The Formula One circus descends on Monaco for this weekend's showpiece Grand Prix with tensions running high over tyres and Bernie Ecclestone telling drivers to stop complaining and use their brains to win races.
After a week of squabbling between the teams and tyre supplier Pirelli over the performance of the Italian company's high-degradation tyres, Formula One's veteran commercial rights holder waded in to the debate.
He said: “The easiest thing for Pirelli would be to produce tyres that you put on at the first race of the season and take off at the last. That would be easy, easy.
“I asked Pirelli to make tyres that would not complete 50 per cent of a race — and that's what they did.
“In the times when Niki Lauda was racing his biggest concern was looking after the gearbox and the brakes — not the tyres.
“Then we got away from that and the drivers didn't have to think about anything. Now they have to use their brains and start thinking about how to win races again.”
Champions Red Bull and struggling McLaren have both called for Pirelli to revise their fast-wearing rubber compounds while Ferrari and Lotus have expressed their satisfaction with leaving things as they are. Pirelli said it will introduce revised tyres from next month's Canadian Grand Prix, a measure that the sport's ruling body — the International Motoring Federation (FIA) — has stressed can only be undertaken for safety reasons.
Ecclestone's comments will add spice to an already hotly-contested scrap for this year's world championship in which defending triple world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull leads with 89 points ahead of nearest rival Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus on 85.
Two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, winner on home soil two weeks ago, is third with 72.
This Sunday's famous race is not only a famous ‘blue riband’ event in world motor racing, but also an anachronism as the high-tech F1 cars fight on the tight and twisting streets of the Mediterranean principality on a circuit that could not be considered for such hosting duty in the modern age.
But such is the commercial value of the event to the F1 circus, the organisers, the media, the teams and the sport's sponsors with their visiting celebrities that it is arguably the most important of all, even if there is precious little true racing.
The sinuous and narrow circuit may produce the slowest average speed of all, but it remains a fascinating challenge for the drivers. — AFP