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Tyres more important than aerodynamics

An F1 car could never get from point A to point B, let alone ride upside down on a tunnel, without tyres. Vinayak Pande reports.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2011 17:50 IST
Vinayak Pande

It is said that in theory a Formula One car can ride upside down in a tunnel due to the amount of downforce created by the car's aerodynamics. Impressive stuff.

However, an F1 car could never get from point A to point B, let alone ride upside down on a tunnel, without tyres. Just like the way a batsman looks to hit from the sweet spot, the grip provided by the tyres through the contact patch is a racing driver's means of showing off his full repertoire of skills.

Fully aware of the crucial role tyres play, the F1 grid took the decision to ask Pirelli to provide the control tyre for F1.

"That was the request made to us from the teams," said Pirelli Motorsport head Paul Hembery while speaking to HT.

"If you get it wrong, you are back to a one-stop race, which is very boring. As it is, drivers have to manage their driving styles and their setups and the teams need to decide their strategy from the pitwall."

More pit stops
The main demand of the teams, according to Hembrey, was to have the tyres wear out more to encourage more pit stops and present a challenge to the drivers in managing tyre-wear as well as have a fair amount of difference between various tyre compounds.

Red Bull's Mark Webber believes the tyres have been a big reason for so many races being close with lots of overtaking even though his teammate Sebastian Vettel has dominated.

"It's like changing the golf club of a professional," said Webber about the control tyre contract in F1 going from Bridgestone to Pirelli.

"In general, it's been good for the sport this year. The championship has not been exciting but the racing has been."

Michael Schumacher, who struggled in qualifying due to tyre issues, believes that the new tyres have made a difference. In the Indian GP, Pirelli estimates that soft tyres would be good for 18-25 laps.

The hard tyres, however, have a far longer life and it will be interesting to see when teams choose to use them as it is mandatory they use the hard tyres at least once in the race.