By Alex Kapadia
Formula One drivers still have a “huge” role to play in grand prix weekends despite several saying the tyres now dominate the show, according to the Pirelli Motorsport boss.
Paul Hembery has spoken out in defence of Pirelli’s tyres in the wake of concerns that they are having too much of an influence on racing.
With six different drivers winning the opening six races of the Championship, Formula One has set a new record for the longest string of different winners ever in a single campaign.
And while fans are loving it at the moment, there are concerns from several quarters that they will soon grow tired of the unpredictability.
Pirelli, though, are adamant the number of different winners is not based solely on their tyres.
“That is down to the teams and down to the drivers,” Hembery told Planetf1.com. “Our contribution is probably in how close the grid is.
“Take Monaco last weekend. In Q2 there were ten cars within three-tenths of a second. Yes, you can get it wrong with the tyres and that will probably drop you from P1 to row five. When you compare it to the pole position time of last year, which had a lead of five-tenths, then that’s quite a difference.
“I think the public has to be more aware of how close the racing is this year and that even the smallest mistake is being sternly punished. If you get a wrong pit call it has a huge effect, or if you make the smallest error on the track you go to the back.”
He added: “If you want the sport to grow you have to create excitement and interest for the general public, and that is what we are trying to do with the tyres – to try and open up the racing to make it more stimulating.
“But you should never underestimate the drivers.
“Take Q3 last weekend in Monaco. Anyone who watched Michael Schumacher’s lap there saw absolute commitment. It was simply extraordinary driving. Not anyone can do that. It’s still down to extraordinary driving talent.
“Or take Pastor Maldonado’s win in Barcelona. He had one of the most sophisticated drivers behind him – charging down on him to win his home grand prix – and he held his nerve, kept his cool and drove a very mature race to take his first victory. So yes, the drivers still have a huge impact on the results.”