F1 ‘needs to make its mind up’ over conservative tyres

Pirelli’s tyres have been on the cautious side in recent seasons, responding to the sport’s fastest generation of cars with more durable compounds that offer less grip but also don’t fall off a performance cliff like its early offerings did.

But the Italian manufacturer’s safe approach has progressively hamstrung the teams’ ability to play with different strategies. That was exemplified by last month’s Australian Grand Prix, in which nearly all teams were forced onto the same one-stopper after an early red flag.

In Baku’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Alpine driver Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg almost completed the entire race on Pirelli’s hard compound, only coming in for a pitstop right at the end because of the mandate to run two different tyre compounds during a race.

Initial criticism of F1’s lack of overtaking in Baku focused on the decision to shorten its main DRS zone by 100 metres, but Haas team principal Steiner thinks F1 also needs to take another look at what it wants from its tyre compounds.

“I think we need to look into the tyres,” he said in Miami when asked by Autosport about F1’s overtaking issue.

“We always complain when we have drop-off. We always complain when we don’t have it.

“We need to make our mind up what we want because I think Pirelli delivered both ways and then we say now it’s too much, so it will always be difficult.

“But I think also we shouldn’t jump to conclusions after last weekend’s race [in Baku]. We had good races this year with overtaking so we should look at them and try to replicate them and not just being too sour about what happened last week.

“Obviously we all expected red flags, there will be safety cars, and nothing of that happened. But I’m pretty positive that if there needs to be something done, we will do it to make it easier. It will never be easy to overtake.”

Tyres in tyre blankets

Tyres in tyre blankets

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

The importance of strategic variance was highlighted in Miami, which did feature more overtaking between drivers on different pitstop strategies.

But with the entire grid’s performance levels closer than ever thanks to the 2022 regulations, it has been suggested that there is not enough of a lap time difference between the various cars to get out of the dreaded DRS trains, which form when drivers don’t have enough of a speed advantage to use the DRS to overtake.

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Steiner agreed that less overtaking could be a by-product of the new rules but cautioned that a downforce-driven championship like F1 will never see the level of passing appreciated in other series.

“It will always be difficult with single-seater cars with big wings – the overtaking will always be a problem,” he added.

“Sometimes it’s better. I think last year, it was better than this year. I think we didn’t help ourselves with shortening the DRS zone in Baku, but it will always be difficult.

“I think it’s one of these things, you will never have a Formula 1 where overtaking comes at a delta lap time off of two tenths, there needs to always be more.”

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