F1 2012 : The Tyre Era & Monaco

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    Younger Hamii

    The 2012 Formula 1 Season: 6 race winners currently with another 3 potentially, Williams back on the top step, KERS & DRS influencing overtaking in some way, shape or form. Renowned as the ‘Golden Era’ with 6 world champions on the grid with none having total dominance. But what I want to discuss about is almost unquestionably the biggest influence in not only overtaking but argubly the unpredictable season that has been witness of current; the tyres.

    These high degradable tyres Pirelli have brought to modern F1 were inspired by one race in 2010 (we all know which race it was), in which the tyres were manufactured by Bridgestone, they’ve been so influential that they’ve prevented Caterham from making the break to the midfield AND also brought them close on multiple occasions in making it to Q2 in qualifying & throwing in additional surprises this season and the likes of Sauber & Williams are exploiting the tyres in qualifying as well as the race, hence Perez & Maldonado deservedly grabbing their maiden podium & victory respectively.

    Speaking of Bridgestone, Monaco this year reminded me of the end of the Bridgestone era in some strange way (Monaco 2010 in particular) in the sense that drivers only made one-stop throughout the race, some say it was due to the probability of rain & the teams wanted to leave their drivers out as long as possible so they can avoid making an extra stop for wet-weather tyres but the whole cause of the debate in the articles was due to the race being claimed ‘boring’ & from my perspective, it was unspectacular to say the least. The ‘tension’ however, towards the latter stages of the race symbolized the unpredictability of the 2012 season.

    Monaco was a strong reference to fans’ views on the tyres; some believing that the tyres have caused the drivers to be scrupulous, not driving ‘on the limit’ & decreasing the ‘credibility’ the pinnacle of motor-sport has while on the other hand, fans believing Monaco was interesting given the tension created by the probability of rain & that anything could happen. Although, I think we need to question Monaco as a race itself; it’s renowned for it’s ‘glitz & glamour’, history & the ruthless challenge it presents to the drivers however, I for one believe history & tradition should not play a part whether a track deserves to be on the calendar or not, don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of the ‘glitz & glamour’ & Monaco is my favourite track but honestly some are just blinded by it & if it’s mainly the reason why Monaco is on the calendar as of today, then I disapprove completely & in terms of action & drama on track, Monaco has held quite inconsistent races

    Back to the tyres, in summary, the tyres have provided excitement, spectacle & amazement & we all want that to continue without a doubt but, sometimes I wonder if the tyres’ influence has become so great that car development isn’t the key element to succeeding in F1 (we don’t even know who has the fastest car currently this season, Spain was suppose to provide those answers to that question but it seems like it has not, we can only speculate!) then perhaps cars in the future will get slower & slower & car development will be centred around conserving tyres.

    What’s your view on 2012 so far & Monaco as a whole?



    One thing which is undeniable is that the drivers are driving at well less than 100%. At Monaco, the shortest lap of the year, Perez lapped 1.1 seconds faster than anyone else and had about 6 of the top 10 times in his Sauber. This means that the leading cars could have gone 2 seconds faster if they weren’t so afraid of the drop off. The Pirellis have scared everyone into stasis. I absolutely hate the concept of ‘falling off the cliff’. It punishes the driver so severely for a small decision such as doing an extra lap or pushing a bit too hard.

    The idea to promote overtaking is noble but executed incorrectly. Instead of consulting the drivers and finding a way to ensure that they can drive to the limits of their abilities, they took the desired result (more overtaking) and reverse engineered this catastrophe.

    The sport has changed from being about the symbiosis of car and driver to being about the symbiosis of car and tyre. One of the most enduring memories I have is watching Hamilton and Alonso at Silverstone 2009. They were in 13th and 14th places in mediocre cars but going hell for leather like they were fighting for the title. The champion spirit was clear in both of them; they were both driving to the absolute limit. Nowadays, it’s no longer the driver who dictates the limit of the car but the tyres.
    All of the drivers are colouring well inside the lines nowadays and it detracts from the moniker “pinnacle of motorsport”.



    This means that the leading cars could have gone 2 seconds faster if they weren’t so afraid of the drop off.

    Wet races prove this to be a nonsense.
    If you are 2 seconds faster for 10 laps and a pit stop costs 20 seconds then you get a free pit stop



    Yes, but you have to remember this is Monaco. If you want to go for a faster-but-more-stop strategy, you have to make sure you can drop the guy dead for a 20s gap, or you have to make sure no one else is on a contra strategy.



    @raymondu999 you also have to have the free air to do it in, which at Monaco is unlikely unless you are leading.



    I think it’s a bit of a sweeping statement to say that the tyres are “unquestionably” the biggest influence on racing this year. In fact, I’d definitely question it.

    For a start, Monaca is a good comparison, since the super soft tyre was the same tyre they used last year. A tyre which last year nobody had any issues with. It’s also worth looking at the qualifying times and race durations for the races this year compared to previous years, where you will notice something interesting – that the pole times are broadly similar, and the race durations are also about the same. Meaning that the pace of these tyres is not as compromised as people are making out. At most, it’s a case of a few seconds over the duration of the race. Hardly the two or three seconds a lap people are suggesting. In fact, when you think about it, most people managed a one stop strategy in Monaco on the super soft, while the car is at its heaviest. A set of tyres which can do that, is a durable set of tyres, especially when the pace is good, which it was.

    No, I would suggest that actually the biggest influence on racing this year, has actually been the banning of blown diffusers. This has had the effect of significantly closing the gap between the teams. There is a situation now where being half a second off the pace in qualifying may put you out in Q2. The result being that qualifying is now far more dependent on individual performance, which has mixed up the grid significantly. It has also put more pressure on those at the front to maintain their lead, and to maximise strategy, leading to some interesting blunders from teams and drivers, where in the past the leading teams could generally play to whatever strategy they chose and still comfortably win or at least get on the podium. Even the slowest cars are finishing just one lap down by the end of the race, which is practically unheard of.

    As well as closing the pack, banning the blown diffusor has also had the effect of significantly reducing the cars’ stability mid-corner, which means that the cars are now more prone to generating higher slip angles and wheelspin; two things which are guaranteed to significantly reduce the life span of your tyres. Again, this doesn’t point to a problem with the tyres, it points to the banning of the blown diffuser as being the culprit for higher levels of tyre degredation as the drivers struggle to find the best balance to extract the maximum performance.

    There is clearly a reason why the drivers don’t feel like they’re driving to the limit, but the times being set in the race don’t seem to suggest that they’re really that far off. It seems to me that with the banning of the diffuser, the pace has naturally dropped off a little, and the characteristics of the cars have fundamentally changed. In such a way, that the car feels to the driver like it has a potential which is significantly higher than the race pace, however if the driver actually tries to achieve this potential, they simply over-drive the car and damage the tyres while not gaining any performance advantage. I’m sure it must be frustrating having to hold off the throttle that little bit longer in the corner, and being unable to attack the corners like they could last year, however these changes aren’t because of the tyres, but rather because the cars have a fundamentally different balance this year caused by the banning of blown diffusors.

    To compound the problem, where in previous years the teams would have used ballast to help bring some balance back to the cars, the weight ratios of the cars are set and can’t be altered, meaning that this characteristic is pretty much fixed for now. The best thing the drivers can do is stop moaning about tyres, and acknowledge that the best way for them to win races is to learn to drive their slightly unbalanced cars, and hope that the engineers can come up with something a little bit more driveable next year.

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