SAO PAULO, Brazil — Formula One drivers are set to meet on Friday to discuss growing concerns and frustrations around the quality of racing.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) will discuss several key issues, including Pirelli’s tyres, which remain a contentious topic in the paddock, and the significant performance gap between the grid’s top three teams and the rest. Haas driver Romain Grosjean, the director of the GPDA, expects numerous topics to be on the agenda.
“It’s not only tyres,” he said during Thurday’s media day, ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix. “I feel, and I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but I feel like we need to give our feedback and maybe try to do a bit more because the races aren’t fun.
“P6 in Mexico is two laps down? How do you hope to see a midfield car on the podium if they are one or two laps down?
“The delta between the big teams and the small teams is too big. Plus the tyres being so complicated to understand, to drive, if you don’t have the downforce you destroy them and you open the gap again.”
Grosjean hopes the meeting helps gauge driver opinion on these issues and see if there is a consensus among them. If there is, the GPDA will consider taking the concerns to F1’s rule-makers, who are currently in discussions around the next set of regulation changes, set for the 2021 season.
“If we get to somewhere where everyone is happy with what we’ve discussed and we’ve got bullet points then we should put them forward to you guys in the media, to Liberty, to whoever,” Grosjean added. “It’s a start at least.
“We don’t sit back and just don’t do anything for the sport we love. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all wrong. I am still very happy to come to a race weekend and race a car. It’s a bit frustrating to know it could be better.
“If you take [Nico] Hulkenberg or myself or [Sergio] Perez, the last time we won a race was in 2010 or 11 — our junior category records are pretty good. If you’re not entering the right team then you’ll never have a chance which is a bit of shame.”
F1 has failed to find a perfect solution to its issues around tyres. Pirelli, which holds the contract to supply the sport’s 10 teams, has worked on producing tyres which allow drivers to push for extended periods of time but also degrade — losing performance in the process — enough to spice up race strategies.
While it is also linked to the aerodynamic complexity of current cars, one frequent complaint this year is the behaviour of tyres after a short amount of time spent in close proximity behind another car.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly said: “There are many things we can improve but there’s clearly one aspect that could improve racing: if we had more robust tyres that are less sensitive to overheating. It will give us the opportunity to follow other cars for longer.
“At the moment you do three corners really close from another car and you start sliding and three degrees of temperature on tyres and start to lose performance. It’s a snowball effect, the temperatures [of the tyres] keep increasing and you’re done.
“It’s something Pirelli should focus on, we told them already, they need to respect what FOM asks them so it’s a topic we discussed many times. Probably as drivers we need to be stronger in our opinion and view and desire of what we need for the future.”
In a hope to spice up races Pirelli introduced has introduced a new tyre compound in each of the last two seasons, increasing its range to seven, but 2018 has still seen a large number of races dominated by one-stop strategies.
Although creating races with multiple strategies in play is the ideal scenario, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is unsure whether that would actually spice up the spectacle.
“I don’t think anyone ever seems to be satisfied. They wanted a tyre we could race on harder for longer, and now we are nearly getting that. I don’t know how to have a tyre we can push hard on, that is going to degrade so we can still do a two or three stop, we will just drive slower like we are doing now.”
If we push hard on this tyre from the start, we’d do a two stop instead of a one. But the drivers see that cruising on a one stop is going to be quicker, so we are doing what is best for the strategy.”
Ricciardo pointed out that Pirelli has made improvements with its tyres in the past few years.
“[Compared to] a few years ago, I feel we are able to push more. I can’t remember last year how much we were pushing. I know we are able to push enough but I know a few years ago the deg was massive, especially when Pirelli first started. It was like we need to be able to push on something, a harder compound…I don’t really know how to answer it.”