David Coulthard column: I want to see F1 drivers flat-out - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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David Coulthard column: I want to see F1 drivers flat-out

BBC Sport - David Coulthard column: I want to see F1 drivers flat-out

By David Coulthard
BBC F1 co-commentator
There has been a lot of critical reaction to the Spanish Grand Prix, with people complaining that it was all about tyre management and not real racing.
I enjoyed commentating on it and when it finished my main thought was that it was a great day for Spain and Fernando Alonso, and that there were lots of good stories. I did not think it was a disaster for Formula 1.
Having said that, I do accept that this is not F1 as I was used to it. When I was driving, if you qualified on pole, unless you really screwed it up, you would be on the podium.
Play media

Spanish Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso's magical weekend
F1 has always been a team sport. At any give time, there is a set of regulations and you have to get on with that. Part of the requirement is managing your car and tyres, and if someone else does that better than you, they beat you.
Whether it is to do with the tyres, the track breaking up, or the weather, there are always challenges. Some are more focused on the driver and some more on the team, but that is part of F1.
In pure entertainment terms, there is no doubt that the spectacle F1 is producing now is far better than the days when we would go off in grid order and that would pretty much be the race result. People have short memories, but those days were really not very long ago at all.
These days, we never know what is going to happen - and that remains the case for a fair part of the race itself.

There seems to be a general sense that F1 now is very different from what it used to be in some sort of 'golden age'. We're all human, so we'll always complain.
I drove Jim Clark's 1963 Lotus 25 recently. That is an iconic car that took an iconic driver to his first world title, but there is no way on earth he would have been able to push flat out throughout a race. He'd have wrecked the gearbox or the brakes would have run out or something. There were so many compromises that we're just not aware of nowadays.
I understand people's reservations about F1 at the moment - and we are hearing them from the fans and some of the drivers. We have to respect that.
The problem is, there are so many different opinions and it's a difficult and complicated subject.
Continue reading the main story

I like to see drivers driving flat out. But I also want to see an interesting race and not a procession

All tyres get slower through their lives. I never knew an F1 tyre that did not have a peak of performance when it was new and then degraded and wore out as you drove on it
What does seem to be completely clear, though, is that the drivers are not pushing right to the limit in the race. To what degree, depends on who you listen to. But after winning the race on Sunday, Alonso said he had been pushing at 90% most of the way.
In my whole career, I very rarely drove at only 90%. Usually, I'd be coughing up a lung. During my very first win, I remember thinking that if Michael Schumacher behind me didn't slow down, I was going to crash because I couldn't keep the pace up.
Most of the time, chasing my team-mate Mika Hakkinen - as I usually was, unfortunately - I couldn't go any faster. Not because I was having to manage the tyres, but because I physically could not go any faster within the grip the tyres generated.
There are many sports that are not about extreme physical endeavour, but F1 has for me always been about man and machine taken to the limit, and if you go beyond that limit there is damage or there is death. Of course, F1 is still dangerous, but that gladiatorial aspect has been lessened.
The current formula doesn't seem to please the drivers as a whole and there seems to be a growing discontent among the fans, many of whom feel they are seeing management rather than racing. They want to imagine the drivers are thrashing the cars from start to finish, even if that is not what is actually happening.
These are the fastest cars and drivers in the world. It's a high-octane, high adrenalin sport, and nothing makes adrenalin pump more than when you're on the edge rather than working to a brake-and tyre-management scenario.
I like to see drivers driving flat out. But I also want to see an interesting race and not a procession.

Not everyone is complaining about the current situation, but many of those who are remember the refuelling days, which ended after 2009, when drivers were able to lap in the race within two seconds of their qualifying time.
Even in 2010, the last year of Bridgestone tyres, race lap times were usually within two seconds of qualifying times.

Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer
"It was a win every bit as dominant as the one Alonso took in China two races ago, and it made one wonder what he might have achieved had it not been for the errors that cost him dear in Malaysia and Bahrain"

Fernando sees his chance
On Sunday in Spain, the fastest lap was 5.5secs slower than the pole time.
That's because the drivers are not pushing to the peak of the aerodynamic performance of the car because the tyres do not allow them to. Do that, and the tyre's performance drops off too quickly. In the past, the tyres were more consistent.
As recently as 2009, I remember Alonso asking for the Singapore Grand Prix race distance to be shortened because everyone was physically spent after the first race there in 2008. No-one asks that anymore because the extreme physicality has gone out of it. Drivers go several seconds a lap slower and manage their tyres.

