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Featured Debate: Should Pirelli Remain in Formula One?

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Chris Stacey, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. Chris Stacey

    Chris Stacey
    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium Member

    Vettel.jpg
    Last weekends Belgian Formula One Grand Prix drew headlines after yet another fiasco involving multiple tyre blowouts over the course of the weekend. So, was this latest round of incidents the metaphorical nail in the coffin for these designed-to-degrade tyres? Or has Pirelli worn out their welcome?

    During the 2010 season, Bridgestone were the sole tyre supplier for Formula One, and the tyres they allocated for the season were incredible strong, durable and yielded incredible amounts of grip, without much drop off in lap time over the course of a stint. However, despite 2010 being one of the more exciting championship seasons in terms of points, the racing on track was deemed to be not exciting enough as very few overtaking maneuvers occurred, and even fewer pit-stops took place. So, as Bridgestone pulled out of the F1 circus after the 2010 season, the FIA set out a new course of action to spice the racing up by contacting Pirelli and asking if they'd be willing to not only be the sole tyre supplier in Formula One, but design tyres that would wear out more quickly than any other tyre in the sports history. The Italian tyre manufacturer accepted this offer, and in 2011 we got our first taste of tyres that were intentionally designed to wear out in a matter of laps.

    The Spa-Francorchamps circuit hosts the Belgian Grand Prix, and presents the highest loading that a Formula One tyre will go through out of any track on the calendar, and in Pirelli's first season, many teams were concerned with the safety of the tyres when many of the cars developed heavy blistering on the inside shoulder of the front tyres. For those of you who may not know what a blister is, a tyre blister is formed when a particular area is super heated due to the speeds and loading that the tyre is subject to, and then the rubber essentially bubbles up and bursts, a bit like a pimple or a blister that you might get on your skin. Teams were strongly advised not to run too low tyre pressures, or too extreme camber angles to try and reduce the chances of a blister-induced tyre failure that weekend, and thankfully, none of the tyres did blow up.

    motorsports-europe-belgiumf1gpautoracing11-2011-belgian-grand-prix-1024x716.jpg
    Sebastian Vettel was one of the more vocal drivers on the tyres showing dangerous blistering at the Spa circuit in 2011.

    Fast forward two years to the 2013 British Grand Prix, another high loading and high speed track, Pirelli would experience their darkest weekend in the company's history when several drivers had their races ruined after spectacular tyre blowouts, including Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez, Jean-Eric Vergne and Felipe Massa. After the race a vast investigation was conducted, and Pirelli apportioned blame to the Silverstone curbing, claiming that the sharp edges were cutting the tyres and leading to structural failures, and to debris on track. They also stated that teams were running tyres in a way that Pirelli did not design the tyres to be run, with extremely low pressures, very negative camber angles and reverse-fitting the tyres onto the wheel rims.

    Tyre blowouts are an especially dangerous thing in high-speed Motorsports such as Formula One, not only for the driver with the failed tyre, but for those behind him or her. A race tyre has a metal mesh belted around it for added strength, combined with the rubber itself, and a flying carcass with debris shrapnel exploding into the air is incredibly dangerous for the drivers behind. Fernando Alonso was incredibly lucky not to get injured when Sergio Perez's McLaren tyre blew up on the Hangar Straight, as a shower of carbon fibre and tyre shrapnel hit Alonso as he accelerated towards 300 kph.

    2013 was a year where Pirelli designed incredible fragile compounds that would be completely finished after 10 or 15 laps, which meant that races such as Spain saw drivers having to make as many as four or five pit-stops just to get to the end. It also saw a record number of pit-stops with 94 in total for that race. After Silverstone 2013, Pirelli changed the tyre construction back to the 2012-spec, but remained with the 2013 compounds, on the basis of safety.

    ay113265481northampton-engl.jpg
    Lewis Hamilton had his hopes of a home grand prix victory dashed after his left rear blew-up while leading the race.

    Which brings us to the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix. Pirelli elected to bring the yellow-marked soft compound and the white-marked medium compound to this years race. The first time they had done so since the 2011 race, amid criticisms that the tyre choices had been too conservative in recent races. This years race saw unusually high temperatures for a region renowned for having common cold snaps with unpredictable rain showers, even in Summer. After the first practice session, most of the teams were concerned with the level of degradation they were seeing, but this could be apportioned to the fact that Pirelli had brought a step-softer set of compounds, combined with the warm conditions and relatively green track surface. Some teams noticed blisters appearing on the inside shoulder of the rear tyres, however a tyre failure probably was not too much of a worry.

