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Tired, and emotional - drivers concerned over China rubber choice 17 Apr 2009

Bridgestone soft tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 16 April 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 3 April 2009 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn Grand Prix in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 16 April 2009

Tyre preservation seems set to be a key factor in determining the outcome of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Several drivers, notably Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Brawn’s Rubens Barrichello, have voiced concern that Bridgestone have chosen to bring the same tyres they did in Australia - their medium and super-soft compounds. Many struggled on the super softs in Melbourne and opted to run them early, among them Robert Kubica for BMW Sauber, the Ferrari drivers, and Lewis Hamilton for McLaren. Winner Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel opted to use them in their final stints, and that contributed to the incident between Vettel and Kubica as the Pole gained ground on the German whose tyres were graining very badly and thus losing their effectiveness.

The surface of the Shanghai International Circuit is quite abrasive, certainly more so than Albert Park, and many fear this will only exacerbate the problem.

"I think it is the worst decision they made in a long time, because it is a ridiculous tyre for here, for Shanghai," Alonso said. "I don't know if Bridgestone made the decision or the FIA, but they have to reconsider this type of decision because we look ridiculous on television and we look ridiculous for the spectators, and it is a joke to be in front of TV six seconds slower.

"We will need to change the tyres after five or six laps, is our calculation, because this track is harder than Melbourne and there we only did eight or nine laps.”

Barrichello echoed the Spaniard’s view. “I still need to understand what is the reason why we bring such different tyres, if it’s for the show itself or I think we have a very good tyre for here and a softer tyre which all the teams might struggle with. That may make the race itself very nice because someone might be struggling, you have overtaking and that’s quite nice, but I’m sure we’re capable of bringing - out of the four types of tyre that we have - we can bring different tyres that can be better for us drivers.

“In Australia, the tyres were already graining after five laps and it will be the same here, possibly even more because the track itself is more abrasive, and if it’s cold the tyres are going to be a bad effect. If this is for the show itself, I don’t think it’s dangerous for us - danger in the way that you could be driving five seconds slower and another car is catching up quite quickly - but it’s lovely for the show itself.”

Alonso says that the Grand Prix Drivers Association voiced their concern about the tyre choice after Australia, but that no notice has been taken of the drivers’ views.

"We expressed our concerns and now in the third race we have the same tyre at a worse circuit. This is something that we need to change immediately," added the former champion.

Turn One here is notoriously hard on tyres, and drivers are concerned that in extremis the super softs will have lost their edge before the end of the lap. They would have preferred Bridgestone to bring their medium and soft compounds.

David Tremayne