Does F1 really need tyre choice restrictions?

In a nutshell, no it does not, and here's why…

First off, the disparity between the choices available to drivers in the first 10 grids slots and the rest.  Well they have no choice – they have to race what they qualified on (unless it's wet).

This is a very crude attempt at "spicing up the show" but is little better than reversed grids, for which there would be deserved outcry from fans, teams and drivers alike.  It's very artificial and really not needed, especially if drivers could actually choose their tyres themselves (see later).  At least when drivers had to qualify on race fuel, they all had the same freedom to either choose low tanks or their preferred weight of fuel.  Deliberately handicapping the faster cars is something F1 should not be doing.  What next, success ballast?

Second we have the requirement to use both types of tyres (unless it's wet).  With 4 compounds available, Pirelli only bring two to the race, instantly cutting choice by 50%.  Then the drivers who make it into Q3 know they pretty much need to use the soft/option tyres to avoid starting 10th. 

This virtually guarantees the race strategy for the first 10 cars.  Last year it was start on softs, switch to hards.  This year with the fast wearing Pirellis (on request of the FIA it has to be said), it's now start on softs, put on more softs, change to hards.

With everyone doing the same thing it's hardly surprising there's no big variations in speed between cars during the race and few position changes. There's just no room to manoevre.  If they could choose any tyres at any point in the weekend we might have some bigger differences between the cars during the race. 

Finally, if these tyre choice restrictions were lifted, and if Pirelli brought all their tyres to a race weekend (not just 2 sets) we might get some far out strategies such as someone trying to do a no-stop race (Perez we're looking at you!) and racing against someone doing 3 stops and using the super softs.  That would be pretty exciting but alas the rules prevent it.

To see how such a race might play out, take a look either at the 1990 French Grand Prix , the 1990 German Grand Prix or the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix below, all of which were pretty exciting in my view.

So really what are the current tyre rules giving us?  Predictable strategy, artificial racing and they make Pirelli look bad (unless it's wet). It's time to change the rules!

F1 Season 2011 Predictions

Following on from my review of last years predictions, I thought I’d better get this year’s out of the way before the season kicks off (as that’s just cheating).

1) Alonso will be champion.

The Red Bull looks fastest again, but you can never write of Alonso if he has a half decent car, and the Ferrari looks to be almost up there.  A few bad finishes by Red Bull or some inter team rivalry between Webber and Vettel is all it’ll take for Alonso to sneak in.  Plus there’s the spectre of team orders hovering over Massa again.

2) HRT will be last

There have been virtually no driver changes this year, but one team that’s got a new look is HRT.  Surprising many by actually turning up last year and making it onto the grid in Bahrain, they managed to work miracles through the year and even beat Virgin Racing in the championship table.What’s more surprising is that with virtually no car development through the year, they were closer to Lotus and Virgin at the end of the year than the beginnnig although that could be attributed to the former teams focusing on their 2011 efforts.

Again surprising many by actually appearing at the Barcelona preseason test this year with a real car and not just a CGI model on the internet flaunting a funky paint job, perhaps there is some hope? 

No, I don’t think so.  By all accounts they have zero budget and a couple of average drivers.

3) Williams will be fast but unreliable.

Of all the new car designs (and there are many interesting efforts), Williams and it’s tiny pert rear end looks to me to be the simplest and best option.  The retro Rothmans-esque colour scheme won’t hurt them either because as everyone knows, if it looks fugly, it’ll be slow

However I think their lack of experience with a battery powered KERS is going to cost them and prevent any meaningful championship charge.  I expect Rubens will be up in Q3 most of the time and at the front in quite a few races mixing it with the big boys.

4) Quite a few races will end up with a comical number of pitstops. 

The limited numbers allowed per weekend and the much decreaased durability of the new Pirelli tyres will mean that teams will start to run out during the race, much like Williams did during the 1993 Donnington Grand Prix when then used all their new sets of Wets and had to start re-using old ones.

The one upside is that the forced tyre change rule is probably going to be irrelevant (hopefully they’ll just quietly drop it next year).  “The show” will be more interesting certainly, but there’s a limit and I think we’ll find it this year. Personally I just want to see drivers free to choose whatever they like, and Pirelli just building a “durability cost” into their quickest tyres.

With a bit of luck though, we’ll see the return of the LAST 10 LAPS NEW TYRES MANSELL CHARGE!!!!

5) There will be alot of overtaking, and that’s bad m’kay?

Combining KERS, the new rear wing and the big differences in tyre performance between new and used tyres will make overtaking much too easy.  Whereas in the last couple of seasons, the top overtakers like KobayashiButton and Hamilton have shown they can make great passes, those who are slightly less adept *cough* Vettel *cough* will find they don’t need to worry any more.  Lets not forget Montoya seemed able to overtake anyone, anywhere (when they FIA didn’t hand him penalties for his efforts)

Yes overtaking is impossible at some circuits, but making it too easy doesn’t help either. If the cost of adding one overtake in Abu Dhabi is ending up with 500 overtakes at Interlagos, then count me out!

Overtaking should be hard but not impossible, and only track design changes will really make a difference.

6) Heidfeld or Rosburg will break their duck (or both).

I think of the two, Rosburg is most likely, but if the Renault trick exhausts are as good as they are hoping, they may steal a march on the other teams in the early season.  I suspect though the Red Bull will just be too quick for everyone.

7) Brundle will make an excellent commentator (but he’s still the wrong choice).

I wasn’t as offended by Jonathan Leggard as many people on the internet because I was just grateful James Allen was off our TV with his “I told you so” self congratulating screams (when Kimi’s wheel fell off at the Nurburging). The obvious candidate was David Croft from 5Live, who we got a glimpse of during the Japanese GP last year when the BBC feed went down.  Completely oblivious he quoted Leeroy Jenkins to cement his place as the best modern generation F1 commentator.

F1 Season 2010 Predictions – review

As the new season gets going it’s traditional for everyone to make a few predictions, but first it’s probably a good idea to look back at my predictions for last to see how bad they really were:

1) Alonso will win the title.

Close but no cigar.  Odds on to win it at the last round but Vitaly Petrov plus the rubbish Abu Dhabi circuit meant Vettel ended up champion.

2) Better racing.

And what a season it was!  After a bit of a false start in Bohrain we were treated to an absolutely classic season, helped in no small part by the fact we had 5 drivers in the mix for most of the year.

3) Hamilton and Button are going to be pretty evenly matched, with Hamilton showing more pace but Button getting better results.

I’ll claim it as a correct prediction with them both getting two wins each.  Button would have been closer to Lewis at the end if Vettel hadn’t used him as a brake in Belgium, and I think Jenson has really shown his quality in what was effectively Lewis’s team.  Most surprising was they seem to genuinely get on together.

4) Schuie will be quick enough to win a race or two, but the car won’t be quick enough to win the title.

Well one out of two isn’t bad.  Somewhat overshadowed by Nico Rosburg, Schuie never really looked quick enough to win, but the car was a dog too.

5) Driving standards will fall (because of Schuie coming back).


Nuff said

6) The new teams will all be disappointingly slow.

An average of over 2 seconds off the pace. Very disappointing.  Most surprising though is that HRT finished ahead of Virgin in the table.

7) We will have at least 8 winners this year

In the end we only had 5 winners.  Alot more than some seasons, but not quite the 8 I was hoping for, mainly due to Mercedes being rubbish

So 3.5 / 7 – must try harder.  Lets see about 2011 then…