APRIL 24, 2013
Tyre talk dominating 2013 season
Amid all the noise and criticism surrounding Pirelli's approach to formula one, the Italian marque has won the backing of Bernie Ecclestone.
Many drivers, experts, pundits and teams - and particularly world champions Red Bull - have been strong in their criticism of the 'show'-oriented formula created by heavily degrading control tyres.
"If the tyres lasted from January to December," F1 chief executive Ecclestone told Reuters, "there'd be something else to talk about.
"What is good about this (situation) is that it really comes back a little bit to what it used to be when the guys had to look after their brakes and gearboxes and things like that," he added.
However, the tyres wearing out quickly is arguably not even the major issue.
The biggest problem is that the teams and engineers do not understand how to make the tyres work.
Red Bull complained loudly at the opening rounds in 2013, but then Sebastian Vettel utterly dominated in Bahrain.
"We had been really worried, but in the end it was actually quite easy," Dr Helmut Marko told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.
But on the sister car driven by Mark Webber - who "had to fight in the middle of the pack" - the tyres "just fell apart", Marko explained.
It was a similar story for Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes gripped perfectly to pole in Bahrain before the high temperatures on Sunday left him fumbling backwards through the field.
"We know the much cooler (temperatures in) Europe will be good for us," teammate Lewis Hamilton told German news agency DPA.
Agreed team boss Ross Brawn: "The tyres are the same for everyone, but under these (hot) conditions we are just not as good as our competitors."
But it's not even as simple as getting clear air, or finding temperatures that suit the car-tyre combination.
"I think these tyres are very complex," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told British Sky.
"When you're in the window ... then you can have a dominant display like we had (in Bahrain).
"But that window is very, very fine and if you're outside of it then you can be four or five-stopping."
Alex Wurz, a former F1 driver, doubts Red Bull really understands why it suddenly leapt into apparent dominance last weekend.
"If they do know, then they will be extremely strong until the end of the season," he is quoted by motorline.cc.
"But sometimes it just happens and you don't know why. It's a science no one really understands."
Red Bull's Webber agrees: "The tyres dictate everything. If you are not in the right working window, the laptimes fall into the basement.
"We've seen Lotus able to do two stop strategies, while Jenson Button has had to come in four times, even though he's known as a 'tyre whisperer'," the Australian said on Servus TV.
"We are still in a learning process."