    About half way through the second Friday practice session, Nico Rosbergs' right rear tyre began to unwind itself on the Kemmel straight. The team were unaware of any tyre pressure drop, so no instruction was given for him to slow down. Approaching Blanchimont at 310 kph, the tyre exploded, leaving Rosberg as a high speed passenger, and he was sent slewing across the track, luckily remaining out of the barriers and avoiding a serious crash. Pirelli spent that night combing the track looking for signs of debris or anything that could lead them to the reason Rosberg's tyre unraveled itself. They concluded on the Saturday morning that Rosberg must have suffered from a cut in the tyre from either a piece of debris, a stone or a sharp edged curb.

    nico-rosberg-tyre-failure-spa-pirelli.jpg
    Nico Rosberg suffered the first tyre failure of the weekend in spectacular fashion just before the high speed left hander of Blanchimont.

    The issue was brought up in the drivers briefing on Saturday night, with many drivers including Rosberg, Vettel and Hamilton speaking up and wanting absolute confidence that this was an isolated incident and would not affect driver safety during the race. Mainly because if you have a tyre failure going through Eau Rouge, that's not a trip back to the pitlane, that's a trip to the hospital.

    On the Sunday morning of the Grand Prix, the GP3 support race was marred by a huge crash for Alex Bosak, when he also suffered a tyre failure, only this time he was going through Blanchimont when his front left blew up. Bosak was sent skidding into the barrier, losing a wheel and his entire engine block. The wheel was sent bouncing back across the race track hitting Matt Parry's car, which ended his race and could have easily resulted in a serious injury.

    Crash_Gp3_Spa-e1440430854688.jpg
    Alex Bosak was unlucky enough to prove that Formula One is not the only category with tyre danger.

    With just one lap remaining in the Formula One Grand Prix, being pressured by Romain Grosjean and looking to have successfully completed a one-stop strategy to get him on the final step of the podium, Sebastian Vettel's right rear tyre unraveled itself on the Kemmel Straight, just seconds after exiting Raidillon. Vettel, understandably furious with Pirelli said that "Things like that are not allowed to happen. Full stop. If it happened 200 metres earlier, I am not standing here now."

    Immediately after the race, Paul Hembrey was interviewed and quickly concluded that the tyre failure was purely down to general wear, and that Ferrari were trying to run too long on a single set of tyres. They had completed 28 laps up until that point and Vettel and Ferrari both assert that they had been given a maximum tyre life of 40 laps for the Medium compound from Pirelli engineers. However, Pirelli state that teams should not have run the mediums for any more than 22 laps. But now, reports are filtering through that Pirelli has now found more cuts on several other drivers' tyres, but were unable ascertain the exact cause for this.

    So, Pirelli are now in a bit of a pickle because they're facing heavy criticism from teams and fans alike, despite designing the tyres that were asked of them by the FIA. However, under no circumstances should a tyre fail after 28 laps, and the fact that it has been so prominent this past weekend points to the structural integrity of the tyres not being up to par for Formula One, or perhaps even GP3. Of course trying to run the tyres too long should make them drop off the "cliff" of grip, but they should never blow up.

    With Michelin wanting to re-enter the sport in 2017 and provide larger diameter wheels with rubber that lasts a long time, Pirelli are under increasing pressure to scrap the designed-to-degrade trademark their tyres are becoming known for. However, Pirelli can be heartened by the fact that Bernie Ecclestone is in their corner, primarily because of the track-side sponsorship money they bring to the venues, which is a substantial amount of money.

    Pirelli then are not in an enviable position as they are carrying out their requirement of making tyres that wear out, and all they get out of it is a whole load of bad press from F1 teams, drivers and fans about how bad the tyres are. On top of that, people are going into tyre supplier stores and asking for a new set of tyres for their car, "but just not Pirelli's".

    Having said that, it's important to note that Pirelli have also been largely responsible for helping to produce many many fantastic grands prix over the past five years, including China and Canada in 2011, Brazil, Abu Dhabi and Valencia in 2012 and Bahrain, Canada and Hungary in 2014. The tyres do, more often than not, make for good viewing of a Formula One grand prix, but being prone to one life-endangering tire failure is one too many.

