The subject of tyres, and their effect on the way this year's grands prix have been run, has attracted praise and criticism in equal measure, and veteran F1 team boss Gian Carlo Minardi has now waded in with his own opinion.
Minardi's eponymous team ran largely in times of multiple tyre suppliers, when trying to provide the most competitive rubber possible was the norm, and when the fortunes of whichever company you were aligned to played a major part in whether you won or lost. Now, with Pirelli in sole control of the supply, each team gets the same rubber, but that does not necessarily mean that all cars are equal when it comes to racing on a Sunday afternoon.
"This championship is deeply conditioned by tyres, and only the driver who has the best understanding of them will succeed," Minardi intoned, "We have [had] the seventh different winner inside seven different grands prix and running races is getting more and more difficult, [but] what catches our eyes are the big differences inside the same team.
"Let's take [Lewis] Hamilton and [Jenson] Button as an example. The difference between them is huge. We almost cannot explain it. There is something unusual, so it's getting more and more difficult to judge. There could be either technical problems or mental ones. As the championship goes by, the differences between the performances of two drivers belonging to the same team are getting bigger and bigger.
"Hamilton's weekend was super. McLaren
has improved set-up and tyres, which didn't bear weather changes. Surely Jenson is not having a good period. From a technical point of view, in the last three grands prix, soft tyres have been used. On the contrary, he made a good race using hard tyres, which usually are the hardest to reach a right temperature."
The one thing Pirelli's tyre strategy is promoting in 2012 is unpredictability, with Williams
returning to winning way and the likes of Sauber and Lotus chasing podiums previously reserved for the likes of McLaren, Red Bull
and Ferrari. While he my not enjoy the influence tyres are having on the season, Minardi appreciates the opportunities that it is affording to talent that may otherwise have been stifled by the limitations of their teams.
"The Montreal GP's standing is a good example of that," he pointed out, "In the first five positions, we have five different cars. Unlike Hamilton and Button, Felipe Massa's performance level is getting higher and higher - it's almost as good as Alonso's - [while] Lotus also had a very good performance. As far as the relationship between chassis and tyres is concerned, the [Lotus] car is the most uniform amongst others. They optimised the result, [and Romain] Grosjean, [who] committed heavy mistakes in the previous grand prix, in a difficult race such as the Canadian one, succeeded in getting such a good result.
"He is among the drivers who haven't won a race yet and, while [Sergio] Perez made some mistakes as well, he showed everybody to be a very fast driver. Together with their teams, the drivers, supported by a good car, implemented a solid strategy. In qualifying, they're not fast yet, but their steadfastness allow them to obtain good results. The championship they're running is interesting and engaging - Perez is an outsider whose performances are going to get better and better."
The Canadian race also presented the teams with the quandary of whether to try and run the 70-lap distance on one or two stops. While McLaren
accepted that it could not get Hamilton to the end on just one stop, both Ferrari
and Red Bull
attempted to do so, only to come unstuck in the final ten laps, with Alonso and Vettel - once on the podium - fading to fifth and fourth respectively.