Pirelli’s return to Formula One after a break of nearly two decades has been nothing short of dramatic.
Coming in place of Bridgestone, which decided to quit the sport at the end of the 2010 season, as the single tyre supplier in Formula One, the compound that Pirelli offered caused pell-mell amongst the teams as they struggled to find ways to handle the rubbers.
The confusion was even more apparent early this season as the teams, irrespective of their status, technological finesse and financial power, were in a quandary, quite unable to manage the new Pirellis.
Seven different winners in the first seven races of the season — this had never happened before in F1— meant that the teams had to work overtime to master the art of handling the highly abrasive tyres.
“The start of the season, it was very unpredictable. In a way, it gave every team, every driver the same opportunity. As a result, we had some exciting races,” said Pirelli’s Sporting Director, Paul Hembrey.
Ever since the F1 rules were changed to obviate refuelling during a race, teams had grown comfortable with a one-stop strategy. On the downside, the F1 increasingly became monotonous.
That’s when Pirelli stepped in and decided to shake things up. “In a long calendar as we have now, races have got to be exciting. We need to keep the spectator interest alive for the sake of the sport. So when you have more than a single pit stop, the races become unpredictable. And with tyres like the ones we have offered, races get very exciting, as you have seen at the start of the season,” Hembrey said.
Handling the Pirelli tyres has been one of the major challenges for the drivers this season. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher even went to the extent of lamenting that racing of late had more to do with tyre management than driving skills.
Hembrey, however, refused to buy this assessment. “You have to hear that from a winner,” he said, shaking his head.
For the Indian Grand Prix, Pirelli has offered a new compound that is expected to make racing at the Buddh International Circuit very exciting.