'Arrested Development:' Pirelli's F1 Place at the Pinnacle - Tire Review Magazine

‘Arrested Development:’ Pirelli’s F1 Place at the Pinnacle

There was a recent online article entitled, "Is Formula One Still the Pinnacle of Motor Sport?" which posited the question, "How is this the showcase of the very best automotive technology if the tires are so bad?"

There was a recent online article entitled, “Is Formula One Still the Pinnacle of Motor Sport?” which posited the question, “How is this the showcase of the very best automotive technology if the tires are so bad?”

The point of the author is that in his view Pirelli, the exclusive tire supplier, has perhaps gone too far in developing F1 race tires that degrade too fast and, in some case, with unexpected devastating results.

The biggest story of the F1 season thus far, he suggests, is “the unpredictable and at time dangerous tires which have had a huge effect on this year’s racing.”

When Pirelli took on the Formula One circus, er contract, it was charged to produce race tires with limited tread life, which would cause more pit stops, which would create more passing.

Note: More passing because of pit stops, not actual racing.

Since Pirelli took on the impossible task of pleasing dozens of drivers and teams and FIA and everyone else involved in the series by doing the counterintuitive thing of making a great product bad, it has taken nothing but crap from every corner.

2011: “OK, so we need you to make good race tires, but not so good…actually not very good…so we can have more exciting races.”

Since: “Oh, but you made them too bad and now no one likes them but there is more passing so…”

Frankly, if I were Pirelli, I’d tell them all to take a hike and pull out. Why would you want to subject a valued brand to the kind of abuse Pirelli has faced for three years?

Who wants that kind of headache? Not Hankook, which already said no when asked about taking it on next year after Pirelli’s contract expires. Not Michelin, apparently, which was said to be interested but then really wasn’t. Not Bridgestone, which has been trimming what it sees as expensive and excessive activities, and already understands what a full-blown pain in the butt F1 is.

So who is left? Hoosier? (No offense guys)

What is also troublesome is how FIA and Formula One have tried to fix its boring brand of “money wins” racing. Instead of equalizing the vehicles by restricting budgets or going to a spec engine/drive train arrangement, they have attacked the no-pass races by making the single most important component on any car more dangerous than necessary.

The British GP at Silverstone this year featured at least half a dozen tire failures, including some race-speed blowouts that could have cost someone their life. Other races have been similarly dotted by “tire problems.” Do you honestly think Pirelli wants that?

Have Pirelli gone too far in dumbing down their tires for the F1 masters? I have no idea; I’m no race engineer, and frankly neither are my journo colleagues across the pond. Or the drivers. Certainly not the models.

But does that really matter? How can F1 be the pinnacle of anything when it can’t solve a difficult problem – boring pass-free racing – except by demanding less-than-optimum component performance?

How this all plays out is anyone’s guess. Pirelli has said (reportedly) that it wants to return for another three-year pact. No one else, at least publicly, has stepped into the light, seemingly giving Pirelli some leverage.

I might suggest that Pirelli tell FIA that it needs to reinstate fuel stops, which ended a few years ago due to safety concerns (karma?). That will create more passing – and more entertainment. So will switching to brake friction comprised of compressed corn flakes, and a chassis built on old milk crates and pallets.

Oh, but that doesn’t make sense, does it?

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