Vettel complained after the race on Sunday that he was not driving to the limit of the car; he was driving to the limit of the tyres.
The problem with that argument is that he had the same tyres as Alonso and Raikkonen , and they went faster. So trying to argue that it is all down to the tyres just does not stack up.
Play media

Alonso's incredible start in Spain
The regulations are very tight, but different teams are having different problems - for example, Red Bull's limitation in Spain was the left front tyre; Mercedes' was the left rear.
That is down to how the car runs in yaw in the corner, which depends on what camber change it has and what suspension geometries the team running. And those decisions are usually based on getting the right airflow to the right places.
If Mercedes or Red Bull knew why they were having those problems, they would fix them - after all, no-one wants to go from pole to sixth, as Nico Rosberg did on Sunday; or second on the grid to 12th, as was the case for his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
It's not like Mercedes are creating a car for qualifying - they are qualifying with what they believe is the best possible car for the race.
The bottom line is that under the regulations as they are, and on the same tyres, Ferrari and Lotus - and particularly Alonso and Raikkonen - did a better job in Spain than Red Bull and Mercedes.

A final point. For me, there is a much bigger worry about the tyres than the complaints about racing - and that's the number of failures there have been this year.
I understand that Pirelli say they are being caused by cuts, but one of these days that failure is going to happen at a critical point on a race track in a critical racing situation.
I don't want to scaremonger, but who knows what is going to happen then? That for me is a bigger concern than whether the type of racing is pleasing everyone.
David Coulthard was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 05-15-2013, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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Enough is enough. Pirelli have to change their tyres after a race bordering on a farc

Enough is enough. Pirelli have to change their tyres after a race bordering on a farce | Features & Experts | Sky Sports Formula 1

Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle on why he has run out of patience with the Pirelli tyres after a confusing and frustrating Spanish GP.

Last Updated: May 13

There was much negative reaction both during and after the Spanish GP from many fans.

The race was not particularly exciting and with 82 pit stops and multiple strategies, combined with endless messages of 'save the tyres' and 'I can't drive any slower', it was complicated to follow too.

The same Sebastian Vettel who shaved the pitwall as he mercilessly overtook his team-mate in Malaysia was reduced to being 'careful with the left front' and letting people past while keeping the car on line. Gripless World Champions were being passed in the DRS zones as if they had just stepped out of junior racing.

I've tried my best to be supportive of more interesting - albeit to an extent fabricated - motor racing, but it's just gone too far.

Qualifying clearly means nothing these days, just ask the front row Mercedes boys. Only one of the last eight races has been won from pole position. It's all about saving new tyres and then trying not to abuse even those on race day. Pirelli simply have to sort this out.

Ideally, we need tyres which are marginal one or two stoppers, or at worst hovering between two or three stops. In other words the equivalent of a last minute 3-2 football thriller. Back in the Schumacher and Ferrari dominated era we had the equivalent of a partly rained out five-day cricket test match which ended in a draw. Now we have something more like a 102-85 basketball game.

Not every sporting event is a cliffhanger, far from it, and not every motor race can be an all time classic. We've had some interesting and good races this year and so let's not forget that in the post-race fury. But on Sunday if they had all finished it would have been well over 90 pit stops, which was bordering on farce for a dry race using the two most durable compounds in the list of four.

Pirelli say they are doing what they were asked, and I'm still largely supportive of the overall strategy. But now they must do what the fans are asking, which is to make the tyres more durable and consistent so we can get back to comparing drivers and cars.

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen managed the challenge in an impressive way, however, even if when we cut to their on-board cameras they looked to be tip-toeing around. Alonso's attack on the first few corners of the race using determination, adrenalin and KERS in equal measures was the highlight of the race for me, passing both Lewis Hamilton and Raikkonen in Turn Three alone. The man has confidence to go with his skill and intellect, not to mention a car which has not mechanically let him down now for a consecutive and record-breaking 60 races.

The alarming trip backwards through the field from second to twelfth for Hamilton left him understandably 'lost'. And judging by his radio calls angry and frustrated too. At least Rosberg salvaged sixth. Even more confusingly he only three-stopped and was quite fast in the closing stages, albeit 68 seconds behind the winner having started on pole.

Even Red Bull struggled. This really surprises me because watching out on track the car looks very good, especially with front grip. Red Bull is convinced this is because their car has so much grip that the tyre simply can't handle it. Christian Horner told me that it was midway through the second stint when they realised a three-stopper was impossible. They had to stop Webber four times anyway to extract him from traffic after a bad start and that worked well.

McLaren had a split strategy but their two cars ended up line astern, although only after Sergio Perez had been effectively told to hold station. I hope they can find a solution for their car and that we won't hear the words 'we've decided to focus our resources on the 2014 car' too soon. The fact that they increased their record-breaking run of 63 consecutive points finishes will be little true comfort.

Most random fact of the day is that Esteban Gutierrez, who started 19th and finished 11th, led the race for two laps and completed the fastest lap of all. Which confirms that there is some potential in the 2013 Sauber to be teased out.

Paul di Resta had another solid race to be first Brit home, and it's a pity that he couldn't launch a late attack on the works Merc of Rosberg.

Next up is Monaco, which couldn't be a more different track layout and demand to Barcelona if it tried. Let's see how the dice roll there.

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