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Teams fear more 'dull' one-stoppers if Pirelli play safe in 2014
19 November 2013
With most cars able to just about achieve a one-stop race strategy at the Circuit of the Americas for last weekend's United States Grand Prix, teams and drivers got a taste of what it will mean if Pirelli go through with their recent threat to go "conservative" with their 2014 tyre compounds.
The tyre manufacturer used the same word, "conservative", to describe its selection of P Zero Orange hard compounds as the prime designation and the P Zero White medium tyre for the option. Race winner Sebastian Vettel was comfortably able to to make it halfway through the race on the latter, suggesting that degradation had not been a significant factor.
Without a big difference in either the duration or longevity of the two types of tyre supplied to teams for a race weekend, teams fear that while it would make their lives easier in terms of race strategy it could also prove to be a right turn-off for fans if the races became dull and boring as a consequence.
Pirelli, meanwhile, has been growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of direction, information and cooperation as they try and make plans for the 2014 tyres they will be producing.
"We just want to be told what to do," said the company's director of motorsports Paul Hembery. "We want a clear input and want it clearly defined, because the characteristic this year is that people have maybe forgotten what we were asked to do.
"That has got lost somewhere in the passage of time and that is the important thing that we want to make sure is resolved," he added. "Somebody needs to tell us what they want to do."
Pirelli has consistently pointed out that they were originally given a brief to make tyres strategy a challenge for the team by making tyres harder to predict and impossible to run for extended periods without a consequence on performance. However, a string of high-profile problems with this year's tyres in the first half of the season saw Pirelli's products heavily criticised and unsurprisingly the company is unwilling to be put in the same position again in 2014.
"I guess what will happen is that we will take a very cautious approach and we will end up with one stop races after this year," said Hembery.
"We have seen a few things that have made us think that we need to take a step back," he added. "And we would end up with a one-stop which is maybe not what the sport wants. But somebody needs to tell us what they do want."
Following a taste of the conservative one-stop show last weekend at Austin, team principals are starting to raise their voices on the matter.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said that ensuring the tyres presented a challenge was a very important matter for the future of the sport and that Sunday's United States Grand Prix had underlined that.
"For sure this is a point of concern and will be discussed over the next couple of weeks because we cannot have a situation where in order to be very conservative, we will have races where there is not any thrill," he said.
"But I am sure Pirelli will find the right solution," he continued. "It is not a case of giving favour to one team over another, it is important for the sport and the show because next year with the totally different car we will require different torque at the rear.
"For sure this has to be heavily discussed over the next couple of weeks," he added.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed, and said that everyone had to work together to help Pirelli find the correctly balanced approach to ensure that the season wasn't full of the sort of "reasonably static race" just run in Austin where even wildly varying temperatures over the weekend - from 8C at the start of Friday morning practice to a maximum of 37C for the race on Sunday - had been easily dealt with by Pirelli's choice of compounds.
"The variation in temperature we saw over the course of the weekend was quite remarkable, meaning that the drivers encountered different track conditions in every session," agreed Hembery.
"Nonetheless, most drivers chose a one-stop strategy as we expected, helped by the safety car period at the beginning of the grand prix, which then led to a race with less strategy and fewer variables than we have been accustomed to recently," he confirmed, perhaps subtly implying that teams should be careful what they wish for when criticising the company's hitherto more adventurous approach to tyre provision in the sport in future.
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