As we head into Formula 1's summer season, the pecking order seems to be set for the year.
Mercedes is miles ahead of the opposition and it does not seem that anything is going to change that. Renault might come up with better power units but Mercedes has a huge advantage both in terms of points and understanding, and it is hard to imagine that anyone will catch the silver cars this year.
Good for the German manufacturer. It did a better job than everyone else and it deserves the reward.
The only variable that might make a difference – although it is doubtful that this will make enough of an impact to stop Mercedes dominating – is tyres.
This year Pirelli has had very little coverage. The chatter has been all about engines and Pirelli has been quiet, providing solid tyres without any controversy.
That was absolutely the right thing to do; the first races of the new formula were always going to be dominated by the new engine regualations, so even if Pirelli had wanted to, it would have been hard to make an impact.
Last year Pirelli got seriously bruised in F1, but it was not really fair. Pirelli took a heap of criticism from some of the teams – notably Infiniti Red Bull Racing – about the tyres being too 'risky'.
The folks at Red Bull needed more durable tyres and so when there were some tyre failures, they weighed in and made a fuss. In the end, Pirelli had no choice but to take the hits and go back to more conservative rubber. The result was that Red Bull ran away with the world championship.
That did not mean that the Italian firm was happy about the criticism, and the folk from Pirelli are not stupid people. They figured that the best response would be to go conservative and wait for F1 to start to complain about dull races and begin to ask Pirelli to be more adventurous. Pirelli would then come to F1’s rescue and show that they are a company capable of making whatever tyres are required.
Now that things have quietened down somewhat and we know who is where in the F1 pecking order, there are some who think the racing has become a little too dull. They are beginning to make noises about Pirelli needing to step in.
Pirelli is waiting for the noise to increase more and perhaps it will only be after the summer break that the company comes up with some more adventurous choices of compound, thus be able to be seen as coming to F1’s aid and creating a better show.
The major question this year is whether or not the tyres will make any significant difference to the performance of Mercedes. The team is so far ahead of the opposition that it is doubtful that changes to the tyre compounds will make much of a difference to the results. The Mercedes seem to be good on all the different tyre compounds.
Ironically, Red Bull is now the team that has most to gain from Pirelli pushing the envelope a little more. One would understand if Pirelli decided not to do that, to teach Red Bull a lesson, but at the end of the day, Pirelli seems to be acting responsibly in this matter and is not looking to extract revenge, but rather looking to get back into the F1 spotlight for the right reasons.