Red tyre revolution

Sebastien Bourdais, Champ Car, 2006The first half-baked, half-assed shambles of a ruling for 2007 has got the F1 community chattering.

Formula One will borrow the ‘Red Tyre Rule’ from Champ Car this year – albeit with one key difference that almost appears designed to make the whole thing as confusing and opaque as possible.

For all this we have the combined intelligence of Bridgestone, the FIA and the teams to thank.

Perhaps Bridgestone felt really pleased with themselves for a few minutes in 2006, before realising they had created one problem by solving another.

Michelin’s decision to quit F1 at the end of 2006 was the culmination of a series of political moves in which Bridgestone positioned themselves as the FIA’s tyre supplier of choice.

United States Grand Prix, Indianapolis, 2005, startThere was more to it than Michelin’s responsibility for the Indianapolis 2005 debacle.

Bridgestone had ingratiated themselves with the powers-that-be in Formula One by supporting the move to grooved tyres (when Goodyear left), purchasing plenty of track signage from Allsport (unlike Michelin) and supporting the FIA’s decision to abolish the tyre war (unlike Michelin).

When the chance to tender for Formula One’s tyre supply from 2008 onwards, it was a foregone conclusion. Bridgestone duly did the deal.

Only now did they face the problem that Michelin had known all along: Spectators don’t give a fig about the tyres unless they cause significant variations in the performance of the cars – as they do in a tyre war.

The Japanese tyre company lost no time at all in petitioning the FIA for a solution which they hoped would give F1 race commentators a reason to keep using the word ‘Bridgestone’.

Oriol Servia, Montreal, Champ Car, 2006They wanted to borrow an idea from the Champ Car World Series where they are also the single tyre supplier.

In Champ Cars, Bridgestone supply a standard tyre plus a softer ‘option’ tyre, the latter bearing distinctive red sidewalls. Each car must use at least one set of each tyre during the course of a race.

(In this F1 is continuing a long tradition of nabbing ideas from Champ Car both good – safety cars – and bad – refuelling.)

This works fine in Champ Cars because of the red sidewalls – at a glance anyone can tell what tyres any car is running.

But of course matters cannot be that straightforward in Formula One. No, the teams have refused to let the two different types of tyres have any visible differences because they don’t want their strategies being given away.

What a load of short-sighted nonsense. If the rule makes one team’s strategy obvious, clearly it makes all of their strategies obvious, so no-one gains or loses anything.

Max Mosley, Bahrain, 2006Isn’t this exactly the reason why Max Mosley has gradually twisted power out of the collective hands of the teams? Could he not now just bang his fist on the table and say, “tough – red tyres it is”? Certainly he should…

Autosport claim FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting is working to force teams to reveal the details of their strategies.

He’s entirely right to. Otherwise a rule that might even have some benefit for the quality of racing in Formula One could be ruined by exactly the kind of mindless, uncompromising selfishness that spoils this sport.

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9 comments on Red tyre revolution

  1. Cooperman said on 31st January 2007, 10:38

    This rule is shocking in its entirety – it’s fine for Champ Cars where it’s generally acknowledged that their audience seek entertainment and artificial racing – but this is F1. The pinnacle. The top. The best.

    This tyre rule is absolute rubbish. Max *should* be ashamed of himself but he’ll probably blame Ron Dennis, or Coulthard, or the GP Manufacturers when it’s obvious it’s wrong and they’ll be yet another change to F1’s rulebook. Do true F1 fans want to see this sort of thing? I consider myself a fan and this isn’t what I put in the FIA’s survey last year.

  2. yes rubbish,colored tyre walls,refuling,we don’t need these artificial “improvements”i like to see overtaking on the track,not in the pits!

  3. Jmagay said on 31st January 2007, 22:05

    Another step toward “Crashca..” er, Nascar idiocy. Speaking of which – the formerly rather pure looking car shapes are being covered so heavily with sponsor colors and decals, (Note Renault for 2007) the cars look like prototypes covered with camo for testing. Ugh!

  4. It’s not the teams that refusing to have the red sidewalls – it’s Bridgestone. In Champcar there is one hard and one soft tire in use all year, but for F1 there will be about 4 types of tire – from which B’stone will select two for the teams to use at each race. So what’s the soft tire some weekends could be the hard tire other weekends. I think when Bridgestone realised it could cost them money and that they’d be stuck with extra tires they pushed the blame onto the teams.

    The only people to blame here are Bridgestone and the FIA.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 1st February 2007, 18:45

    So the Autosport story is inaccurate? They claimed, “A plan to adopt a red-painted sidewall for the soft tyres to allow easy differentiation of which compound the drivers were using fell through because teams did not want their strategies to be made public.” (See link above)

  6. As far as I know, yeah. The teams may have objected too, but it’s Bridgestone who raised the main objection.

  7. I’m still trying to figure out how Ferrari is going to benefit from such a half-baked idea. I mean, there HAS to be something – that’s the only reason the FIA make stupid rule changes like this…

  8. James said on 18th March 2007, 4:20

    Ending the tyre war in the first place was a bloody silly decision. F1 has always used such competition between rival teams/manufacturers to push back technical boundaries on and off the track. It makes the racing more exciting and it benefits all of us because what is learned during development filters down to ‘everyday’ road products, etc.

    F1 has been doing way too much of this over the last few years. And yes, I bet Ferrari had some hand in it, they’re always playing political games instead of going out and winning fair and square.

  9. bookmarked!!, I like your site!

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