Tyre bore

Michelin F1 tyreWatching the Japanese Grand Prix qualifying this morning immediately made me think of Mark Hughes’ piece in Autosport this week.

I enjoy his writing very much – it’s deeply analytical, reasoned and persuasive – and this one was no different even though I don’t agree with him:

It was proved again at Shanghai last weekend: the tyre war is magnificent. The very thing that we are losing next year gave us another stunning weekend.

In the light of this morning’s qualifying session it’s hard to agree. Instead of having a tense, evenly-matched battle between championship challengers Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, Bridgestone have produced an astonishingly quick tyre and Schumacher is almost 1.5s a lap quicker than Alonso.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Sepang, 2006The Toyota drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli, whose average starting positions this year prior to Japan were 10.38 and 11.19, are third and fourth. The swing in tyre performance is so great that its making a mockery of the endeavours of teams and drivers – just as it did to Michael Schumacher and Ferrari last year.

The tyre war has provoked some cripplingly dull races this year when either Michelin or Bridgestone have been miles ahead, handing Alonso and Schumacher some very uncomplicated wins.

I can sympathise with Hughes’ argument, expressed in a specialist title, whose readers are inevitably going to find every facet of F1 fascinating (as I do – that’s why I buy it!) But I think among dedicated followers of F1 there can be a very blinkered mindset to what the outside world makes our sport.

And in this case, just how stupid F1 looks because of the tyre war.

Contrary to Hughes’ piece is a short article in yesterday’s Daily Mirror which I strongly dislike but agree with. Derek McGovern points out that what should be an ‘epic duel’ has been reduced to a tedious tyre battle which is a total turn-off for the average fan.

No, Formula One should not change every rule in the book to make it more appealling to the ‘average fan’ – then it would be NASCAR, which is as much a motor sport as WWE is wrestling. But it needs to get a better handle on what the outside world thinks of it.

Happily, the tyre war concludes this year. I am confident it will be a step forward for F1.

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