The Spanish Grand Prix started the European Leg of the F1 Calender. Fernando Alonso powered his Ferrari to Victory in front of his adoring fans. Kimi Raikkonen drove a very smart race to finish 2nd and Felipe Massa made it a Ferrari 1-3 on the weekend.
The Race though would be remembered for the "T" Word as everything revolved around it.
The Influence was so much that most were left ruing their race pace.
The "T" Word is the ( Pirelli ) Tyre.
Teams have always been suspect about the longevity of the tyres over a race weekend and the Spanish GP has only added fuel to the fire.
The Race saw a total of 82 pit stops and Paul Hembery, the Motorsport Director of Pirelli later admitted that there were too many pit stops and Pirelli shall address this issue starting from Canada.
Vettel said that he had to race at the pace of the tyres while Kimi was not bothered about it. Kimi finished his race using a 3 stop strategy while Alonso accomplished the same on a 4 stop.
Pirelli had chosen the hardest tyre compounds for the weekend. The Lap Time Difference between the two was marginal. However with the exception of Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, everyone opted for a 4 stop strategy for the race. The Lotus E21 has always been easy on its tyres and the team has made little noise about tyre performance.Mercedes AMG Petronas have been the biggest losers and they simply can't make their tyres last long enough inspite of earning a hattrick of poles this year. Both Drivers have gone backwards after leading for few laps.
The Reaction has mostly been negative but I feel the criticism is somewhat harsh.
The Tyre Characteristics have been such that certain tracks have
favoured certain cars up until now. We would definitely not hear Red Bull complain about tyres when they won in Bahrain or Malaysia. Ferrari seemed to have found a sweet spot and have kept mum about it.
Formula 1 has changed a lot since the Schumacher days. Schumacher with his Bridgestone Tyres made it very difficult for the rest to win and to some extent finished the excitement in F1. Races were boring as the German smoked his opposition taking victories after starting from pole positions.
Martin Brundle said that in the early years of Formula 1, the fastest car would be on pole, the slowest on the back of the grid and the order would stay the same as the tyres never degraded and the grip levels were always the same.
The Pirellis though have spiced up the races. A driver can afford to be in a slightly slower car and yet finish well if his car is easy on its tyres running the right balance. The Tyres musn't always be the sole deciding factor in the championship battle though and that is the issue that Pirelli needs to address.
Incidents of Frequent Punctures and Sudden De-Lamination have not aided Pirelli's Cause.
Pirelli did bring in better rubbered compounds and more tyre options this year but the struggle continues for most teams.
It might be hard for Fans to see their teams struggling but for a neutral, every race turns out to be an intriguing one.
The Sport would need to take certain steps to appease the affected parties :
1) Pirelli has already promised and is working towards offering tyres with better longevity Candian GP onwards. Hopefully the promise delivers for those affected on track.
2) Pirelli needs to have a test-car during the winter months which would help them in understanding the issues that teams are facing while running different setups in the Pre-season tests itself.
3) In their quest to reduce pit stops for a driver in a race, the company must ensure that the minimum requirement of stops be maintained and not make the mistake of making non-degradable tyres and end the importance of pit stops.
4) Address the Issue of De-Lamination which has become a frequent occurrence off late.
Pirelli's entrance into F1 was like a breath of fresh air and a great leveller. All the teams had to start from scratch with Pirelli and the field has closed up quite nicely.
I hope they continue to the Sole Tyre Supplier for the Sport. I am sure that they have the technical expertise and personnel to iron out the issues that teams are facing.
The Season is getting interesting.....