Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Where tyres fear to tread // Bridgestone try and spice up the Formula One tyre action

Published by Christine

Of all the elements that go into a successful race campaign – driver, pit crew, engineers, aerodynamics, engines – the tyres are way up there with the most important. If your tyres aren’t working, you’re not going to get anywhere. We’ve seen drivers struggle because they stayed out too long, or because they’re suffering some serious graining, or even chunking.

However, if the car is hooked up and the tyres are working well, you can speed to an easy victory. As one of the most important components of a race strategy, it therefore follows that they are key to spicing up the action. Or so Bridgestone think.

At the moment, Bridgestone bring two compounds to each race, adjacent selections from the super-soft, soft, medium and hard tyres. This is only true of dry tyres, by the way, and that's all we're discussing here. A wet race demands enough strategy issues of it's own that we won't get into here.

Selecting two neighbouring compounds means the difference isn't all that startling, and although we can just about tell the difference between a soft, single lap tyre compared to a hard, go longer tyre, it's nothing to write home about. It doesn't make the drivers rethink their strategies too much, in fact we've only had one major decision based on tyres this year (Hamilton in Turkey).

Now, Bridgestone are suggesting that for 2009, they might try selecting compounds two steps apart. So, for instance, they might turn up to Monaco with super-softs and medium tyres. This apparently, like I said earlier, is the key to spicing up the action.

Let’s all issue a collective groan right now.

Bridgestone tyre technician at work

There are four different parts to this story.

The end of the last great tyre war

Since Michelin departed from the sport, there has been less mention of the word Bridgestone. Previously, it was always Bridgestone this, and Michelin that, and it was fascinating to watch the pair go at it on a race weekend. Now, as a single supplier series, how often does the name actually get mentioned? We talk about tyres incessantly, but does it really matter who makes them? Not much. Ever desperate to get a mention, perhaps this is their way of reaching the headlines.

Slicks

Next year, teams will be using slick tyres. For me, this is enough of a change to need at least a year before making any more adjustments. I’ve never seen slicks in action, and I want to know what all the fuss is about. If you go around changing other bits and pieces as well, it means I can’t get the whole story. The first thing they teach you in science class? Change one thing at a time.

Tyre warmers

Bridgestone lost the argument regarding the tyre warmers ban, and they’re probably still smarting from that. Changing compounds is the only thing they really have control over, and it’s no wonder they want to exert that power.

Strategy

Bridgestone themselves admit that if they take it too far, then all strategy variances will disappear. If the difference between compounds is too wide, there will be one clear way to win the race, and all the teams will choose that path. You’ll see pit stops at the same time, and similar lap times, and it would actually have an adverse effect on the action. There’s a fine line, which must be difficult for Bridgestone to balance on, and adjusting this is not going to be easy.

It's just an idea

The last one is the most important, because the proposed claims are most likely going to end up one of those things that is tried out, doesn’t work, and is then retracted. I can only hope that it remains a proposal. Of all the things wrong with F1 right now, are tyres really a priority?