” specs. FGS…

  31. Mate? Candor? F-bombs? Sounds like one Mark Webber to me. Great article, I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s GP too and look forward to the next two races, especially Montreal where the races seem more unpredictable and exciting than any other track.

  32. My beef with the tyres is that they *shouldn’t* be the same for everyone. Not in F1. F1 is a technical sport for engineers as well as drivers. This isn’t a spec series, there’s a constructor’s championship at stake. Tyres are one of the biggest limiting factors of any car’s performance, and it pains me to see them be a spec part when the spec is so rubbish. If you want to watch spec racing, there’s other series for that, I want to see technology and speed in F1. Teams should be choosing and developing their own compounds themselves or through contractors, or failing that, choosing which two compounds to bring to the race.

  33. It sounds to me like people don’t like drivers being told not to push.

    There’s an easy answer – ban pit to driver radios. Let them make up their own mind and show their skill as drivers.

    I can understand when rules aren’t the same for everyone – so objecting to the stupid rule that forces the first 10 cars to race on their qualifying tyre, but not the rest, and objecting to DRS is fine with me, but not the tyre compounds, which are the same for everyone.

    Funny how when Red Bull won a couple of races, they stopped moaning about the tyres, but now they’re at it again. I’m sure if Mercedes were winning every race they’d be quite happy about the tyres. Such is the way of F1.

  34. I agree with most of the article, you can race on these tyres and you can win by pushing.
    The only thing I have against these tyres is that they do not last long. Four pit stops is just too many. It is not an endurance race, it is about the best drivers in the best/fastest cars. And yes, tyre strategy plays a part in that, but it shouldn’t be about tyre strategy alone, and this is what it turns into.
    I really liked the 2010 season where we had more action than in the 15 years before, with Bridgestone tyres. They lasted longer, and still there was some tyre management in play, as we saw in Canada. And even the Pirelli tyres of 2011 weren’t that bad. BUt this year it is just too much. So I am happy with Pirelli’s decision that 4 stops are too many and 2/3 stops are the target. (Although I prefer 1/2 stops because I think more stops will make the tyres more important than engine or chassis and these all should be equally important).

  35. You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Will! The Spanish GP was the best race in two years. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve have some fabulous racing but Sunday was so different. It was a thrill to see the drivers out there RACING the whole way. Not just a few laps here and there after a fresh set of tires. And leave it to my man Kimi to be so succinct and remind drivers and teams alike that they need to figure it out or they will fail. And some of the biggies are doing just that, failing. The Spanish GP has given me hope that F1 will once again be closer to what drew me to it 20 years ago. Talented drivers in high tech cars making the most out of every lap…we can dream, can’t we? I’d love to see the paid driver part go away but that’s another blog entry/discussion, right Will? ;-)

  36. @Will,
    Away from F1 for a moment, what are your thoughts on the tyre deg seen during the GP2/3 races this weekend?
    Best not ask about your thoughts on the Cecotto Jr / Canamasas incident, as the web could explode.

  37. I see where you are going with this, and it’s not a bad direction to shoot for. Yes, in the abstract, substituting more stops for conservation would make the races more interesting. However, I don’t agree with your premise. More stops means more tires will be needed and where would those come from? We’re already seeing teams rationing qualifying laps (!) in order to save a set of tires for the race. Having the teams plan on 4 stops will make qualifying even more likely to be a single lap affair. Assuming the teams had additional sets made available for the whole weekend, then your paean starts making sense.

  38. 2011, Spain. Vettel win 1:39:03 4 pit stops
    2013, Spain. Alonso win 1:39:16 4 pit stops
    0,2″/lap faster in 2011 with all changes

    Pirelli’s changed.. but cars too.:
    No more ‘especial engine maps’..
    No blow diffusers..
    But Vettel had Hamilton at 0,6 at end..
    while Alo had Kimi controlled at 10s in last stint.
    0,2 s./ lap

    If a team can’t make the tyres work, that is their problem.
    Everyone has the same tyres.
    Those not winning will always complain.

  39. Nothing related with the tyres conundrum as I think they are the sames for everyone and it’s up to the teams to make it work as any other component in the car.

    I just wanted to remind you about the dirty GP2 races. Didn’t enjoy the lack of respect and the misjudgment some drivers had, Cecotto Jr forced three drivers off the track this season (Bird, Dillmann and Canamasas), Berthon flew through the latter. Richelmi didn’t allow a move on him, and there’s more to talk about Calado, Haryanto & co.

    Anyway, I’d like to see the full feature race with the onboard cam of Dillmann aswell.

  40. From the big picture side, though, even if we accept your argument, the current tire situation is still detrimental. Yes, we’ve always seen this or that particular chassis being better suited to conservation, and there have always been drivers easier on the equipment than others. But, at this point, every team complains about the tires (though some do more than others,) every commentator on either side of the pond rants about tires in every show, even the fans’ boards, blogs and tweets focus on the rubber.

