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clarkma5
So everyone, Pirelli included, has said that they were too conservative with their compound choices for the US Grand Prix at Austin. Paul Hembrey says they could've brought the Super Soft/Soft combo instead of the Medium/Hard combo that they did bring since the track temps were cooler than they thought they would be and the surface was quite smooth. This led lots of people to fearfully predict a degradation-free race where everyone just stopped once and ran around in a consistent procession. Well, that's not what we got at all.

Instead, the 5-10 laps it took most cars to get tires up to temperature ended up dominating proceedings and allowed all sorts of alternative strategies to play out. When was it best to take that warmup hit, when did you need to make that investment in getting the faster mediums up to temperature instead of running on your warm hards? Or vice-versa? This allowed all sorts of jumbled up pit stop windows and degrees of race pace to play off each other which allowed for masses of overtaking, wheel to wheel racing, and general excitement. It turned the tire formbook on its head completely.

Ever since Canada 2010, the battle cry for F1 entertainment has been "we need compounds that degrade to force people to juggle pace and windows for multiple pit stops to keep the field varied". It produces exciting racing because it produces more opportunities for cars to be out of position and then to have the pace differential to make passing moves stick. In 2011, the idea that putting on new tires and going faster right away to get the "undercut" was a total novelty for F1 strategy, particularly with the refueling era being so fresh in our minds. The problem is, however, while Pirelli has done a pretty good job at targeting 2-3 pit stops per race (the last few events tending toward 1), as F1 teams start to hone in on what's fastest, we start to get repetitive racing as everyone locks in on a 2 stop strategy, running option-option-prime with pit stops on laps 17-20 and 35-40, or whatever. We end up with pit stop races just like we used to have in the Bridgestone days and it starts to get dull again.

Abu Dhabi was an exciting race for two reasons: a miscalibrated fueling machine at Red Bull put Vettel at the back of the grid and the driving standards were in shambles. So many drivers took themselves out with clumsy moves trying to make ground at a 1-stop Tilkedrome race that the carnage ended up creating the variation that we crave in exciting racing. But it wasn't QUALITY racing, in fact, it was rather poor.

Austin, however, was an exciting race where the standards of driving were exceptional. Amazing to think that only two weeks before these drivers were sliding into foam blocks behind safety cars, spearing into each other from off track, tapping each other into spins, and generally just looking amateur because on American soil there were so many moves that were bold, opportunistic, and yet showed incredible respect and restraint as the best drivers in the world kept themselves separated by a sheet of paper in their battles for position. And it was exciting because the tires were too hard, because these drivers had to get into a rhythm and drive their hearts out for laps on end just to make the round black things at the corners of their car bite into the tarmac. And with negative degradation (fuel burning off creating more time gain than the tire wear produced time loss) there was simultaneously the incentive to run long and push for position on track while giving teams the strategic option as to when they could choose to take that hit of tire warmup. The result was so much varied traffic and all sorts of changing pace throughout. The drivers brought their A-games and it was a wonderful, wonderful watch.

I vote for it as the race of the season. And we have Pirelli's overconservatism to thank, for they've accidentally created an entirely different sport than the one we've watched for the last 2 years.
skr
I'll have to agree that not only we saw some phenomenal racing, but it was actual racing as opposed to seeing which team can conserve their tires the best, or which team is capable of stretching fuel loads out. The thing I disliked about the tire situation in the beginning was the fact that there was a huge cost to driving hard. One blistering lap on softs to overtake with race fuel loads means the tires go off on the next lap or three. This makes the driver drive conservatively over the stretch of the race, which is what I generally dislike about this era of F1. I'd like to see drivers drive more on the limit and not have to worry so much about running out of fuel or shredding tires. More negative degradation!
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