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Under-fire Pirelli concedes changes needed for the future

12 May 2013

"I've received a tweet saying 'Four stops isn't a motor race - it's a bus journey!'" quipped Sky Sports F1 co-commentator Martin Brundle at the end of the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend in Barcelona. It was a harsh comment - but few were disagreeing.

In fact, even the tyre manufacturer itself appeared inclined to agree.

Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery admitted on Twitter that on this occasion the manufacturer had misjudged the amount of tyre degradation that the teams would experience at the Circuit de Catalunya, after even their hardest pairing of compounds - the P Zero Orange hard and P Zero White medium - had been found wanting.

"We aim for 2-3 pit stops," he revealed. "Today was too many, we got it wrong, too aggressive."

Hembery pointed out that when Pirelli had originally been appointed as tyre suppliers for the F1 paddock, they had been given a very specific brief: "We were asked to replicate Canada 2010," he said. "It is not always easy, cars develop, we cannot test with current cars, no in season testing either," he explained.

However, teams being forced into a four-stop strategy was most certainly not what the company had been intending. As a consequence, no one on pit lane seemed to know what strategy they should be on during Sunday's race as strategy manuals got ripped up and thrown away during the onslaught of 82 pits stops during the 66-lap race.

There hardly seemed a moment when someone wasn't being forced to dive onto pit lane for a new set of tyres, and the airwaves were thick with radio comms from drivers such as Force India's Paul di Resta asking for clarification of exactly what they were supposed to be doing during this stint and when they were coming in next.

"It's clear that four is too many," Hembery agreed. "We know that with four, it's hard to follow and too difficult.

"In fact, its only happened once before - in Turkey during our first year in the sport. We'll be looking to make some changes, in time for Silverstone, to make sure that we maintain our target and solve any issues rapidly.

"We'll discuss that this week and we will either do that through compounding or through the structure of the tyres to make it less aggressive."

Pirelli had already been underfire earlier in the race weekend after a tyre failure for Force India's Paul di Resta in free practice on Friday afternoon, although Pirelli later confirmed that this had been caused by the tyre being cut by debris on the track. (See separate story.)

Hembery pointed to the "unique characteristics" of the Catalunya circuit as being behind the problems in the Spanish GP. "This is why we saw high levels of degradation, which should not be seen again to this extent for the rest of the year," he said.

That said, Hembery was impressed that Ferrari and Fernando Alonso in particular adapted to the situation and made it work for them to deliver a hugely popular home win for the driver in Barcelona this weekend.

"Congratulations to Fernando Alonso and Ferrari who pushed hard from start to finish to make the four-stop strategy work for them," he said. "They planned their strategy from the start of the weekend, using the tyres wisely during qualifying, and then made it count with some fantastic overtaking moves."

Unsurprisingly, Red Bull principal Christian Horner was once again one of the leading voices criticising the tyres after the race concluded, having already called for a rethink of the tyre strategy from Pirelli earlier in the season.

"When you are telling drivers not to push because we are saving tyres isn't great for the sport of for the fans," Horner said. "We need to push the drivers harder and allow them to drive properly."

"I could drive that fast," complained Brundle after watching on-board footage from the leading cars during the race. "We've got to do something."

As ever, Lotus' driver Kimi Raikkonen was working an altogether different groove on the subject after coming second in Spain. "People will always complain," shrugged the Finn.

And former F1 driver Gerhard Berger was also taking a rather more sanguine view of the situation and suggested that they were having a positive effect on helping to make an exciting title battle.

"We have to wait to see what is going with the tyres. I think we are talking too much about them and it is becoming too critical but I think we are going to see a good championship," he said. "Red Bull look strong, so do Ferrari and there are some strong drivers so I think it will be a good championship."


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