A meeting between the Formula 1 teams and Pirelli at the Austrian Grand Prix to discuss a possible return to 2018-spec tires this season has failed to reach an agreement.
A number of drivers — including Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel — were present as the teams met with F1’s tire supplier at the Red Bull Ring on Friday morning to discuss changes to the current tires being used. This year’s tires feature a thinner tread — designed to prevent overheating and blistering – but have proven tricky for a number of teams to work with.
Mercedes has dealt with the new tires well and won all eight race so far this season, and with unanimous agreement required to re-introduce last year’s tires, Pirelli head of car racing Mario Isola confirmed the teams did not approve such a switch.
“It was mainly to understand if there is anything we can do to improve the show,” Isola said of the meeting. “We know the dominance for Mercedes is not helping the show at the moment and we had a discussion of the opportunity to re-introduce the 2018 tires. But after analyzing the positive side and the negative side… there was a vote from the teams and the decision is to stay on the current tires.
“The meeting was quite productive; there were new ideas, new proposals for maybe the end of the season. Obviously we have to analyze that. At the moment they are just ideas. Let’s see. We will continue the discussion in the next days and maybe we come with a proposal for Silverstone or something like that. I don’t know yet because it was discussed (a few) hours ago.”
Team representatives explained their points of view following the meeting, with Racing Point technical director Andy Green stating he did not feel a change was the right move.
“We listened to the arguments and we especially listened to (Isola); Pirelli are the experts in this area,” Green said. “And from what we could tell, it wasn’t clear cut at all that a change — reverting to last year’s compound gauge thickness — was going to be a positive change. It sounded like a significant risk to us.
“From our perspective it’s too late for this season and I think the decision to focus on trying to do something and trying to improve the tires and the show for next season is the right thing to do. And I think to try and not distract from the testing that’s going on post this event and post-Silverstone as well is the right decision and focus on next year, and try to do something for next year, rather than a knee-jerk reaction in the middle of this year.”
However, Red Bull chief engineer Paul Monaghan disagreed with Green’s assessment, saying the teams could react and stating Red Bull had voted in favor of returning to the 2018 tires.
“It’s difficult, isn’t it,” Monaghan said. “It puts Pirelli in a slightly difficult position. They’re doing a decent job, they’re going to win every race, the tires are surviving on the cars, and as Mario points out, they’ve got to maintain their safety record.
“At the risk of being slightly controversial with regard to Andy’s comments, we would quite happily accept the 2018 tires to come back. I don’t think the risk is as great as some perceive. But it is about creating a show and I think we almost have to take a step back and take a slightly less team-centric position and turn around and say, ‘Well, if it would be better for the show, could the teams cope with it?’ And our opinion is yes, we could.
“We accept there has been a majority vote not to do so but we hold a slightly different view to the majority then.”