McLaren performance director Andrea Stella believes Formula 1 teams have a “tendency” to overplay the impact Pirelli tyres have their cars’ performance fluctuations.
Pirelli’s decision to switch to a thinner-tread tyre specification for 2019 has been one of the major talking points of the season, and triggered an ultimately unsuccessful push to return to previous year’s rubber.
Ferrari and Red Bull were chief proponents of such a move, believing the new tyres to benefit the Mercedes W10 package at their expense, while Haas has pointed to the revised rubber construction as a potential reason for its VF19 car’s wildly inconsistent pace.
McLaren was among the teams arguing against a return to older-spec tyres, and its F1 chiefs feel the matter had been overblown.
“I have to say that tyres are definitely a difficult matter but there is also a tendency, I think… you have a certain ambition, you have certain achievements, and you tend to put the difference on tyres,” Stella told Autosport.
“I think this is too simplistic and people should make more of fair questions about what they are achieving and not simply applying mathematics of ‘this is where I want to be, this is where I am, so subtract the difference – and this is tyres’.
“If you do not understand [something] in this business, you can be lucky a couple of years maybe but you don’t dominate.”
Team principal Andreas Seidl agreed with Stella’s assessment.
“It is part of the business to understand what is going on with tyres in whatever category and also for us because we get this question many times,” Seidl told Autosport.
“We don’t know exactly how big our issues are compared to the issues some other teams are facing, [although], OK, some teams are more vocal about it.”
McLaren’s new tech chief James Key described working with F1 tyres as “definitely a science”, although admitted there was “a little bit of luck” involved.
“Sometimes you cannot quite predict what is going to happen next year,” Key said. “Pirelli do a good job of giving us tyres to test on in Abu Dhabi and so on, but that’s a quite different type of track to what you face in winter testing and the season.
“There is some very good expertise within the team, but again this is a thorough approach of trying to make sure understand as best we can of how to treat the tyres, how to predict what they are going to do and then modify that view as the weekend progresses as well.
“For me on a personal level it is a very good reference point for next year as there are certain things that go into making your tyre management competitive.
“It is something we need to ensure that we continue into next year and beyond that – so there are certain ingredients that go into that and it’s important we maintain that.
“It is one of the few things that is identical for every team. So to suggest that we should change tyres just because your car is not working is kind of the tail wagging the dog.”