Formula One

Red Bull fears over tyres

Vulnerability of Pirelli tyres questioned amid fears F1 races are being more influenced by tyres than driving skills.

Last Modified: 13 May 2013 13:33
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Nearly 80 pit stops were made during Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, prompting the Red Bull team boss to call the season a ‘competition in tyre management’ [AFP]

Red Bull team boss Dietrich Mateschitz on Monday launched a scathing attack on the current state of Formula One, amid widespread calls for a return to hard-wearing tyres after the Spanish Grand Prix was marred by multiple pit stops.

Mateschitz, whose money and vision has made his team triple world champions, said F1 was currently not a sport about racing but had instead turned into a competition in rubber conservation.

"Everyone knows what is happening," he said.

"This has nothing to do with racing anymore. This is a competition in tyre management.

"Real car racing looks different. Under the given circumstances, we can neither get the best out of our car nor our drivers. There is no more real qualifying and fighting for the pole, as everyone is just saving tyres for the race.

"If we would make the best of our car we would have to stop eight or 10 times during a race, depending on the track."

Growing concerns

Mateschitz spoke out after seeing his Red Bull team's triple world champion driver German Sebastian Vettel struggle home fourth at the Circuit de Catalunya in a race that saw the two Mercedes cars of pole-sitter Nico Rosberg of Germany and Briton Lewis Hamilton finishing sixth and 12th.

His voice added weight to a growing concern that Pirelli's soft fast-wearing tyres have diminished the true quality of the sport, hampered the best drivers and left many endangered when the tyres suddenly delaminate entirely at high speeds.

Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion and most experienced man in the field who finished eighth for McLaren, said: "We are going round three seconds slower than GP2 cars - there's something wrong.

"This is the pinnacle of motor sport - we shouldn't be driving around slowly to look after the tyres."

Hamilton, champion of 2008, added: "If I went any slower, it would be walking pace."

According to Autosport magazine, Mateschitz was so incensed by Sunday's bizarre showpiece - won by Spain's Fernando Alonso of Ferrari - that he spent 45 minutes with F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday night.

Mateschitz clearly believes that Pirelli have gone too far in their efforts to enliven predictable racing with more stops. On Sunday, most teams made four stops per car.

He said: "Yes, it was the target to get more excitement into the races by more stops for tyre changes but not that much. This is now a different situation from the original intention."

‘At risk’

Red Bull team chief Christian Horner cancelled his routine media briefing on Sunday evening and left it to Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko to comment.

Marko told reporters: "Can you really demand from us that we have to tell our two top drivers all the time 'be careful, you have to save your tyres'? I wonder when tyre failures will result in severe accidents. We are at risk this will happen."

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said: "We aim for two to three pit-stops and it was too aggressive this time. We need to get back to our plan."

He added that Pirelli were set to switch back to more conservative tyres before the British Grand Prix on June 30, leaving the teams to run on the current fast-wearing tyres at the Monaco Grand Prix later this month and in Canada on June 9.

"If I said we were going to make a change, I know I am going to have the podium people (Ferrari and Lotus) not happy - and you will all say that we have handed the championship to Red Bull.

"We will be damned if we do and damned if we don't."


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