    Being the sole tyre supplier in F1 is no easy task, but when all you get out of it is either invisibility, or bad press, is it really worth staying the course?
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2015
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  2. The fact that a high speed track like Spa had softs and mediums as the tire choices was stupid in and of itself. It should have been Medium and Hard.
     
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  3. Frederic Schornstein

    Frederic Schornstein
    TXL Racing Premium Member

    That is true, but why do Pirelli tires disintegrate in such a way. I can understand that the surface needs to be soft, but the underlying construction seems to be weak as well. Vettel didnt seem to struggle that much with grip as Grosjean really needed to push to get close. Even with the tire completely worn the main construction should stay intact.
     
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  4. Could be the FIA forcing Pirelli to produce unreliable tires!
    just a theory...
     
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  5. Thomas Hinss

    Thomas Hinss
    Aussie Commentator and Writer Staff

    To me, Pirelli are just doing what the FIA has asked them to, which was to make tyres which don't last very long and are essentially, designed to degrade at a rapid rate. The logic being that this produces closer and more exciting racing, though whether this actually does is up for debate I feel. This doesn't excuse the tyres exploding like they did at Spa however.

    In terms of the incident at Spa, I think that was something which raises concern over the tyre design as it currently stands. Yes Ferrari probably shouldn't have ran Vettel as long as they did, but the tyre shouldn't have exploded like it did. The tyre should wear and get to the "cliff", losing Vettel a lot of time yes but not just exploding in a extremely unsafe manner.

    In terms of the tyres which were selected, it is a tough one to call for me. I don't think Pirelli are entirely at fault for that, as they were being pressured to be less conservative with their tyre selections (ironic in hindsight now). But, if Pirelli thought there was a sufficient risk the tyres could struggle and possibly explode then I would have thought they would have been allowed and able to say no to what people seemed to want them to do.

    What future does Pirelli have in Formula One? Honestly I'm not entirely sure, as this sort of thing has happened before and Pirelli are still the sole supplier in the sport. But, with Michelin wanting to enter the sport in 2017 I think Pirelli need to do something to stop the tyres from exploding like with Vettel and putting driver's lives at risk. Yes with the current tyre design there has been some fantastic races which have occurred, but if it is putting drivers lives at risk with exploding tyres being a real possibility I think the design of the compounds needs to be looked into improving on and made safer.
     
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  6. Timmieturner12

    Timmieturner12
    Premium Member

    Yes they should. I don't know too much about the tyres, but I do know that the pirelli's bring some awesome tyre strategic races which makes it fun too much
     
  7. Ole Marius Myrvold

    Ole Marius Myrvold
    JWB 96-13 Staff

    Can't we have a tyre failure just like engine, gearbox, brakes, suspension etc. Failures?
     
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  8. Milos

    Milos
    Had things gone my way, who knows.. Premium Member

    Pirelli didn't do anything wrong. They're just doing what they're told to do from the FIA, that is making tyres that don't last very long.
    So imo yes, they should stay in the sport. But the FIA needs to re-think what they are doing.
    If a driver pushes at the start, he gains time while he's pushing but loses a lot of time when the tyre goes off. It is more effective not to push at all, but just save the tyres.
    Even if they are told to push, they still try and go as fast as possible, while still trying to not wear out the tyres a lot.
    Race drivers need to be pushing the cars to the limit again without worrying about tyre saving.
     
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  9. Yapci

    Yapci
    Premium Member

    Should be like motoGP. No tyre changes unless it rains. That would give better last 20 laps since they would have to struggle to stay on track.
     
  10. Milos

    Milos
    Had things gone my way, who knows.. Premium Member

    than there is no strategy involved. With the cars struggling to pass each other anyway, it is mainly possible to overtake by doing an "undercut" on the car ahead.
    But even if this above wasn't the case, again there is no more strategy and a lot of fun about the race is suddently taken away.
    for short races like motoGP I can see why there are no tyre changes, they are extremely short.
     
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  11. Chris Stacey

    Chris Stacey
    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium Member

    And they've done a good job of that.
    What they haven't done a good job of, is making the tyre structurally safe when the rubber on the carcass begins to wear down.

    There is a difference between making quickly wearing tyres, and making structurally strong tyres.
     
