BARCELONA (AFP) –
Showing the cunning that comes with long experience, German driving legend Michael Schumacher said on Thursday he hoped his recent criticism of Pirelli’s F1 tyres will initiate a wider debate about the role of the Italian supplier.
The 43-year-old seven-time champion said earlier this week that racing with Pirelli tyres was like ‘driving on raw eggs’ a follow-up to his earlier complaints about the Italian rubber ruining Formula One as a drivers’ contest.
Speaking after the Bahrain Grand Prix last month, when he rose from 22nd on the grid to finish 10th, the German said that the performance of the tyres should not cause drivers to be cautious and over-calculating in their approach to racing.
On Thursday he clarified his earlier comments ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
“We have touched on something you guys (media reporters) have kept on talking about.
“But that’s the principle of how Formula One should be, so I am happy we have initiated a discussion about how much influence one part should have.
“I have stated myself that I think one part has too much, it should be equalised for everybody, the majority rather than the minority.
“We had a good meeting in Mugello (during testing last week) to talk about this subject, so I just hope we continue to go in the right direction.
“But what I have said is certainly nothing to do with me being frustrated because I haven’t really been frustrated — I had a good race (in Bahrain), coming from 22nd to finish 10th which was a positive result.”
Schumacher’s stirring up of a fierce debate about the performance of the tyres – which wear out so fast that they require many drivers to nurse their cars through stages of the race for fear of excessive wear – were well-timed ahead of one of the season’s traditionally most processional races, the Spanish Grand Prix.
Last year’s race at the Circuit de Catalunya saw most teams adopting a four-stop strategy to enable their cars to finish the race – due to fears of serious tyre wear. It led to a race dominated by tyre performance above driver talent.
Schumacher’s views proved to be too provocative for many of his younger fellow-drivers to follow and support, but Britain’s 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren added his backing to the German’s viewpoint.
“I like it that you have to control yourself, sometimes balance and sometimes not, but I also liked in the past the fact we could attack for 20-odd laps after making fuel stops without having too worry about too much degradation.
“Now you can’t push for 20 laps, you have to spend your allowance (with the rubber) over a set period of time, and it’s a much, much trickier situation which affects racing.
“But from what I’ve heard and seen, it looks like we’ve had some of the best racing so far, which must be good.”
Hamilton’s comments clearly supported the view of a growing number of close observers who believe that F1 has sacrificed true high-quality racing for a more chaotic spectacle for television in which a team’s ability to manage its tyres is more important than the raw speed of its drivers.