Teams set to receive extra tyres for Friday practice
15 April 2013
Starting from Spain, F1 teams could get extra tyres to use in Friday practice in an effort to help them get better prepared for the remainder of the race weekend in future, Bernie Ecclestone revealed on the starting grid at Shanghai just before this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
At present teams get only 11 sets of tyres which they have to manage across the entire event. One set of the prime tyres has to be handed back by teams at the end of FP1, so typically that's all teams use in that first session - leading to long periods of inactivity during the morning as teams jealously guard their remaining tyre allocation.
That limits the amount of on-track testing the teams can do, leaving them playing something of a guessing game when it comes to set-ups for Saturday and Sunday and determining which race strategy to opt for.
Pirelli has suggested giving more tyres to the teams, with one proposal being that any team running a rookie driver in FP1 should get an extra set of tyres to work with, possibly of a more durable nature than the official race compounds.
Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery told reporters in Shanghai that the proposal has been worked up after the tyre manufacturer had asked team bosses what they needed to run more laps on Fridays and to encourage the use of third drivers among the top teams during the race weekend.
In China, the only reserve driver to get any track time on the Shanghai International Circuit at all was local favourite Ma Qing Hau, who works for the Caterham team and who stood in for regular driver Charles Pic.
Another proposal could see additional sets of tyres only being available to teams for the first part of FP1, to encourage teams to get out on track right from the green light.
But although Ecclestone in typical fashion announced the move for extra Friday tyres as a done deal, in reality Pirelli's proposals still have to be formally approved by the teams in discussion with the FIA's Charlie Whiting, with a meeting set to happen this weekend in Bahrain.
"We can do it from Barcelona," said Hembery, speaking in China on Sunday. "But the detail is something that needs to be sorted out with the teams and Charlie."
In the meantime, Hembery has defended this year's compounds from criticism and from complaints that tyre management is becoming too pre-eminent within the sport, insisting that the company's tyres are doing the job that they are designed and intended to do and that the options weren't wearing out unreasonably fast in race conditions.
"It was degradation, rather than actual wear, that dictated the strategy," he said after the end of the 2013 F1 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on Sunday. "We still saw consistent lap times from the medium compound, even on a long run of 15 laps or more.
"Once more we saw a very wide variety of race strategies [which] gave us a thrilling finish, with a battle for the final podium place between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel that went all the way to the chequered flag," he added.
"This is the third winner out of three races held so far this season, with five world champions in the top five places today," he said, pointing out that adding to the excitement of individual races and to the unpredictability of the season overall is precisely what Pirelli was tasked with delivering when handed the F1 tyre supply contact by the FIA.
"Some of the smaller teams benefit," he added, saying that the end result was "a very stimulating race" in China. However, he did add that the company was currently assessing how the season had gone so far and whether any tweaks to the current tyres were needed.
"We will complete our start of season review next Sunday, as we have done every year," he noted on Twitter after the Chinese GP. "If we change anything it will be minor."
Pirelli's engineers had forecast before the race that the three-stop strategy - starting on the soft tyres from the grid - would be the most successful approach to the Chinese GP and were proved right by Fernando Alonso's comprehensive victory over the rest of the field despite the early strong showing of Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Nico Hülkenberg at the front on the prime compound.
"Strategy played a key role in today's race, with the medium tyre proving particularly effective at the beginning of the grand prix on full fuel," said Hembery. "This initially rewarded the drivers who started on the medium tyre.
"[It] also meant that those who started on the soft tyre completed a short first stint in order to move onto the medium as quickly as possible," he continued. "As a result we saw plenty of overtaking, with many of the strategies reliant on the drivers passing as many cars as possible to gain track position before their next stops."