Tyres bursting, gearboxes failing and general discontentment save for the smiles of one man. That pretty much sums up the British Grand Prix at Silverstone at the end of June. Sebastian Vettel cruising to his 4th victory in the 2013 calendar season, six laps away from the end, breaks down near the pit lane because of a gear box failure. Lewis Hamilton along with 4 other drivers manage to avoid serious damage when their tyres exploded suddenly on the tracks. And Nico Rosberg swept away with the laurels after a maiden Monaco Grand Prix win, special because his father, Keke Rosberg won there nearly 30 years before that.
The new tyre modifications that Pirelli made for the 2013 season were at first accepted rather skeptically and for good reason. The secret test done by Mercedes and Pirelli in Barcelona between races, the tyre explosions and faster degradation between tyre changes has led many F1 experts, drivers, team managers and engineers to believe that Pirelli has lost their magical touch of preparing tyres that were good enough to be fitted to F1 cars. This has made races more unpredictable and teams more wary of their pit stop strategy. The fun of fast paced action, smooth overtaking maneuvers and a swift finish to the chequered flag. But now ever since the season started, the only topic of discussion has been “How will the tyres fare in the particular climate and conditions of the track?”
Mark Webber, driving in his last F1 season at Red Bull, having announced his retirement before the German Grand Prix, expressed concerns over the over dependency of current F1 racing on Pirelli tyres and how volatile they are. Mark sure has a sense of clairvoyance to make that statement much before the tyre failures at Silverstone. And this has been expressed not only be drivers but also by fans alike. Before F1 pre-race shows and post-race press conferences would be filled with the better engine, better drag, better handling and the temperatures affecting the race results. Now everyone seems to drone on and on about tyres.
I love the racing days of the 60s and 70s where nothing really mattered except for going as fast as you can and looking super good when you are doing it. Of course nowadays, F1 and racing in general has become safer with all the regulations and protections on track and for the car, bike, etc. But still, has it really come to the point where we can simply build a lighter version of a Ford Fiesta and fit racing tyres on it, put Kimi Raikkonen in the driver’s seat and ask him to win the German Grand Prix at Nuerburgring?