Yes. It has gone beyond the threshold of unpredictability into randomness. The signs are unnatural for motorsport. In Q3, there is now a “black hole” for places 8-10. Any surprise Q3 entrants prefer to save tyres rather than chance their arm at a higher grid position (which they would almost certainly lose anyway given the ease of passing in this iteration of F1). Also, there is the new “midfield pole” of 11th which gives a strategy advantage and fresh tyre advantage to those ahead. This undoubtedly helped propel Kimi from eleventh to second.
The most worrying is that drivers are losing their identity. This shows itself in many ways. The tyres are just the latest in a series of attempts to neutralise the disparity between driver talent (e.g. DRS). Aggressive driving is redundant because any time gained will be lost several times over due to excessive degradation/more boxes. Superior tyre management is null because the tyres are specced to die after 100km. Sustained pressure on an opponent is near impossible because they do not hold up well in traffic. Outrageous overtakes are more difficult because of the life you take out of the tyres as well as the fact that the tyres are churning out marbles the size of Chuck Norris’s testicles. The second overlooked aspect is how is a young driver supposed to distinguish himself? The number of one-and-done F1 drivers is rising (half-and-done if you drive for Toro Rosso). How are they supposed to make their name if they are mostly just a faceless drone overtaking/being overtaken generically? Kobayashi made his reputation in two races for Toyota by being super aggressive. If he débuted in today’s F1, he would blend in with the crowd. How many dormant Kobayashi’s are there on the grid today? We don’t know and the tyres obfuscate the truth from us.
I can’t believe this hasn’t been mentioned – the drivers are no longer physically pushed to the limit. I remember when the drivers used to rest their heads on the side of the cockpit because the race was so taxing. Nowadays, a driver completes a 100 minute race and hops out of the car looking untried and not fatigued in the slightest. Will we ever see again something near Ayrton Senna struggling to stand up after completing an exhausting Brazilian Grand Prix?
The biggest fault of the Pirelli tyres, in my opinion, is the fact that they kill sustained battles between two drivers. In 2010, I loved watching Button and Hamilton joust and jostle and try to outwit one another. Now it seems like I’m watching [Button vs. Pirelli] and [Hamilton vs. Pirelli] on the same piece of tarmac.
I have no problem with tyres being a limiting factor, but they are so limiting that is becoming impossible to distinguish drivers from one another. Who has the most overtakes this year? I don’t know. Who has been the most attacking driver so far? I don’t know. Most conservative with the tyres? Don’t know. Who are the latent talents most likely to break into the big teams in the future? Perhaps Checo, otherwise I don’t know.
A final observation. I don’t understand the logic of “falling off the cliff”. It’s arbritrary and so pointless. If a driver over uses a tire, he should be punished commensurately (0.5-1 sec) instead of having a race ruined by doing a lap or two too many.