Red tyre revolution

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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