Newey backs tyre formula
Red Bull designer says F1 is giving spectators what they want
By Mike Wise in Barcelona. Last Updated: 12/05/12 9:13am
Adrian Newey has come out in favour of the current range of tyres Pirelli supply to Formula 1 - and the action they have helped inspire on the track.
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The question tyres play in F1 have dominated the early season, thanks in the main to the current frenetic level of competition seen in the sport.
To date, four drivers have each won one race. Not among their number, however, is Michael Schumacher, who criticised Pirelli's rubber after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Speaking at the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday, Newey backed the Italian tyre manufacturer's brief to spice up the action.
When asked if he would prefer a tyre that lasted longer and gave more performance - as was the case before Pirelli re-entered F1 two seasons ago - the Red Bull designer said the choice should be made with fans in mind.
Newey said: "I think, first and foremost, we should remember the reason we're here is that people watch it on television. For the good of the sport, it should actually not be our choice, it should be what people enjoy watching."
The debate Schumacher stoked concerns tyre degradation, with the seven-times World Champion complaining that it prevents drivers from pushing as much as they have in the past.
However, Newey said he welcomed the challenge the new tyre formula poses compared to the 'tyre war' era of several years ago - one which Schumacher dominated.
"I think if you compare them to, let's say, the height of the tyre war between Michelin and Bridgestone then at that point, the tyres had got to the point where it was a series of qualifying laps through the race.
"The drivers would therefore push very hard through the race without worrying too much about degradation, be it thermal or wear.
"I think that brings a different set of skills to the fore. It's almost like (Alain) Prost in the 80s when he got the reputation for being 'The Professor' for how he did the race - and I think that's coming back.
"It gives some variety, it gives some change in the field - both race to race, during the race and from qualifying to race. And that's all good for the sport, good for spectating."
His sentiments were echoed by McLaren's new Sporting Director Sam Michael, even though he admitted that understanding the tyres and how they work in different conditions remains a struggle.
"From our point of view, I think the racing has been very good. It makes our job extremely difficult. But that's what we're here for isn't it," Michael said.
"As long as you have the consistency of being able to put on a tyre that's the same every time, which, from our experience with Pirelli, it is like that. So then you're just limited by your ability to understand the tyre, then it's how good a technical job you do with it.
"You can't really argue that it hasn't made the racing very good this year."
Michael also said the situation has been magnified by the close competition that now exists between teams.
He added: "The tyres have always been very sensitive. I think at the moment you have an extremely close grid because of the technical regulations and if you look at the spread of the top 15 teams, it's sometimes this year only one second.
"So if you have a small variation in the tyre grip, where you normally have a five or six-tenths advantage on the next team, it would normally change your position by one or two; now you will drop 10 positions if you fall out of that window.
"There's been plenty of years previously where we've had extremely sensitive tyres to temperature and everything else. So I think they are sensitive but it's really magnified by the closeness of the grid. You pay the penalty very badly if you fall out of that window."