It seems like every week there is some sort of controversy in Formula 1 – whether it be accusations of cheating or teammates falling out, there is always a story for the press to cover and make something out of nothing. However, the 2013 season has created a storm that has already been over-exaggerated but is still something to be worried out.
On Sunday, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix after claiming his third pole position in a row – from the outside that seems like a pretty normal race. What possible problem could there have been? The fact was that he won the race because there was no room for faster cars to overtake him, unlike the previous two races. Tyre manufacturers Pirelli were told to make rubber for 2013 that was more unpredictable than last year’s but have created tyres that are just too soft and fall apart too quickly. Again this might not seem like a problem from the general point of view, but for a die-hard fan like myself it has made F1 painful to watch.
Last year the tyres Pirelli created took some teams a few races to get used to, with drivers testing the limits to the maximum and some going too far. A fantastic example was Kimi Raikkonen at the Chinese GP – he was pushing his tyres at the end of the race but ‘hit the cliff’ (the metaphorical term to describe the sudden loss of drive as the tyres run out of rubber) and slipped from 7th place to 14th in the space of two laps. This was only a rare occurrence as teams tried their hardest to push the boundaries in order to win. But this year it is completely different – it isn’t those in the lower points-scoring positions who are worried about tyre management, it’s those up the front. Mercedes are a prime example, being extremely quick over one qualifying lap but having a horribly slow race pace as their car just cannot look after the tyres. And it’s not just them struggling – only Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus seem not to have a problem, making it no coincidence that they have dominated the season so far.
In terms of out-and-out racing, Monaco was slightly farcical. Yes there were big crashes and some fantastic (and rare) overtaking manouvers through the narrow streets but the fact was that Rosberg only won due to the fact it is extremely hard to pass. He was also helped by the multiple Safety Car periods (and a red flag), meaning he could conserve his tyres. The ridiculousness of the situation was summed up at the start of the race, with race-leader Rosberg doing lap times of about 1:22.50 while Giedo van der Garde (driver for the Caterham who are normally around 4 seconds slower) matched him after pitting for a new nose and running in free air. It was embarrassing for a sport that should be all about who is the fastest driver in the fastest car.
Those at Red Bull claimed after the Spanish race earlier this month that Formula 1 ‘isn’t racing any more’ due to the tyres, something I have no doubt Lewis Hamilton felt too after slipping from 2nd on the grid to 12th at the end of the race purely because his car destroys the tyres. David Coulthard then said that Monaco was ‘rubbish’ because of the fiasco of a backmarker running as quickly as the leader. I agree with both, but only to an extent. Formula 1 battles are no longer characterised by the cars, teams and strategy – it’s now all about the latter. While it is still fascinating to a point, it has taken away the adrenaline rush you feel when watching one car (or more) hunting down another in front of them.
People may be blaming Pirelli for this predicament, and they have accepted the blame, but the fact is they have tried to change things. They have already announced a new range of tyres to be released at the next Grand Prix, while tried to revert back to 2012’s compounds for the race at Monaco. They have been proactive in resolving the situation because they want to get F1 want to get back the glories of last year, where 7 different drivers won the first 7 races, but they have been held back by none other than the FIA. Surely the rulers of one of the most global sports would want to satisfy the needs of both the teams and fans? Clearly not, as they rejected Pirelli’s proposal to back to last year’s tyres because of a contractual agreement. Screw that! Listen to both the experts and those who give their money to the sport and change it.
Formula 1 is by no means dead and buried. This tyre issue may be quite a big problem but there is a small, if expensive, solution that means everyone can be happy again and get back to pure racing. Please FIA, just use your brains!