Pirelli have announced that are trying to construct a compound of tyres which reduces the amount of marbles on track in 2014.
The move comes after current F1 drivers voiced their concerns about the amount of debris on circuits. The marbles, which are discarded pieces of rubber from the tyres, make it nigh-on impossible for drivers to commit to an overtaking manoeuvre off-line.
“The drivers certainly have commented on it and we can understand it,” said Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery. “So it’s something that we are trying to do.”
The Pirelli boss has acknowledged that the marbles are created through wear so the softer compound of tyre are the main culprits for creating marbles.
“We know that it’s clearly wear-related, it’s basically tearing of the tyres in some cases, certainly the super-soft and to an extent the softer tyre have not had the strength that we needed.
“You can see some races where we had almost no marbles when you are using the hard and medium, certain surfaces where it’s low abrasion. So we are working to try and improve that. The general comment from the drivers is ‘reduce marbles’.”
Paul Hembery has admitted that there is a great challenge to try and stop the Pirelli tyres discarding excess rubber.
“At the moment we’re doing a lot of work on scaling and understanding where we are with the different compounds, we wanted to try and improve things like the tear resistance of the compounds, which has a direct impact on marbles which is something we are trying to reduce for next year,” he said.
“With the increased wheelspin, that has a chance of creating more marbles compared to where we are today, so we have to increase the mechanical strength of the compounds.”
Whether the changes to the tyre will create a different feel for the drivers, who will have a whole raft of new change and developments on their 2014 cars, is not yet known.
There has also been some concern related to the safety of marbles. On more than one occasion over the past few seasons have drivers had large chunks of rubber, either coming off the drivers car in front or from the discarded rubber on the side of the track, hitting the drivers helmet. A few drivers have said that if their visor were to be open for cooling purposes and a piece of rubber were to strike them, the result could be similar to the damage caused to Felipe Massa at Hungary in 2009, if not worse. The Brazilian’s helmet was hit by a rogue spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car. Massa subsequently lost consciousness and crashed badly.
Ever since the Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli was drawn into the sport at the start of last season, they have either been lauded or critisised for creating a confusing and highly complex tyre, which evolves and degrades in abnormal patterns.
Praise tends to come from the Team Principles, the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone and of course the fans, as the tyres allow for unpredictable races and results, none more so than this year, with 4 different drivers from 4 different teams winning the first 4 races. This increasing unpredictability allows for a much highers global TV audiences as well. More racing, more fans. I mean who wants to remember the US Grand Prix in 2005?!
However the criticisms are slowly beginning to creep in, and mainly from the drivers. Many of which, welcome unusual results, but not at the cost of actual driving ability. The problem that has become apparent this year is that to make a soft tyre go a few laps longer on the first stint, you have to drive off the limit, taking every corner smoothly and sacrifice perhaps up to 2 seconds per lap. Thats not racing now is it?
As Fernando Alonso rightly put it last week, “It’s like Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan suddenly playing with the budget of Cesena.”
Normally racing in a 60 lap Formula One race should consist of 60 laps of F1 drivers, proving their worth as the finest in the world and driving the cars on the absolute limit of adhesion. But today’s Formula One consists of a driver trying to preserve a tyre and run around slightly conservatively so he wont have to make an extra pit stop during the race. It appears that losing 15 seconds saving a tyre is better than losing 20 seconds in the pit lane.
But Pirelli are only doing the job they were asked to do. It is not their fault, it is now up to the drivers to determine whether to run at maximum race pace or to run conservatively. No one can argue that the first 4 races, which have offered up to 4 different winners and results are great for the sport. But has it become somewhat artificial?
Another issue with the Pirelli’s is the sheer amount of marbles going off-line on the track throughout a race. It is ruining the racing. Drivers are now no longer wanting to overtake in certain areas, in fear that they will damage their tyres by going over the marbles. We saw it in Bahrain, where Kimi Raikkonen decided not to take to the inside of Sebastian Vettel at Turn One for the victory, as it was too slippery due to the excessive marbles on the track.
Paul Hembery of Pirelli summed it all up perfectly, “Racers are winners; they’re not happy unless they’re winning.”