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Tyres not the only reason for mixed up racing - Pirelli

ESPNF1 Staff
May 26, 2012 « Group Lotus CEO Bahar suspended | Details of new Concorde Agreement emerge »
This years Pirelli tyres have changed from last year but so have the downforce levels of the cars © Sutton Images
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Several factors beyond just understanding this year's tyres are having an influence on the racing this season, according to Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery.

The 2012 season has been one of the most unpredictable in recent memory, with five different winners from five races, and it has led to this year's tyres being praised by some but complained about by others. Hembery says the latest generation Pirellis are not dramatically different from last year, but that the teams have had a harder time with them since losing a significant amount of rear downforce from the ban on exhaust blown diffusers.

"In reality the changes are not that huge, but what has happened is the cars have changed a lot," he said. "Probably the teams that are more vocal in their struggles are the ones that maybe had a handle on the blown diffusers and the downforce that those created and it's opened up a new area of work down the paddock.

"Some teams are saying that they haven't seen any difference and that they were always in this situation. At the end of the day sport is all about winning and if you're not winning you're not going to be happy. You wouldn't be in Formula One and at the top of your game if you weren't complaining about not winning, you should be another sport."

Hembery said the temperature operating window for this year's tyres is not much narrower than last year's but it has moved and the teams are still understanding how to set their cars up to suit that change.

"I would say all the teams understand the tyres, what they don't understand is how to make the interaction between the car and the tyres achieve what they want," he added. "They know what's going on with the tyres. If you talk to some of the tyre engineers with some of the teams, who from the outside look like their suffering, but if you talk to the tyre guy he knows exactly [what is happening]. It's not about understanding the tyres it's that obvious thing about interaction between driver, car and that tyre to get the tyre operating in the window that maximises the performance. I'm not trying to shift responsibility there, but it is that. If you talk to the experts in the teams then you get a good indication."

At all the circuits the rear tyres have been the most sensitive to degradation and Hembery said that can be partly explained by the cars sliding more now there is less rear downforce with the ban on exhaust blown diffusers.

"If you're oversteering, you're sliding and then you're heating up your tyres and that wasn't evident last year. A lot of the cars were very stuck to the ground, if you want to see it from a simplistic point of view, with very little movement."

Temperature fluctuation at the races this year has also played its part, with each tyre responding at its peak in different temperatures.

"It varies depending on which tyre you're talking about," Hembery added. "If anything we were more concerned about cooler temperatures. Bahrain is probably exceptional in that that's probably pushing the area where you want to take that sort of tyre and that was a big challenge for the teams."

Ferrari technical director Pat Fry agrees and said that is part of the reason why teams are often left scratching their heads when it comes to strategy calls.

"The temperature range varies for the compounds," he said. "So when you have a softer compound you think it should give you more grip, but if it's got a higher working range it doesn't work quite so well in cold conditions. At some of the races, Malaysia is a good example, we pitted and fitted the wrong tyre. We thought the harder tyre had a lower working range and worked better in those cool conditions. I think that when we get used to the tyres it becomes easier, in terms of balancing compound working ranges. It's still obviously difficult for all the teams to learn how you drive the cars. How careful you need to be and choosing when to push and so on."