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F1’s Pirelli tire woes a tired excuse for losing races

Red Bull driver Mark Webber of Australia steers his car during the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix at the Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, near Barcelona, Spain. (Sunday, May 12, 2013)

Manu Fernandez/AP Photo

It's really time for everyone to stop whining about Pirelli's Formula One tires and get on with the season.

All the talk in F1 these days seems to be about the tires not lasting long enough and drivers having to manage their rubber as part of their race strategies. Some are making it seem like 2013 is the first year that anyone in F1 has ever needed to take care of their tires.

That idea is rubbish of course, with tire management being a key part of success in F1 over the years.

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But apparently some, such as Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, think that the four pitstops seen in last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona means F1 is no longer motor racing. It's funny how he didn't feel the same way when his driver won the March race in Malaysia using a four-stop strategy.

The criticism has become so bad that Pirelli bowed to the pressure and announced that it will change its compounds beginning with the June race in Montreal.

While swapping the new prone-to-faulure Kevlar belts in the tires for the proven steel versions is a welcome change for safety reasons, the decision to make the compounds more durable is terrible news for F1.

Changing the rubber supply a quarter of the way into the schedule because some teams can't come to grips with the tires is completely unsportsmanlike.

Everyone races under the same rules using the same tires, so if you can't keep up, the blame lies squarely at your own feet.

In addition, the complaining about tires deciding races must make many fans wonder if everyone in the paddock has forgotten about the 1986 world championship. Some might recall that year's driver's title went to McLaren's Alain Prost for the simple reason that he was better at saving his tires than his main rivals Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, who drove for Williams.

The season finale that year gave F1 one of its most enduring images when Mansell's left rear tire exploded on the Brabham Straight at almost 300 kilometres per hour, throwing a shower of sparks high in the air as the car snaked to a halt with 19 laps left in the 82-lap race.

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Mansell's spectacular failure happened because Goodyear had looked at Prost's tires after he came in on Lap 34 with a puncture and declared that its rubber would go to the end of the race with no problem. Unfortunately, they seemed to forget that "The Professor" had an uncanny ability to be exceptionally quick and also save his rubber, an oversight that cost Mansell the championship by two points.

Although the 1986 race in Australia punctuated the importance of tire management, it isn't the only time a driver has saved his rubber or babied his car to win a race.

And frankly Mateschitz should be upset that Red Bull isn't winning because it can't get its car to work the tires at their optimum temperature. But rather than moaning that Pirelli should adapt its rubber to suit his RB9, perhaps he could call his team's Milton Keynes headquarters and strongly suggest that they figure it out for themselves.

Mercedes too suffered in Spain, with its driver Lewis Hamilton, who started in the front row, lamenting that he couldn't go any slower when his team asked him to save his tires. There's no doubt it's really tough for the drivers that their Mercedes is fast over a single qualifying lap but eats its tires in races quicker than the cookie monster downs a bag of Oreos, but Pirelli shouldn't get the heat because the team got their car so wrong.

Teams like Lotus and Ferrari, who have figured out the tire's sweet spot, will be slapped with an enormous penalty for doing their homework and putting together a package that performs better than the rest on the Pirellis. Lotus has been much more successful at it, with its car able to do long runs in Spain on the softer rubber, and they should benefit from their hard work and ingenuity. Instead, they will be punished for being clever.

And that flies in the face of a sport that loves to chirp about having the smartest engineers on the planet designing the most technologically advanced cars ever built.

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Unfortunately, it seems Pirelli gave them a perfect opportunity to put that theory to the test and all they want to do is bellyache.

Bottom line is that it's time for them to stop grumbling when they should be getting their brains in gear and proving that they can find a solution.

And if Red Bull and Mercedes can't figure out the tires, a Lotus or Ferrari driver will likely win the championship. And, they will have earned it.

Speedfest back at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series season gets underway this weekend at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as the circuit hosts its annual Victoria Day Speedfest. The Pinty's presents the Vortex Brake Pads 200 goes at 1:00 ET on Sunday afternoon.

Chevy driver J.R. Fitzpatrick, of Cambridge, Ont., has won half of the six races on the famed Bowmanville, Ont., track including last year's tilt. Roxton Pond, Quebec's Andrew Ranger has two wins with the other going to reigning series champion D.J. Kennington, of St. Thomas, Ont.

The rest of the field will be looking to put a leash on Kennington this year, after the veteran took his second series title in 2012 by scoring a record seven wins in 12 starts, including five consecutive victories.

The Speedfest also features the Canadian Supercar Series, the Canadian Touring Car Championship, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, and SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am.

Canadians back on track in DTM

Reigning Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters champion Bruno Spengler hopes to jump start his title defense on Sunday when the series races at the Brands Hatch Circuit in England.

Spengler, of St-Hippolyte, Quebec, finished a disappointing fifth in the season opener in Hockenheim two weeks ago after looking be be a challenger for the win early in the race.

The other Canadian in the field, Guelph, Ont.'s, Robert Wickens, will also be looking to erase his bad memories of Hockenheim where he retired from fifth place with a throttle problem after only five laps.

For more from Jeff Pappone, go to

Twitter: @jpappone

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About the Author
Motorsports columnist

There's an old saying about timing being everything in racing and Jeff Pappone's career as a motorsport correspondent shows that it also applies to journalists covering the sport too. More


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