Ferrari want softer Bridgestone tyres

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa on soft tyres at Hungary - Ferrari want even softer rubber
Felipe Massa on soft tyres at Hungary - Ferrari want even softer rubber

An interesting article on Autosport yesterday gives some more insight into how McLaren have suddenly got the upper hand in the world championship battle.

Ferrari believe part of McLaren’s advantage has been because the tyres supplied by Bridgestone at recent events have suited the MP4/23 better than the F2008.

With Bridgestone yet to announce their tyre choices for the final races of, are Ferrari putting pressure on them to bring softer tyres?

McLaren has generally been harder on its tyres than Ferrari has this year. But in recent races Mclaren seems to have improved the way it uses its tyres. How much of that is down to the tyres themselves, and how much is down to technical improvements on the MP4/23, is the crucial question.

Bridgestone has four compounds to choose from for each race weekend: hard, medium, soft and super-soft. Ferrari’s Aldo Costa reckons the medium and hard tyres brought to Hockenheim were the wrong choice:

The tyres were very, very hard, probably too hard for that kind of circuit, especially the hard tyre. There was no wear at all; the tyre just was not working for that kind of circuit. This was valid for us and it was valid as well for most of the teams.

Inevitably you have to think, “well he would say that, wouldn’t he?”

Bridgestone announced their tyre allocations for the second half of 2008 two months ago. Until this year F1 hadn’t raced at the Hockenheimring since the tyre war ended, so Bridgestone had no experience of bringing their new tyres to the track.

As Hockenheim is usually very hot they erred on the side of caution. Had they brought tyres that were too soft we might have seen the kind of debacle NASCAR suffered at Indianapolis last weekend.

So are Ferrari just whingeing? When I posted the article on the live blog during qualifying yesterday Doctorvee didn’t have much sympathy for them:

They can hardly complain after all the years of Bridgestone designing tyres specifically for Ferrari.

This is a reference to the ‘tyre war’ years of 2001-2006, when Ferrari’s rivals one by one moved to Michelin as Bridgestone’s tyres became every more closesly tailored to Ferrari and Michael Schumacher’s preference.

But if we look at the tyre allocations for upcoming races we can see why Ferrari are concerned:

Race Prime tyre Option tyre (white stripe)
Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring Soft Super-soft
European Grand Prix, Circuito Urbano Valencia Soft Super-soft
Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps Hard Medium
Italain Grand Prix, Monza Hard Medium

Valencia is a leap into the unknown but as street circuits tend to be low-grip Bridgestone are bringing their softest tyres. At Spa and Monza Bridgestone are bringing tyres that are harder than they used in 2007, when they brought the Medium and Soft compounds to both.

Bridgestone will probably be announcing their tyre choices for the final four races soon. Ferrari’s complaints about tyre choice may be an effort to put pressure on Bridgestone to bring softer tyres that suit the Ferrari better. To add weight to their claim, Costa suggested other teams thought the Hockenheim tyres were too hard as well (“this was valid for us and it was valid as well for most of the teams”).

This effectively give Bridgestone an enormous say in which teams are going to be competitive over the final races.

Bridgestone has already said that next year it will bring tyres that have a greater difference in performance to each round. That might make it easier for teams to use a tyre that suits their car best.

But the tyre allocations for Singapore, Japan, China and Brazil could play a very important role in deciding the championships this year.