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  12. Bram

    Bram
    Roaring Pipes Maniacs | #27 Staff Premium Member

    Pirelli can stay and I'd welcome Bridgestone, Michelin, Dunlop and any other tire manufacturer as well.

    Simply scrap the silly soft, medium and hard compound rules and let the companies innovate and may the one with the best performing tire win. Yes, it will costs millions in research and development and I don't care, it's F1 :)
     
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  13. Oscar Hardwick

    Oscar Hardwick
    RDTCC S9 Champion Premium Member

    Oh but of course the bridgestones never had any failures ever. And all the cars in the V10 era were made from gold and driven by Jesus.

    It's all complete bull. Pirelli make what they are contracted to perfectly. Rosbergs looked like a cut in the surface and Vettel was asking for trouble running as long as he did whilst not going anywhere near the track through Radillon. In effect Vettel lost his temper after they had gone with a VERY alternative strategy whilst ignoring track limits, and it being Ferrari probably camber and pressure guidelines.

    Not only that but had these tyre failures happened to Marussia we wouldn't even be having this discussion. It's all wild and stupid speculation from a bloke who broke the rules and a bunch of fans who think 'it was better in their day'

    Yawnorama-ville in bound.
     
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  14. Yapci

    Yapci
    Premium Member

    Fight on track...

    But yes, I'm on the spec cars and let the driver show what he's got. And winning races in track not in pitstops. Just my likes, but I understand this is not universal thought.
     
  15. Lazarou

    Lazarou
    Premium Member

    For the life of me I cannot see why Pirelli actually bother with F1, they cannot win either way, if the tyres are too durable it is boring, if the fail they get blamed. As was mentioned earlier things go wrong with manufacturing all the time, the fact Rosberg & Vettel spat their dummies out is understandable as they had the issues but they reacted in a completely over the top manner.

    I agree with Michelin that the tyres used should be more relevant to modern vehicles but that would cause problems in itself.

    Pirelli have done what they have been asked to do anything that happens is a consequence of that decision taken by Formula 1's powers that be.

    They should save themselves a few Euro's and get out of F1, does anyone actually buy a tyre for their car because that manufacturer makes racing tyres? With the new road car tyre rating systems you know what you are getting anyway. I just cannot see the marketing potential behind F1 the disconnect between F1 and road cars is so vast it is irrelevant how they perform on track and due to the fact there is no competition from another manufacturer how can you even judge them?
     
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  16. 2005 rules again? Just no. The worst rules I remember, and now that they will have to race with more fuel (2005 had refuelling and cars ran lighter). No no no. :p

    And it is not Pirelli's fault. Pirelli does what FIA and the teams tell them to.
     
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  17. Thomas Hinss

    Thomas Hinss
    Aussie Commentator and Writer Staff

    I guess from what I can see Pirelli do the best job they can to make the tyres as the FIA wants. As Oscar mentioned other manufacturers have had failures as well in the past. Vettel was being very liberal with the kerbing to be fair so the tyre exploding wasn't out of the realms of possibility at that stage of the race.

    To me, driver safety is the main thing and something which always needs to be the first priority. So making the tyres as well as possible with things such as exploding tyres having the least chance as possible of happening is what I want to see. But sometimes it happens when they are pushed too hard, something which Ferrari found out.
     
  18. snyperal

    snyperal
    Premium Member

    I think Pirelli are just doing as they are told / contracted to. However I believe that the grip level should degrade to such a point that competitive lap times should be an impossibility long before the tire bursts.

    More testing here I think, should solve these issues.

    Tyres and strategy are an integral part of f1 to do away with those so quickly after fuel stops would be, in my opinion detrimental to the sport.
     
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  19. Martin Maaskant

    Martin Maaskant
    Premium Member

    Should Pirelli stay in F1? I think the answer is yes but the must think hard on how they construct the tires. Blowouts like the one on Vettel en Rosbergs car are unacceptable because they are a real safety risk for drivers, spectators and marshals. As said in some of the posts above the tire must be constructed so that the tire gets impossible to drive on long before it disintegrates. I also think that it is easy to finger point Pirelli but what we don't know is which advise Pirelli gave to Ferrari and Mercedes about how they should use the tire.
     
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  20. Chris Stacey

    Chris Stacey
    Ted Kravitz Appreciation Society Staff Premium Member

    I personally don't understand this because drivers have been taking liberties with the Spa curbs forever, even on Pirelli tyres in recent years, and there's been no failures.