    In other words, we aren’t talking about how the Renault engines are better suited to this track, or that the Force India chassis should do well at Monza how this neat new system by team X will gain them /5 secs… nearly as much as we talk about how much tires will suck this weekend, and that Team A, B, or C can make them suck less.

    And, while Red Bull’s complaints are the focus this week (as is Mercedes’ performance,) the fact remains that at best teams will simply not mention the tires in their press releases. Nobody praises them (as is customary in other series – and some that are very much focused on conservation) and the best spin Pirelli can come up with is: “we produced what was asked.” I doubt very much that this is the sort of coverage they were hoping for when they bid on the supplier contract. Indeed, I bet their marketing department are measuring the effectiveness of their investment by counting comments like “these are the tires used by the Ferrari team!” versus “these are the tires that Vettel is complaining about.” I agree with Pirelli that this isn’t their fault, but they are still getting negative publicity from a very expensive endeavor. Formula 1 should be the ultimate not only in driving and engineering, but in commercial exposure as well, but the last few years have harmed that platform.

    • I don’t think Pirelli see it as negaive. Their marketing approach is “look, we can make any kind of tyre you want, so come buy our winter tyres, they’re just perfect for the task”

  41. I also loved the F1 GP in Spain ….I was there! And I enjoyed like crazy with Fernando.
    A shame to see the Gedo tire rolling down the track, but pilot skillfully bring that car to the pit-lane (passed in front of me). So Romain Grosjean? Bad luck! He didn’t very good start but was pressing and no doubt would advance to Vettel. He also showed great skill to bring his car to the pits (I also had the opportunity to see him live, went through the area where I was).

  42. Great post. But then, I’m a Spanish bandwagon fan of Alonso, so of course I’m happy.

    As such, I started watching F1 in 2005, and quickly realized why people said that Montmeló was a terrible track for F1 races. They really were dull. Sure, maybe drivers pushed harder back then, but I can’t easily tell 80% driving from 100% from my sofa. I CAN tell the difference between a procession and a race with position changes. I have to watch the race to know what happened. It used to be that I could watch qualifying, watch the first corner of the race, and that was about it.

    I’m happy with Pirelli and I’m happy that a team tried something different with them, successfully.

  43. Only one Ferrari was going for it every lap, wasn’t it? With at least 10 laps to go, I remember there was a dismayed observation that Massa wasn’t pushing at all (judging by his throttle and brake applications) from David Coulthard. It’s a shame Ferrari didn’t have a proper go at scoring a 1-2 – Felipe was really quick earlier in the race.

    Clever timing by Pirelli, I thought, to bring the extra set of development tyres this weekend, so teams still had enough sets to last them through a four-stop race.

  44. Mr. Buxton, your piece was so compelling that i re posted at my blog. an every chance i get i will re post this link, to try and put an end to this ridiculous notion that some how the racing was not real.

  45. well despite most of everyone’s comments on how this was not racing or a farce, i think that this was a brilliant drive from Ferrari and Alonso. it looked to me that ferrari throw caution to the wind and said “we are not going to tip tow around today (to use one detractors words), let’s just go flat out and no matter what the degradation is and see where we end up.” obviously they felt they had the car to do it. isn’t that what everyone whats to see, flat out racing well today ferrari were the only one’s that could do it and make it work and they took one extra pit-stop so what. they should be applauded for their effort. instead their victory is being hijacked by the tire issue. and this idea that 4 pit-stops is to many, is just silly. does that mean if someone wins a race because they chose one to everyone else’s two, that makes that win any less relevant or justified. please, if red bull could win a race with 5 pit-stops they surely would do it. as it turned out today they didn’t have the car to challenge for the victory, does that mean it is the tires fault?

  46. Having read the article and most of the comments below I can only say this:

    First – the fact that a majority of the fans are complaining says enough. Perilli & the FIA are going to have to make some changes — and the fact that they are/have already made changes midseason proves that. Sure a minority don’t mind the current situation (it’s the same for everyone argument), but a majority do.

    Secondly, the reason I love soccer is because it is so simple and pure. The goal dimensions in the first World Cup are the same as in the last one. I accept F1 can’t be exactly like that, as technology evolves and requires change, but I wonder whether Senna would be ‘Senna’ had he not been able to push to his maximum. I think the genius of someone like Senna was his ability to get over 100% out of their equipment. That was the difference between winning and losing. Second or third. Points or no points. But today, it’s a bit different. Perhaps a ‘Lewis Hamilton’ belongs in that era; or in the Bridgestone era, where you had to push on the limit, brake late, not conserve tires to win. Funny, in Montreal last year it was Ferrari conserving tires while race winner Hamilton pushed for an extra stop and made up time to pass Alonso.

