23 April 2012
Schumacher, Pirelli fall out over tyres
Former world champion Michael Schumacher is less than happy with the state of the tyres in F1, causing Pirelli to respond by saying other drivers are making them work.
Michael Schumacher was seething about the short life of the Pirelli tyres at Bahrain, saying that tyre wear and degradation have become too big a part of the sport in 2012.
"Everyone has to drive well below a driver's and, in particular, the car's limits to maintain the tyres," Schumacher told reporters in the paddock of the Bahrain International Circuit after Sunday's race in Sakhir.
"I'm not happy about the situation," he continued. "I just question whether the tyres should play such a big importance.
"They should last a bit longer, and that you can drive at normal racing car speed and not cruise around like we have a safety car," he added, pointing out that it wasn't just one or two cars with the degradation issues but a good 80 per cent of the field who were suffering. "If it was a one-off car issue, you could say it's up to us to deal with it."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli's director of motorsport, said that he was surprised and disappointed to hear Schumacher's comments and that Schumacher had been happy with the tyres over winter testing.
"Now he seems to have changed his tune," Hembery added.
"This was certainly a very technically challenging race, on a circuit that we had never experienced in racing conditions before," he explained. "Nonetheless, we chose to bring our soft compound together with the medium in order to provide plenty of opportunities for strategy.
"Although degradation was a factor in this race, which was already evident from the tactics adopted in qualifying, the tyres stood up extremely well to the demands that were placed on them," he insisted.
"During the closing stages of the race, the priority for the drivers was to ensure that the tyres didn't fall off 'the cliff' of performance: a task that they all managed very well," he pointed out, showing how other drivers were managing to get on with the job.
Schumacher's comments do seem to have reopened a simmering ongoing argument about the expectations for F1's tyre suppliers. When Bridgestone was left as the sole supplier to the championship following Michelin's exit, tyres soon became so durable that they could last almost an entire race at times without losing much performance. That rock-solid reliability did wonders for Bridgestone's reputation in the consumer market, but added little to the racing action on track.
When they entered the sport, Pirelli's brief was to make tyres that would liven up the action by putting a bigger step in performance between different compounds and by the rubber having a shorter lifespan, forcing teams to pay more attention to tyre strategy and punishing those who got it wrong.
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