Why Pirelli deserve credit for F1’s terrific start to the 2011 season


Pirelli tyres, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

Pirelli tyres, Red Bull, Shanghai, 2011

The new Formula 1 season began with three very good races – the most recent of which is already being hailed a classic.

F1’s new official tyre supplier Pirelli deserve to be thanked and congratulated for the exciting and unpredictable races we’ve enjoyed in the last month.

Pirelli’s brief on their return to Formula 1 was to make tyre strategy a part of racing again. This was something Bridgestone never came close to getting right in their last four years as F1’s sole tyre supplier.

That much was clear at Monza last year, where the softest tyre they brought was able to complete the entire race distance.

Pirelli could have turned up with conservative, rock-hard tyres, slap their logos on them and watch the cars go around. Instead, they’ve grasped the far trickier task of producing more challenging rubber for the teams.

Other tyre suppliers may not have been happy to do that. Michelin, one of the companies that were in the running to return as a tyre supplier this year, are currently running an advertising campaign touting the benefits of road tyres which they claim last much longer than their rivals’.

That’s not a message that would sit comfortably alongside F1 cars making tyre stops every dozen laps.

Pirelli have also shrugged off criticism from some drivers such as Adrian Sutil, who complained “it?s a big step backwards compared to Bridgestone”.

But by complaining about the decrease in tyre performance Sutil, Jarno Trulli and the rest have missed the point.

Tyre performance ceased to be a factor when the tyre war ended five years ago. Now tyres can be used to make life more challenging for the drivers, and as a result produce better races.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Shanghai, 2011

By that measure the Pirellis have been an enormous success. Teams now pursue different, conflicting strategies that produce great racing.

They no longer have the luxury of being able to time a pit stop to bring their drivers out away from other cars – solving one of the major obstacles to better racing of recent years.

Inevitably the controversial Drag Reduction System has attracted a lot of attention. But Sepang and Shanghai showed us that while DRS helps drivers make straightforward passes on straights, it’s the tyres that allow them to get close enough to race each other in the corners. All the best passes so far this year happened outside the DRS zone.

With the season just three races old a significant part of the reason why we have seen such unpredictability and excitement is that the teams are still getting used to the new tyres. They had an accumulated 14 years’ experience on Bridgestones but just a few months on Pirellis.

It remains to be seen whether, a few months down the line, Pirelli will still be able to keep the teams guessing and the races will remain as exciting.

Next year, when the teams are allowed a great degree of freedom in weight distribution on their cars, the picture could alter drastically.

There are also some significant challenges on the calendar still to come. Istanbul’s punishing, high-speed turn eight – which comes next – is one of them. And their wet weather tyre performance is still relatively unknown.

But in the words of Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery: “we want to give racing back to the racers”. That’s exactly what they’ve done so far, and they should be congratulated.


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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren

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141 comments on Why Pirelli deserve credit for F1’s terrific start to the 2011 season

  1. We Want Turbos said on 20th April 2011, 23:27

    Could name them after famous Turkish F1 drivers!!…

  2. Kav said on 21st April 2011, 0:11

    Looking at the past few races, I bet Bridgestone regret not making similar tyres.

    Pirelli have probably been mentioned more times in the past three races than Bridgestone have in the past 4 years! If Pirelli had gone down the same route as Bridgestone, we probably wouldn’t even notice there are new tyres.

    Receiving universal praise for doing good for the sport has definitely raised brand awareness, which after all is the reason why they are in F1.

    • Daniel said on 21st April 2011, 3:56

      I dont think Bridgestone regret anything, thb. They made a consistent, durable tire – which is the image you want to portray to the world. Does ferrari wants its engines blowing up unpredictably? it’d sure make the races more interesting and stir up a lot of talk, but I highly doubt Ferrari want that.

      • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 21st April 2011, 21:10

        Actually Bridgestone produced pretty much exactly the same race in Australia 2009. The supersofts were degrading like crazy.

        The drivers were fuming about the poor performance of the tyres and the constant pummeling by marbles.

        Luckily for Pirelli the drivers have now been muzzled. They are not allowed to speak bad of the tyres. problem solved.

  3. redlight said on 21st April 2011, 1:17

    Yeah, its a been a great opening to the season if you find rubber degredation to be fascinating.

  4. JohnBt said on 21st April 2011, 2:08

    Frankly the massive amount of overtaking were very PREDICTABLE.

    I was only excited as I supported Mark Webber, it gave me a high watching him ‘bulldozing’ his way up from 18th to a podium finish. But looking back after the race, are we not overreacting to this situation as we’ve experienced too much processions.

    The only part I enjoyed was when Alonso couldn’t pass Schumi and finally did it with some wobbling, brought back memories of true racing.

    Vettel’s fight with Lewis was so brief – it was “after you Lewis” my tyres are shot.

    Passing shouldn’t be that easy as it DEVALUES the meaning of racing.

    Webber’s strategy now becomes the benchmark. We don’t really need qualifying anymore. 1 set of prime(used) and 3 sets option(brand new) will be ringing for every team now.

    2010 was a very good year and realistic IMHO. Is FIA screwing up the rules?, YES they are. Is FIA goal turning F1 green?, NO they’re not. They could at least keep the rules for a minimum of 2 years. Honestly I don’t want F1 to be green at all.

  5. Morton said on 21st April 2011, 2:32

    All credit to Pirelli and thank you Bridgestone for making F1 boring for the past 4 years. Don’t come back, BS. You are not wellcome. Hope they will withdraw from MotoGP as well.

  6. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 21st April 2011, 3:19

    “we want to give racing back to the racers”.

    Thanks Perelli. They deserve the wishes, I just momentum continues.

  7. Daniel said on 21st April 2011, 3:52

    This article and the arguments made in favour of it are quite silly. Pirelli showed up with a poor quality tire, and it’s being lauded because of the fortunate circumstance of it making the racing a little more unpredictable? If you want exciting, unpredictable racing, watch something else – F1 should always represent the pinnacle of technology, within a given formula. Lauding Pirelli for bringing and inferior tire is like those who suggested spraying the terack with water to make the racing more exciting. It’s artificial and goes against the spirit of F1.

  8. Darren said on 21st April 2011, 5:06

    Bottom line-People want to see exciting racing, Pirelli has given us this, thanks Pirelli.

  9. Jomy John said on 21st April 2011, 6:01

    The Pirelli tyres are good for racing. But had the coupled with Refueling we would have even better races. Right now, it makes sense to pit in earlier and be faster than the car in front. But had we had refuelling, even if you had new tyres you would have the penalty of extra fuel on you. It would have levelled the field in some respects. Right now, racing has become more about who pits first and who gets rid of the hard tyre faster.

  10. It’s a bit harsh on Bridgestone to say they didn’t get it right – they were never asked to, and there was no incentive for them to do so.

  11. Mark Young (@terry-fabulous) said on 21st April 2011, 13:52

    Spot on Keith
    This tyre change has enabled a dry races on featureless tracks to become an overtaking bonanza.

    And that’s a good thing!

    All credit to Pirelli for giving us the benefit of being intelligent enough to distinguish between the quality of their road tyres and their racing tyres

  12. HoHum (@hohum) said on 22nd April 2011, 17:37

    The emphasis on mechanical grip rather than aerodynamic downforce is what has improved the racing. If we continue to reduce the effects of downforce we can improve the mechanical grip and allow the tyres to last longer and make the racing even better.

  13. colin grayson said on 3rd August 2011, 20:54

    DRS is supposed to improve the racing by helping overtking DURING THE RACE
    so why is it’s use allowed during qually ??

    makes no sense

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