F1 reaches 'T-word' tipping point
There is an angry 'T-word' on everybody's lips after Sunday's puzzling and painful Spanish grand prix.
"Can anyone tell me what's going on?" an exasperated Paul di Resta asked his team during the race in Barcelona.
With that, he summed up the situation in F1 at present: Pirelli's unprecedentedly heavily degrading tyres are confusing even the sport's drivers.
Lewis Hamilton, having qualified on the front row, sounded amazed, sarcastic and incensed when he informed his Mercedes bosses that "I've been passed by a Williams now".
Only 24 hours earlier, the same Williams had failed to make it out of 'Q1', while many were tipping a Mercedes victory.
"When we're going round three seconds slower than a GP2 car did in qualifying, and only six seconds quicker than a GP3 car did in the race, there's something wrong," said McLaren's Jenson Button.
Hamilton, asked to slow down to protect his tyres during Sunday's race, replied that he couldn't go any slower "otherwise I'm going at walking pace".
"That is the way the sport has gone to improve overtaking," he told reporters afterwards. "It is for the public to judge."
Until now, Pirelli has vigorously defended its mandate, having come into F1 tasked with spicing up the action by supplying tyres that will force multiple pitstops per driver.
But, amid the post-race vitriol in Spain from both inside and outside the paddock, motor sport director Paul Hembery announced that Pirelli will now make changes.
"It's too late for Monaco but we'd look to change things for Silverstone," he said.
Gerhard Berger, a former grand prix winner and team co-owner, explained: "They can't go on like this.
"Every 14 days it's just negative advertising for them. And the fans no longer know their stuff."
In short, the pressure has built to tipping point, spurred on by vocal opponents like Red Bull, and also the media.
"Is this really a formula one world championship?" said Nicola Pohl in the mass-circulation German newspaper Bild.
She quoted Red Bull team boss Christian Horner saying: "It's like chess now.
"And chess is not necessarily a sport that has many fans."
Hembery is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport: "In the last two years, the public has supported us. The races have become much more exciting.
"But the criticism has reached a level where we can no longer be indifferent."
However, not everyone supports a major change. Apparently Ferrari and Force India are quite happy with the 2013 tyres, as is - obviously - Lotus.
"It's like football," team owner Gerard Lopez said. "As soon as one team is always hitting the post, the discussion becomes making the goals a bit bigger."
Another factor is that if Pirelli makes significant compound or structure changes, they want a day of testing prior to Silverstone.
"They'll never get it through," said Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder, "because all the teams would have to agree."
Alonso almost penalised for flag waving breach
The FIA on Sunday considered penalising Fernando Alonso for picking up a Spanish flag during his post-chequered flag in-lap.
After winning his home race in Barcelona, Alonso stopped beside a marshal who furnished his Spanish compatriot and hero with a red and yellow Spanish flag.
Once in 'parc ferme', the Ferrari driver draped the flag over the '1' signboard indicating where he should park.
But the glorious moment was actually a breach of a regulation about "receiving an object" prior to the post-race weighing and scrutineering procedure, and Alonso and a Ferrari team member were summoned to the stewards.
Ultimately, the FIA officials let him off without penalty "to be consistent with a previous decision made under similar circumstances".
Mercedes favourite to win in Monaco
Mercedes has been tipped as a likely favourite to win the fabled Monaco grand prix later this month.
Having dominated qualifying in Spain, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fell spectacularly backwards through the field in the race as the W04 chew mercilessly through Pirelli's tyres.
Toto Wolff, the team's co-owner and director, said the extreme reversal of Saturday's fortunes caused himself and Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche "almost physical pain".
But it could all be different in Monaco.
"I think Mercedes has a good chance to win in Monte Carlo," said Swiss commentator and former driver Marc Surer.
"Whoever starts at the front in the principality also has a good chance for victory," he is quoted by Speed Week.
"And the degradation of the rear tyres will not be such a big issue there."
Asked if predictions like Surer's are right, Barcelona winner Fernando Alonso said: "Yes, definitely.
"They've been on pole position for the last three races, they were on pole last year with Michael (Schumacher), so it would be a surprise if they weren't on pole position in Monaco," said the Ferrari driver.
"And it's more difficult to overtake in Monaco, so maybe they can keep good positions for longer."
Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen also agreed: "I think Mercedes will unfortunately be pretty quick there and after that it's difficult to overtake.
"So you can really expect, from what they did last year and what they did here, that they should be pretty fast there," the Finn added in Barcelona.
Mercedes' Rosberg told DPA news agency: "In qualifying we are very good, so it's very likely that we'll be close to the front (in Monaco) and hopefully I can keep the train behind me."
McLaren could return to orange F1 livery
McLaren's cars could go orange in the near future, team boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted.
Although the Woking based team's cars have been silver since 1997, orange is actually McLaren's traditional race colour, dating back to the Can-Am days of the 60s.
After 2014, however, it looks likely McLaren's long relationship with 'Silver Arrows' carmaker Mercedes will end.
Whitmarsh said in Barcelona on Sunday that he could not comment on reports McLaren will definitely be Honda-powered in 2015, saying the matter was "confidential" between the team and existing partner Mercedes.
Asked, however, if the change of title sponsor for next year in the wake of Vodafone's scheduled departure might be a chance for McLaren to return to orange, Whitmarsh answered: "I really like the idea.
"Orange is a great colour, especially for McLaren," he told the Russian website f1news.ru.
"We use it for our racing GT and it looks great, and we'll continue to move in this direction.
"F1 is a bit different: the modern business model is one of the main tasks of the team -- to promote the brands of our partners.
"But if we're lucky enough to find a sponsor who likes orange, you could see that colour again in formula one," added Whitmarsh.
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