    What Ferrari did is not anything brilliant. It was a simple calculation based on their car and what was the fastest way around the circuit. Making 3 stops would have yielded Fernando the same fate as Montreal. A bunch of 4-stopping cars flying by with only a few laps to go.

  47. Pingback: F1 - 2013 - Page 50 - Motoring Alliance :: MINI Cooper Forums

  48. Will, the article provided excellent reading today; agree 100%! Ferrari race was a duplication of the China race with the Alonso win and pace. But the news of a tire modification starting at the Canadian race should be another challenge for the teams. So will the change be advantage Red Bull? Or true unpredictable race winners? Or maintaining the status quo?
    Also, I really enjoying the NBC sports network F1 coverage! Keep up the good work

  49. Hm, with all due respect I strongly disagree. The fact is that the cars are not designed from scratch every year (except maybe when huge changes in the rules are coming). The fundamental characteristics of the cars are generally the same since last year: Red Bull – downforce beast, allowing it to be very fast in the corners but slowest car in the straits; Ferrari – less downforce, fast on the straits, slower in the corners; Lotus – somewhere in the middle but closer to Ferrari, with even softer suspension. The only leading teams that drastically changed their cars are McLaren and Mercedes. McLaren messed up everything but Mercedes actually gained a lot of downforce and are now close to Red Bull in this aspect.

    So, Pirelli decides to change the tires and to make it impossible to drive fast in the corners because they degrade too quickly. Of course this will benefit lower downforce teams like Ferarri and Lotus. There is no way RB and Mercedes to use their superior downforce the the corners because they eat their completely new tiers too fast. So what they can do? They change their setup to lower the downforce but this is just not enough.

    One can argue that the two approaches are interchangeable and has equal merit but this is simply not true. The only case when a lower downforce car can be faster that high-downforce car if is there are not turns or if the tires are so soft that the car can’t take the turns fast anyway. Essentially, the tires were designed specifically to slow down RB. Even Paul Hembery admitted this much.

    Ferrari could not produce high enough downforce for years and suddenly the tires change to make the deficiencies of their car irrelevant and to take away the main advantage of RB. Coincidence? Only if you believe in fairy tales.

  50. Remember Nurburgring 1957 too, that is called by some people “The race of the century”.

    Fangio whith his Pirelli fitted Maserati trying to catch the Ferraris (1 minute ahead) with their hard Englebert tyres that last for the entire race.

    Very similar to that we’ve seen this weekend

  51. “They went out and they pushed. Every. Single. Lap.”

    Except. They. Didn’t.

    I think you watched the race you wanted to see, rather than the one that actually took place.

    A couple of points for you to consider…

    Alonso’s time in Q3 was around a second quicker than than Maldonado’s time in Q3 last year – yet Maldonado’s winning race time was quicker than Alonso’s this year.

    No driver (including Alonso) admitted to driving at 100%. Quite the reverse.

    Looking at the race pace of the Red Bull, Vettel would have struggled to get ahead of Massa for the last place on the podium, even if he had set out to do a four stop race from the outset.

    While I am pleased that Ferrari beat the Bulls, in retrospect it is quite clear from their practice times that Alonso was pretty likely to win as long as he didn’t overcook the tyres.
    Kudos to Lotus and Ferrari in arriving at a setup which works the tyres better than their opponents. I’m happy to see them win on that basis, but I’m not going to pretend they pushed every single lap – and entertaining it ain’t.

  52. I had a massive argument about this race on Sunday – and it was because I was the only one who loved it……

    #1. I’m a Brazilian, who lived in the US for 7 years and met you, Will, in two occasions: Montreal 2011 and Austin 2012. And boy, am I glad I did!
    #2. I got slightly depressed when I moved back to Brazil, a couple weeks ago (work is to blame!), knowing that I was losing the best and most technical F1 coverage that I have ever seen.
    #3. All my fears came true during the race: bad, and I do mean B-A-D coverage, alienated comments, up to the point when I was watching the race on TV and listening to Ico on the radio – for I wouldn’t stand the tv commentators stupid assumptions any longer.
    #4. It is clear that I will have to find a way to keep watching the races on NBC sports – anyone that has a suggestion, please let me know (slingbox doesn’t work well)!
    #5. I was almost feeling high after the race, it mesmerized me that Ferrari finally did its own thing and raced for themselves and the result couldn’t make me happier. Its F1 at its best representation: DO you best. GO for it with all you’ve got. LEAVE everyone behind. MAKE me proud!
    #6. You are freaking awesome! It feels weirdly fantastic to read my own feelings described by someone that passionately loves F1 and runs after it year round and makes us all feel like we are also there. T H A N K Y O U W I L L B U X T O N ! ! ! ! !
    #7. Yes. It has been only one race and I already feel like that. I might not make it…..
    #8. Hoping to see you in Austin again this November.

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