Following a waterfall of criticism after the Spanish GP, Pirelli decided to change the tyre compounds from the Canadian GP onwards, aiming for less stops during the race. Lotus and Ferrari however are not all pleased with this announcement and jointly out their criticism.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier went on record earlier this week, noting that such a fundamental tyre change in the middle of the season is unfair and will disadvantage the teams that have done the best job adapting to the softer tyres.
"There aren’t many sports where there are such fundamental changes to an essential ingredient part-way through a season," Boullier said of the debate. "That there are changes to come can be seen as somewhat frustrating, and I hope they are not too extreme.
"It’s clear that Pirelli have found themselves in a difficult situation and under pressure from different quarters. Last year, when we were designing our 2013 car, each team received information from Pirelli and everyone did the best job they could to develop a chassis which would make best use of the tyre characteristics. We even ran with some experimental 2013 tyres at the end of last season, to assist us in confirming our development paths."
Indeed, Lotus is considered to have a car that is best at preserving the tyres, creating the ability to run longer stints before experiencing a performance drop that requires a change of tyres.
"As with every season, some teams do a better job than others with their designs, and some drivers are more adaptable than others to the changes of both car and tyre," Boullier went on to explain. "It is frustrating when you’ve developed a car from a set of tyre specifications which are available to everyone – for tyres that are the same for everyone – to then be told that they are being changed mid-season.
The Frenchman continued that even despite not being happy, the team is determined to handle the challenge and stay in front of the pack.
One other team that has arguably done even better with the tyres this year is Ferrari, and they too have now made their disappointment public by means of a column on the ferrari.com website. In a somewhat ridiculing way, Ferrari point out that people have been eager to talk without thinking first, as it was only 2 years ago when the teams who struggled now were ahead at the Spanish GP, with exactly 4 pitstops.
"These are difficult times for people with poor memories. [...] It’s a shame that these worthy souls kept quiet two years ago when, at the very same Catalunya Circuit and on the Istanbul track, five of the six drivers who got to those two podiums made exactly the same number of pit stops as did Alonso and Massa last Sunday in the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Scuderia recalls the French Grand Prix of 2004 where the conversion to a 4 stop strategy allowed Michael Schumacher to get ahead of the then Renault driver, Fernando Alonso, who himself made three stops. The team were praised for their ability to get most out of the car.
"Today however, it seems one must almost feel ashamed for choosing a strategy that, as always for that matter, is aimed at getting the most out of the package one has available. On top of that, if this choice emerges right from the Friday, because all the simulations are unanimous in selecting it, then why on earth should one feel embarrassed when compared to those who have gone for a different choice, only to regret it during the race itself."
The most important issue with the change of tyre design for Canada and beyond is likely the changed construction, something that will cause the tyre to have different deflection properties, and hence also influence the aerodynamic performance of the cars. As teams are testing their models in the wind tunnel with Pirelli supplied model tyres, some teams may find their optimisations for the 2013 tyres not working anymore with the updated tyres, while others may find free gains.