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Compound Confusion

So far, I have said nothing about the plan to make Bridgestone identify the two tire compounds to be used in races this year by having a blob of paint smeared on one or other of them. This is mainly because I really don’t understand the whole business.


Best of buddies – Mansell and Piquet

For a start, what is the point of forcing the teams to use both compounds in each race? Since everyone must do this, it seems like a pathetic attempt to introduce more artificial strategy into racing – as if we didn’t have enough already. And it will very quickly become clear whether it is best to use the soft tires at the beginning of the race or the end and all the teams will react accordingly. Not much room for nail-biting stuff there.

Then there is the silly business of whether there should be visual indication of which compound each car is using. I am told that this will make things more exciting for the fans since they will be able to see at a glance which cars are on softs and which on hards. And everyone seems to agree that this is a great idea – or it appeared so until until this morning, when I read a post on Formula 1 Linksheaven that questions the motivation behind the sorry business. I particularly liked the following statement:

The casual fan does not give a damn what compound a driver is using. The CASUAL fan can’t tell whether it’s Liuzzi or Speed gone by in the Toro Rosso. So this wont enhance their enjoyment of a race. And the hardcore fans will likely not want their beloved sport to take a further step away from being the cut-throat world that it is.

I would go even farther and suggest that the dedicated fans too will not care once it comes down to it. They understand that these things even themselves out in the race and that any excitement created by them is artificial and temporary only. What really matters to us is that there be as little interference by regulation in the races as possible – the attraction of F1 is competition between the best drivers and cars in the world and there is no need to “spice up” the show with idiotic and pointless requirements inserted by a governing body obsessed with TV ratings and convinced that we are all so moronic that only a circus will keep us amused.

As an example of just how much we care about tires, consider the British GP of 1987. Everyone remembers it as the race in which Nigel Mansell passed Nelson Piquet to win after having been twenty seconds down; some even consider it to be Mansell’s greatest race. The fact that Mansell was so far behind because he had changed his tires late in the race and that Piquet’s tires were shot is quietly forgotten. In fact, all that race proved was that a car on new tires is quicker than one on worn ones – big revelation.

No, we don’t care about tires and any attempt to re-introduce interest after having ensured that there will be no competition between tire manufacturers is a matter of wanting to have your cake and eat it. There are arguments for and against tire wars in F1 but, having decided to standardize on one manufacturer, the FIA should leave it at that, instead of monkeying about with details in the hope of preserving a vestigial interest in tires.

12 Responses to “Compound Confusion”

  1. we need racin not gimmicks,whatever next,bett those painted tyres will look horible!

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Rob!

  3. First, it surprised me to see you referring to “the best drivers and cars in the world”, rather than the best drivers and teams in the world. The car is the result of a unified effort of great power in the hands of individuals, from tuning to tire-changing and beyond. We’ve all seen races won and lost in the pits or in the fabricating shop. Second, the coloured walls on the CHAMP car “reds” don’t do any harm, and are certainly not ugly. If there are colour codes on F1 tires, I’m sure they will reflect the tasteful themes that the cars do. They are unlikely to be “blobs” of colour, as that might upset wheel balance.

  4. I agree that the car is the result of teamwork, Barry, but most F1 fans watch the sport for the drivers and the cars, rather than the teams. Those who design, build, develop and maintain the car are easily forgotten once the car is racing. But I do accept that it would have been more accurate for me to say “the cars and teams”.

    It matters not to me whether the tires are color-coded or not – my argument is with the rather dubious reasons given for having them so visibly coded. And it does look as if the tires will be identified with a blob of paint – the only other option is to have a spot of color (probably white) put on them during manufacture. But this becomes prohibitively expensive when you realize that a tire deemed soft at one track may well be the hard option at the next, thus requiring that the color coding be removed. So it makes sense that the quick and dirty method will be used – a blob of paint. And, if this affects wheel balance, I’m sure they will just re-balance the wheels.

  5. I was at Stowe in 1987 and the way I remember it, the big excitement was over whether the new tyres would be enough to enable Mansell to make up the time he lost in the pits – a classic case of how drivers on different strategies can produce a great race.

    Senna vs Piquet at Monza that year was even better.

  6. So you remember it Patrick – but how many do? Far too often I’ve heard that race referred to as Mansell’s great victory and yet no mention of tyres. Most people tend to remember the wins but not the circumstances – so we all know that Panis won at Monaco once but forget that just about everyone else dropped out… ;)

    Monza 1987 huh? I’ll have to dig that one out!

  7. Its worth a look – at least as I recall. Although that one I only saw on television.

    I always thought Hungary 1989 the greatest of Mansell’s victories. Sure he had probably the quickest car on the track that day, but there’s no two ways about it, starting 12th and finishing 1st at the Hungaroring is quite an achievement.

  8. I agree with you about Mansell in Hungary, 1989. Perhaps what I remember most about him, however, was his courage and determination. Very early in his F1 career, he was driving for Lotus (can’t remember which race) and there was a fuel leak into the cockpit. It seeped through the seat and burned the skin off his back – incredibly painful. He finished the race…

  9. Good to see I’m not alone in not blindly swallowing propoganda that it will be ‘good for the sport’. I hope it is seen as a fool’s errand and lasts 1 season then gets consigned to the dustbin of silly ideas.


  10. So you’ve also noticed that rule changes made because “it will be good for the sport” always seem to have the opposite effect? I don’t actually care about the colour-coding on the tyres but it does seem a bit unnecessary. Your article on the matter was excellent, Brian – very clearly thought out and presented.

    The FIA these days behaves hysterically, rushing around, tinkering where it’s not needed and making huge changes that will backfire in years to come.

  11. “a governing body obsessed with TV ratings and convinced that we are all so moronic that only a circus will keep us amused.”

    Interestingly, there is only a very small difference between the FIA and a circus.

    A circus features a cunning array of stunts, whereas the FIA…

  12. Okay, you made me laugh out loud, Tom – thanks. What a pity that these are the clowns in charge of the greatest sport in the world, however.

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