With the change in both tyre manufacturer to Pirelli and the remit the company has been given, there is a new dynamic expected in the racing this year: Tyre preservation, and the differences between drivers.
Drivers have already been talking about the drop-off in performance from the various compounds Pirelli have supplied for testing, but have they really had it too easy over the last few years? Bridgestone have provided control tyres that have been a hangover of their tyre wars days with Michelin, and have allowed certain drivers to go incredibly long distances in some races on one set of tyres. There’s no doubt that Bridgestone had created an incredible range of tyres, in terms of their performance and durability, but from looking at the differences with the new range of Pirellis, it appears that the Bridgestone era created a very ‘stale’ and constant style of racing. The tyres blurred the differences in ability between drivers, as their own particular skill levels in tyre management and sensitivity was homologated. Introducing a tyre that puts a premium on application of raw skill and making the tyres last as long as possible at the intense levels of pace these drivers like to keep is exactly what we need, just as another way to judge how good these drivers really are, and whether some have been flattered by a range of tyres that allowed them to get away with things that were actually beyond their talent.
Races should be livened up by drivers being quicker at different periods of the race. There could be situations where the driver in the lead is steadily being caught up by the cars behind, and has to hang on to try and clinch the victory. Or others where a driver by keeping his tyres in good shape, pulls away dominates a race whilst others waste their tyres trying to catch back up. The teams will be generating many different strategies for their drivers, to take advantage of their individual styles and characteristics and the way their car handles them too.
Something that should be actively avoided is hearing drivers complaining about the tyres dropping away, as that is what they have been designed to do. Everybody is in the same position, so any complaints are only complaints about their own driving and car. I’m sure that the teams will be telling their drivers to avoid talking negatively about the Pirellis, as their performance is something that has been designated by the teams, the FIA, and Pirelli themselves, for the benefit of the racing, not necessarily the drivers. They have had it too easy for a while now.
A 750bhp racing car should be a tricky beast to handle, and these guys will learn that pretty quickly this year.