I have a question for the gentlemen in the front row; you've already been in Formula One for a long time. How would you compare or judge or comment on the role and significance of the tyres over three periods, maybe the tyre war, the Bridgestone control tyre and now in the Pirelli era tyre?
The tyres have always been very sensitive, the racing tyres. At the moment, you have an extremely close grid because of the technical regulations and if you look now at the spread from the top 15 teams (drivers) is sometimes this year only one second, so if you have a small variation in your tyre grip, where normally if you have a five or six tenths advantage on the next team, it wouldn't normally change your position by one or two places, normally you will drop ten positions if you fall out of that window. But there's been plenty of years previously where we've had extremely sensitive tyres to temperature or anything else so I think they are sensitive, but it's really magnified at the moment because of the closeness of the grid. You pay the penalty very badly if you fall out of that window.
I agree with that. The grid is very tight. The tyres are clearly different to use compared to the Michelins and Bridgestones, just different, not to say better or worse, it's different, a fresh set of challenges which is good in many ways, I think. If you compare them to let's say the height of the tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone, then you got to the point where the race was really a series of qualifying laps and the drivers would therefore push very hard, through the race without worrying too much about degradation, be it thermal or wear. That's different now. I think that brings a different set of skills to the floor, it's almost a bit like Prost in the eighties, when he got the reputation for being The Professor, thinking about how he did the race, and I think that's coming back which I think gives some variety, it gives some change in the field both race-to-race, during the race, qualifying to race. I think that's all good for the sport, good for spectating.
The car is stuck to the ground because of four contact points and they are the tyres and I would say that after drivers, tyres have always been the most important element of competition, so it doesn't matter very much if there is competition between tyre manufacturers or not. You've got to know them, you've got to try to understand them. I think that what has changed over these twenty years – nearly thirty now – is the understanding and of modelling which is available to us, which in reality wasn't available to us thirty years ago when we had to rely on the feeling of the driver which is still important. There is so much the driver can feel. The nurturing of the grip level, the two temperatures that Paul was describing, how you find them and how you cultivate that, how you keep the tyres into it, is probably still one of the arts of a champion and I don't think it's pretty much in our hands.
Q: (Vanessa Ruiz – ESPN Radio)
Paul, do you see Pirelli changing its approach to the compounds to the point of them playing as big a role as they do now? I mean lowering the degradation levels, really lowering them, and to the teams, because we heard a few drivers talking about it: would that be something that you want?
We work on the input from the teams, so if the teams want us to take a different approach we can go back to an approach which is probably more akin to what you'd be doing in a tyre competition. As Adrian just mentioned, you could push harder with very minimal degradation. You then started getting into areas of tyre integrity because you start pushing the boundaries of performance of the tyre but it depends on what the challenge is. We'll do whatever the sport wants us to do and at the moment, I think if you're looking from the outside, at the start of the season of course the tyres are very important, but as I mentioned earlier on, that's the teams getting used to what would be for them, maybe changes to the car, slightly different change from ourselves in terms of challenge. As the season progresses you will see that they will master that. They are very good, all these gentlemen around here, very very competent and very amazing teams of engineers working for them. If I took the first winter testing when we came back into the sport, you would have thought we would be doing 25 tyre changes for a race. On the same tyre at the end of the season, they were getting probably 25 to thirty laps out of the same tyre. Things change and the importance for everybody is that they have the same challenge. The engineers and the teams will find their solutions, and as the gentlemen have said, the drivers can also provide some solutions to that.
I think first and foremost, the reason that we're here is because people are watching it on television so for the good of the sport, it should not actually be our choice, it should be what do people enjoy watching?
I think that's a perfectly reasonable approach. In any case, I think a team only has so much energy to bring to bear on the task at hand and for us, as a small team, we've got bigger fish to fry than to try and influence the tyres. We're perfectly happy with what we have. It's a challenge and one that occupies us.
From that point of view, I think the racing's been very good. It makes our job extremely difficult but that's what we're here for, isn't it? As long as you have the consistency of being able to put on a tyre that's the same every time, which from our experience with Pirelli it is like that, so then you're just limited by your ability to understand the tyre, then it's how good a technical job you do with it. And you can't really argue that it hasn't made the racing very good this year. We're happy with it.