My take on the Pirelli vs. Seb

On lap 42 of the Belgian grand Prix today Sebastian’s tyre has disintegrated “out of the blue”, and after the race Sebastian was furious, I guess I have never seen him so furious before. Ever. He spoke to RTL, saying that he wasn’t concerned about the result, he was concerned about safety, and had the tyre given up 200m earlier he would head into the wall at 300 km/h. Moreover he mentioned that Pirelli said the tyre was good for 40 laps. And those 40 laps, in my opinion is the crucial problem.

The statement was confirmed by Paul Hembery. He of course said that it was just a guideline, and that they didn’t expect anyone doing a race on one stop. At this point I ask myself isn’t 12 laps too much of a deviation on 40 lap guideline? And if they were not sure, and expected the teams to do at least a two stopper, why would they have the 40 laps guideline? What are they having from overstating the useful life of the tyres, while their job is to make tyres that don’t last too long?

Sebastian also mentioned that concerns were raised after the incident with Nico Rosberg, who also escaped what could have been a very nasty accident. He is one of the people who has often voiced concerns that others didn’t: remember Suzuka 2014? Seb was the one who said that it was a shame they didn’t reschedule the race, and as far as I remember he said it before Jule’s accident.

I am sure Sir Jacky Steward wasn’t too popular when he fought for safety improvements. None of the people who contributed enormously to the safety in Formula One was. But their legacy is why after a crash the drivers get out of the car and carry on with their business.

Ihe risky strategy adopted by Ferrari is not really an excuse. It was a gamble, yes. But the tyres were 28 laps old (12 laps less that the guideline!), and at worst you should expect dramatic drop in performance, not the tyre disintegrating at 300 km/h. Ferrari gambled, the gamble didn’t pay off (though the worst case scenario would be fourth) – this happens this is racing, and it wasn’t what Sebastian was talking about. He spoke about safety, not the results.

What kills me is the hypocrisy. People complain about swearing? Really? Firstly, he speaks a foreign language, and it is likely to be a prejudice from my side, but I wonder how many of people who criticize him for it are able to form coherent sentences in a foreign language. Another point is, how so many forget he is actually a human being. I wonder how many of us would be able to keep calm and politically correct if someone shoved a microphone in front of your nose just five minutes after you had an accident that under slightly different circumstances could have cost you your life? Especially if you spoke about the situation a day before. Really I would look at you.

Seb is harsh, and I guess Britta will not be too happy about what he said, and the way he said it. But aren’t the same people who now criticize Seb say that the drivers have become too perfect and to corporate and no one expresses their opinions. You have an opinion and someone who has the balls to express it, so I am not sure there is a reason for complaints.

Formula one is a dangerous sports, and I guess from time to time all of us want to be fans of chess of snooker, it will always remain dangerous, but it doesn’t mean there is no point in trying to improve safety. If everyone would stick with “it’s dangerous, deal with it” philosophy, there wouldn’t be helmets or seatbelts yet.

I really hope that they will figure out something to improve the tyres, to make the drivers trust their equipment again. And I think that one day if we are unlucky, people will thank Sebastian for voicing, what no one did, and for being politically incorrect.

Ultimately, I don’t think that the important question is whether Ferrari or Pirelli are to blame, but what can be done to improve, and avoid something like that ever happening again.

Testgate

I doubt there has ever been time when Formula One was not surrounded by some sort of scandal, it became an integral part of the sport, and we are not just used to it, we desire it. Scandal is always an excuse to have an opinion even for those, who cannot claim to be an expert in the field, like myself.

I find it fascinating how quickly the Mercedes – Pirelli undertaking got to the -gate status, so that expectations to scope of the conflict have risen to a whole new level. We love conflict, we want it to be big, so that we all can moan about how bad it is for the sport. Funny enough, every conflict has a potential to evolve into a vital kick in the ass for the teams to get to agreements in the sports’ interest, or not.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner said the test was “totally unacceptable” because Mercedes, who run their current car with their current drivers, gained an unfair advantage. One can discuss whether there was any advantage, but I believe it’s fair enough to say that if there were none, Mercedes wouldn’t do this test. I believe this particular advantage, that Mercedes gained through this test, is not exactly why other teams are upset, it’s rather the whole idea of in-season testing that buggers competitors.

Martin Whitmarsh, as a FOTA representative, mentioned a couple of times that cost cap is essential for the survival of smaller teams and the sport as a whole, teams even seem to agree with at least the general idea. Whether this idea is implementable is questionable, to be honest, I don’t see the teams agreeing on the level of the cap or related auditing mechanisms any time soon. But ban on in-season testing is one of the agreements that actually go in this direction, and by breaching this agreement Mercedes have questioned the direction in which the sport attempts to go. Funny enough, none of the FOTA teams has officially filed the protest. Horner said the reason for McLaren not to do it is the fact that Mercedes are their engine suppliers. Maybe this is the reason, maybe McLaren have their own problems, or maybe McLaren themselves fancy a chance to do some in-season testing. They can afford it after all. I believe Red Bull and Ferrari, who are not members of FOTA, did not file the protest because Mercedes gained an advantage in this particular case, they did so because they want the same for themselves. Ferrari have been lobbying in-season testing for ages, and now with Mercedes breaching the ban, they could not let such a great opportunity to make their point pass.

The decision, which FIA is faced with, is crucial to determine the direction in which Formula One is about to go. If Mercedes are not punished, or the punishment is not severe enough, this will give a carte blanche for all the other teams to do this so-called tyre testing. And there is no way to control whether it is tyres that they test or anything else, Formula One teams are not too bad with keeping things secret. It is the signal that the decision will make, that matters. After all it’s all politics, and any guess-work what FIA will decide, is at this point in time a mere speculation. One thing is clear, the decision has a potential to kick the sport in one direction or another. I am not sure it’s a proper crossroad, though, it’s rather a choice of a traffic lane.

Thoughts on Barcelona or An unavailing search for the greener grass

Formula One is now back to normal. Pirelli are back on top of the list of hot topics, namely. It is tempting to blame tyres for the lack of racing, but it is too easy, don’t you think?

Depending on their position, every team and every driver has complained about the tyres at some point. These complains are encouraged by the media as well as by the fans. At the end of the day it’s always nice to have some higher power to blame for your failure. Voices saying that it’s a job of the teams and the drivers to maximise their performance with what’s given are becoming louder with every single race. I can get the point, it sounds rational, but I still cannot get rid of the feeling that it is wrong.

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