If you happen to follow EngageSportMode on twitter, if you don’t remedy that first, you’ll have noticed a steady stream of Pirelli tyre-related lolz on Sunday.
The Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya has rarely been one to set pulses racing, managing to generally rate slightly above Hungary for excitement. But the 2013 race proved to be unpopular with many for more than just poor racing. Namely, when do pit-stops for tyres become too many? Apparently four is the magic number, not three in this regard.
One of the key aspects to the resurgence in “racing” during recent seasons of Formula 1 has been the change to Pirelli as tyre supplier. This, combined with DRS and KERS, has seen a return to a phenomenon known as overtaking, not witnessed in F1 for many years. Despite the fact Sebastian Vettel has won the last three World Championships, nobody is complaining too much about the lack of on-track action.
Pirelli’s tyres have been fundamental to this, in the use of the compounds used to construct the prime and option variants. The rates at which the tyre degrades have been increased, leading to dramatic changes in tyre performance when the level of grip is said to “drop off a cliff” during the race, often without warning. Some teams have coped with this better; others have had to manage them differently during a race, leaving the possibility of cars on different tyre strategies creating overtaking, aided by DRS and KERS.
However, the tyres offered this year by Pirelli are seemingly a step too far. In Catalunya we saw front running drivers such as Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa only pushing their cars to around 80% of their potential. As Martin Brundle commented on Sky’s coverage, behind the wheel the drivers looked positively sedate – not like they were battling for World Championship points. The reason for this was the, arguably, excessive tyre wear seen in Spain. Teams were unable to allow their drivers to push hard for fear of destroying their rubber and being forced to pit. As such, we saw anaesthetised racing and some teams needing to make four pit stops to prevent shredded Pirellis.
Arguably, Ferrari and Lotus might claim that there is no problem. Seemingly their cars are easier on their tyres compared to Red Bull or Mercedes, allowing them to ride away to victory. However, it seems perverse that the two cars which qualified 1st and 2nd on the grid end up 6th and 12th respectively, due to chiefly struggling with tyre wear.
Red Bull in particular has been incredibly vocal about the fast wear rate of the Pirellis, with owner Dieter Mateschitz claiming that: “this is a competition in tyre management. Real racing looks different.” Even Bernie Ecclestone has stirred the pot, suggesting that the tyres Pirelli brought were “wrong” and not what Formula 1 had asked the Italian firm to “produce.” Finally, David Coulthard’s BBC Sport column suggested that the failures seen by tyres this year could be a much bigger worry, should it happen at a “critical point of the race track in a critical racing situation.”
Tyres have always been a sensitive subject in Formula 1; witness the drama which unfolded at the 2005 Indianapolis Grand Prix when only three teams were able to compete due to the safety concerns with Michelin’s tyres. Nobody wants such ridiculous scenes as that, nor do they want the increased risk when we get to quicker circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Monza later in the season.
You also have to wonder about the damage it must be doing to Pirelli’s brand. Formula 1 is probably its biggest advertisement; to see such rhetoric in the media about Pirelli products cannot be a good thing for the company.
As a consequence of the above Pirelli Motorsport Director, and occasional twitter antagonist, Paul Hembery has announced changes to the tyres it will offer, starting from the Canadian Grand Prix. Initially Hembery had stated this would take effect from Silverstone, but one wonders whether the sheer loudness of the dissenting voices forced them to act quicker. It also leaves ESM with only one race of tyre-related puns left, Monaco, rather than the two first hoped for.
ESM has never been a fan of racing dictated by tyres; they’re hardly the most exciting part of a racing car for a start. But they are also the key bits which join the car to the track, just in Catalunya they started to make the tail wag the dog in terms of performance. Hopefully, after Monaco, we’ll see less burnt rubber and more of drivers pushing their cars to the limit.
As promised, here at the video highlights from EngageSportMode’s weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I’m no Ron Howard, and was only using either an iPhone or fairly basic digital camera to record these. As such, the quality is not HD, but I feel it does still capture the noise and fury of the GFoS. Due to the unique way WordPress works, the videos are hosted via YouTube. Enjoy; ear defenders advised.
I shot quite a lot of video during Friday’s Michelin Supercar Run. We were down by the start line, which gave a great opportunity to film the cars coming off the line and powering towards the first corner. Here are some of the highlights:
Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport
Wiesmann GT MF5
New Aston Martin Vanquish
Alfa Romeo TZ3 Zagato
Alfa Romeo 8C Spider
Filmed from the same location but on a different day during the run of Lotus cars. This is the Classic Team Lotus 97T
For sheer sonic pleasure I think I’d have to cite the Lexus LFA or perhaps the Ferrari FF as my favourites. More videos to come tomorrow, including F1 action.
Now that my hearing has started to recover, the sunburn has begun to fade and the numerous pictures and videos have been uploaded, I can now begin to make sense of the previous four days.
For the uninitiated, the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS) is an annual event which first began back in 1993. The idea is simple; legendary and iconic cars and bikes from the world of motorsport are invited to be hammered up the Earl of March’s drive, at his house in West Sussex, by the greatest riders and drivers from history. In addition, between runs up the hill the cars/bikes are displayed in simple awning-style paddocks with spectators able to get right up alongside them. The additional Moving Motor Show event has in recent years fundamentally replaced the traditional British motor show, with stands from leading manufacturers and new cars being unveiled. Have a look at this if you still happen to be in any doubt as to what the long weekend entails.
