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Teams fear delay could bring conservative tyres

29 May 2010

The time it is taking for Formula One's powers that be to decide on a replacement for tyre supplier Bridgestone next season could lead to 'safe' compounds that restrict the opportunity to improve the racing spectacle, according to team bosses.

While they accept the reasons for the delay, the teams are keen to see the bartering between Michelin, Pirelli, Cooper/Avon, the FIA and FOM brought to a swift conclusion, as the outcome could have implications not only for the construction of the rubber itself, but also for the design of cars for next season. Pirelli is understood to be in pole position to replace Bridgestone for 2011, after the Japanese company announced its intention to withdraw at the end of the current campaign, but the final decision, which had been expected in Spain two weeks ago, is lingering on through this weekend's Turkish GP.

"Formally speaking, the decision on the tyres is related to the regulations, but it is a little more complicated, because, as you know, the situation is under discussion," Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali commented, "A lot of things are going on that we should really clarify, this weekend hopefully, because, the more we go ahead – and it's already late – we cannot really waste more time on it."

Asked whether the prevarication is now harming next season's preparations and, in particular, the chances of the new supplier being able to design tyres that will spice up the action on track, Mercedes GP's Ross Brawn admitted that there could be a tendency to 'go safe' given the timescale.

"I think, obviously, it would have been ideal if we'd had the tyre supplier nominated much earlier than this, but I think... people are getting a little bit more confidence now, so we are where we are today," Brawn reported, "Fortunately, within F1, the exodus of engineers from the tyre companies when they withdrew from Formula One, a lot of them came back into F1 with the teams - we've got an ex-Michelin tyre engineer, McLaren have got an ex-Bridgestone tyre engineer. I know other teams have got other engineers from different teams and different tyre suppliers and we're all willing to work together with the new tyre supplier to make sure that we have the best chance of success.

"But it may take a few iterations to get where we want to be and, undoubtedly, there will be a degree of conservatism at the beginning because we can't afford to have any problems with compounds. We want an aggressive compound but, if it's too aggressive and it doesn't last very long, then it will be difficult. But we're all there to help the new tyre supplier and I think we've got a good chance of success."

Despite his optimism that suitable tyres could be produced, Brawn remained wary of adding more test dates to the schedule in a bid to hasten their development.

"The economy is very delicate at the moment and we need to be careful to take a view for all the teams in F1," he pointed out, "I think F1 is heading to a stage where the costs involved have been controlled and have been significantly reduced and will be further reduced in the future. Mercedes GP, or Mercedes, came into F1 with their own team because of their belief that those costs would be controlled in the future and this wouldn't be a spending competition.

"It would be responsible and we don't want to be involved in that sort of form of F1. We want to be involved in F1, which is still the pinnacle of motor racing but which rewards the challenge, rewards the innovation of engineers and takes a slightly different direction than perhaps the direction it has been in, in the last few years.

"Clearly, we need to have some specific testing to make sure the tyres are sorted properly. We need to manage that. I think, on the subject of testing overall, we mustn't go back to having separate test teams - if there is any testing introduced, it has to be integrated in a way that we don't need extra personnel to do it. That is a big challenge as we have got a lot of races coming up now. I think there are 20 races next year, and all of us are having to look at how we manage our people and how they can cope with 20 races.

"It's fantastic that we have got 20 races and I am not complaining. But there is a pressure now on how we can manage that with our people and maybe we have to start rotating a few of them - and along with that we certainly don't need to have a separate test team. I think things have gone in a very good direction and I think we should massage it a little bit more, not change direction fundamentally."

Pirelli is understood to have seized the upper hand in negotiations with the teams, having agreed to provide tyres for the current 13-inch wheels and supply greater numbers of tyres at lower cost. Michelin wanted to switch to an 18-inch rim similar to those used in its sportscar programme. The French company has said that it would welcome an immediate 'tyre war', but Pirelli is reported to be seeking an exclusive deal for at least two years.


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