Helmut Marko Q&A: Extreme tyres costing Red Bull 23 Mar 2013
Pirelli were tasked with creating rubber that poses a challenge for the teams in terms of strategy and makes for more exciting racing. Most would agree they have achieved this. Some might argue they have gone a bit too far, with Dr Helmut Marko among them. We spoke exclusively to Red Bulls motorsport consultant about tyres, testing, and the 2013 form book to date
Q: Helmut, pole position again today, like in Melbourne - but there the problems started in the race. Do Red Bull Racing have more problems with the tyres than Ferrari?
Helmut Marko: You have to be careful with any notion, as it is only the second race. But on the other hand it gives us a bit of a headache if we cannot realise the potential of our car and our drivers because the tyres dont allow it.
Q: Melbourne was quite significant in that you had a one-second gap over Ferrari in qualifying, but you could not benefit from that in the race
HM: And the reason for this is that we have higher tyre wear - and not the grip. We havent been in the window where the tyres would have worked.
Q: Pirelli had the task of creating tyres that make the races more interesting. Did they overdo it?
HM: We should be cautious again - its only the second race - but yes, it could be a bit over the top.
Q: How big a disadvantage is it to come away from the winter tests with little in the way of concrete conclusions?
HM: It definitely is a disadvantage and we have to change that for next year - especially as we have to fit in a new engine. The rumour raging through the paddock right now is that we either have to go to Abu Dhabi or Bahrain to have stable weather conditions where you can retrieve meaningful data - especially regarding the engines. We have to do more mileage - and looking back to Barcelona it was almost impossible to go on the track before 11am because it was too cold, so every day we lost at least two hours of running.
Q: So what is it that you want?
HM: To go somewhere where you get data that you can work with - and where you can do more running. It costs more to go there, of course, but what does it help to go somewhere with less costs when you cannot gain any data. This morning weve been doing a long run - weve never done a long run on Saturday morning before, but we were missing the data so we had to it. I think that looking at new venues for the winter tests is what we need - and I hope that Bernie [Ecclestone] can negotiate us a good deal! (laughs)
Q: What has been the biggest surprise so far for you this year? That Lotus are strong, that McLaren are behind? The tests didnt give many clues
HM: Lotus didnt do a lot of mileage in the winter as they obviously had many issues with their car. And looking at Raikkonen in Melbourne, he did a clever race, never getting stuck in traffic. Of course it was surprising to see McLaren so far behind, but the biggest surprise was Sutil. We were running up to him and probably got too close, because from that moment on we werent able to keep up with his pace. And not only this, he was able to stay endlessly on one set of tyres, then pit for the softs and is finished after three laps. Who can understand all that?
Q: So the biggest issue for most of the teams is to understand the tyres - is that what youre saying? And will that issue fade over the course of the season with more experience?
HM: The whisper in the paddock is that this years tyres are a bit too extreme. Fact is that the tyres are not only developing extreme degradation after only a few laps, but big chunks quarry out. So this looks like there is an issue with the basics of the tyres, as we have these kinds of issues not only in high temperatures but also under cool conditions. Note, the tyres have these problems - not us. Other teams witness these kinds of problems in different shapes, but it cannot be that you have a car that has the best downforce and you have to reduce it to make the tyres work to some extent.
Q: Some might say your complaints are purely sour grapes and that youre getting things out of perspective. After all, many teams on the grid would love to have your problems
HM: Not at all. I always understood that the best and fastest should win - and not that the one who builds the best car is punished for it.
Q: So what we have seen today looks like a repeat of Melbourne. Will the race also be a repeat?
HM: With the high temperatures and the high speed of some corners I would say that the tyres are at their limit, so I think some teams will be lucky to do the whole race distance.
Q: There is a three-week gap between Malaysia and China and you go back to the factory with the experience of two races. What is on your to-do list?
HM: First and foremost we will sit down with Pirelli to discuss the tyres to find a solution. And then we will do what we always do: concentrate on the next race - and hopefully win it.
Q: What about updates - based on the findings of the two races so far
HM: We always introduce updates, but both races - Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur - are outside the normal race standard. One fast and temperature-wise beyond good and evil, and this here is an extreme in the other direction.
Q: So what is your prediction for the season?
HM: McLaren will bounce back, Ferrari will stay, and I just hope that we will come to a point where the fastest will win.
Q: You just had an intense conversation with Niki Lauda. Has he made you an offer you cant refuse regarding Adrian Newey?
HM: Ha, no deal. We spoke about the tyres.
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