The event felt bigger than ever this year, with a sprawling exhibitor’s area, numerous special paddocks, off-road displays and the more recent rally-stage taking up huge acres of the Goodwood estate. Trying to fit all this into even four days is a challenge, given the vast array of distractions both on and off the track. As a result, and for this week’s first FoS themed post, I’ve picked out my top five moments from the weekend.
ESM’s FoS Top Five
5. Ayrton Senna’s Lotus 98T
Every year Goodwood chooses to celebrate a certain manufacturer, with a giant and extravagant display outside the main house and a range of vehicles intended to showcase the marque’s successes. For 2012 the FoS picked Lotus as the company to be revered. As many will know, the brand has taken a battering lately with the optimistic strategy of Dany Bahar, and his subsequent removal. However, the FoS allowed fans to remember the Norfolk firm’s finer moments, including it’s Formula 1 back catalogue. Of particular interest was this one:
Driven by Ayrton Senna and Johnny Dumfries during the 1986 Formula 1 season, the 98T took Team Lotus to 3rd in the constructor’s championship and gave Senna 2 wins and 6 additional podiums. The Renault EF15bis engine gave up to 1,300 turbocharged-bhp, produced from only a 1.5 litre V6. Anything with the name “Senna” on the side always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, so to be only a couple of feet away from an iconic car was a special moment.
4. The Mazda MX-5 GT Concept
What, amongst all the exotica on display a Mazda MX-5 makes it this high up the ranking? Yes, because this is no ordinary MX-5; the standard (normally aspirated) 2.0 litre engine has been taken to 205 bhp, carbon fibre bits added, weight reduced and suspension tightened. Amongst the countless supercars, the little MX-5 managed to sound ridiculously raucous.
This was probably in part due to the enthusiastic driving style of those responsible for flinging it up the hill. 19-year-old kart/sports car racer Jade Paveley was the most fired-up of all, and she really made the GT fly. The fact it is bright orange also swung ESM towards liking the dinky convertible, and seriously made one want to be on its drive. Mazda certainly needs to build it.
3. Nissan GT-R GT1
Given that the regular Nissan GT-R sounded relatively tame whilst speeding past, ESM assumed the race car would not be that much louder. Wrong, oh so very wrong indeed. This thing made the earth shake like an original Dodge Viper GTS-R. Piloted by last year’s FIA GT1 world champion Michael Krumm, the GT-R set some of the quickest times across the weekend. Too quick, in fact, for ESM to manage any video of the damn thing! You’ll just have to imagine instead.
2. Renault Alpine A110-50
Built by Renault to celebrate 50 years since the launch of the original Alpine A110, this concept car is based on a Megane Trophy racer tubular chassis, using a mid-mounted 3.5 litre V6 to offer up 400 bhp. Whereas the GTR above sounded scary, the A110-50 just sounded as enchanting as it looked. Another fan favourite, and ripe for at least some sort of production offering surely?
1. Sebastian Vettel
Along with celebrating a specific manufacturer, the FoS also has a theme to the selection of cars on offer. For the 2012 event, the subject was “Young Guns, Born to Win” and to be honest, it’s a title that could have been handwritten for Vettel. The German, who turns 25 this week, already has two F1 world championships and a host of other achievements under his belt. I remember watching him take his first win, and become the youngest driver to do so, in the wet at Monza with Toro Rosso. It was obvious then what a star he was going to be.
Making his first appearance at the FoS, Vettel enjoyed himself as much as he possibly could. Whether it was ripping up the lawn outside the house in his Infiniti FX (Vettel edition), or doing possibly the longest ever display of show-boating in his 2011 F1 car, Seb seemingly had a wail of a time. You get the impression that, whilst many drivers would be there under the forced hand of corporate media pressure, Vettel was there simply for the fun of it. I apologise for the poor video quality, but I think you can get the idea:
The rest of the Red Bull team present made sure they got involved in the fun also:
If those were the highlights, then what were the lowlights?
Well, the Lamborghini Aventador managed to sound muter than a mute swan. The Infiniti emerg-e electric concept failed twice causing the track to be red-flagged. And a Gumpert Apollo had a nasty incident at Molecombe corner cutting short Saturday’s running. But as I’m sure you can gather, these were only small issues compared to the enjoyment shown above.
Check back later in the week for more photos and videos, followed by an editorial post on what Goodwood actually offers to the average petrolhead.
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has been “suspended” from his position, a decision undertaken by parent company DRB Hicom.
No real details as to the reasoning behind this decision have been released, but Bahar’s “ambitious” aim of six new products by 2015 must play a significant part.
Whilst some car magazines were happy to trumpet the new models as a real, genuine proposition, ESM was cynical. Given that Lotus is a relatively small specialist manufacturer, producing and developing so many new models would always be a mammoth task. To be honest, not even huge car-makers would take on such a project lightly.
Along with this, Bahar has overseen the expensive (£20) Lotus lifestyle magazine, in addition to the collaboration with rapper Swizz Beatz. Whilst I can see the aim of taking Lotus upmarket – the high-end players will always have money – this is not the right brand.
Colin Chapman founded Lotus to make lightweight and technically advanced performance cars. Churning out a product range to rival Porsche head-on moves far away from that principle. Chapman did new and exciting; Bahar seemed obsessed with generic and profitable. I’m sure Colin would be turning in his grave.
The final straw must surely have come with that horrendous press release. Bahar looked like a mad man and made Lotus a laughing stock. That misjudged media message must be reason enough to oust him.
ESM hopes Lotus can survive and be sustainable; it is too big a name to lose. But it should look at innovative new products, and stick to its core values.