Madrid: Formula One needs more drama and new tyre supplier Pirelli has been ordered to provide it.
The Italian brand returns to the F1 grid after a 20-year absence to replace Japanese manufacturer Bridgestone as the sole supplier until 2013.
Although the last half-dozen seasons have seen five different champions and dramatic title duels that often go down to the last lap of the season, the action on the track usually hasn't been as compelling.
Many of the Hermann Tilke-designed circuits in countries new to F1 — such as Turkey and Abu Dhabi — often are so tight they make overtaking difficult. Formula One is determined to change that and believes tires are an avenue for adding excitement.
From the outset, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and the 11 teams have directed Pirelli to create a compound that will force two to three pit stops in each race and create the tire degradation that will result in cars traveling at different speeds and foster more overtaking.
"We're where we want to be for the first race. Cars are lapping at different speeds so that there can be overtaking," Pirelli head of motorsport Paul Hembery told The Associated Press. "There will be more pit stops and that will create more overtaking. Racing will improve a lot and help the show.
"Everything is already pointing in that direction: We're talking tires."
Hembery said Ecclestone's desire was to replicate the conditions of last year's Canadian Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton's tire choice in qualifying coupled with pit stop strategy led to a 1-2 McLaren finish with teammate Jenson Button. Red Bull faltered because of its strategy.
Drivers, however, so far have been lukewarm about the new compound.
Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, said the new rubber was a drag on pace and Jarno Trulli of Team Lotus said Pirelli could do better.
"Those negative comments don't really get fed back to us," Hembery said in a telephone interview. "(For the season opener) in Melbourne, everyone will have the same tire and it will be a reliable tire."
Hembery insists Pirelli is only following instructions.
"Change is often something that makes people slightly worried. But we're getting descriptions of differences rather than problems," Hembery said. "We were given directives from teams and promoters to help the show. How on earth can we create that show? We have to make people change their tires and use their tires. So people on the circuit will be going faster and slower."
Limited testing coupled with cool and wet winter weather in Spain meant teams were unable to maximize tire development, which makes it an unknown factor heading into the season-opening Australian GP on March 27.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh jumped to Pirelli's defense saying "being a tire supplier is a thankless task."
"Drivers haven't been able to lay down rubber (in hot conditions) so that's something we're looking forward to seeing," Hembery said. "We've added another variable with engineers having to adapt their design to new tires. Our priority is to have a reliable product that will be the same for everybody. Races won't be a lottery — it will come down to the best use of car design, tires, engineers, strategy — all elements."
Sauber technical director James Key called the new tires "peaky."
"The tires certainly need managing on longer runs, and I think in race conditions this is going to be crucial," Key said. "The grip on the first lap is generally quite good, but then it needs managing. A good thing about them is there is a very clear difference between the two compounds, and that is something we have not seen in recent years."
Defending world champ Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull expects the tires to add extra excitement to the season-opener in Melbourne.
"I think the first race will be extremely interesting, not only for mapping a pecking order, but also in respect of the new tires, KERS and the movable rear wings," said Vettel, who edged Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by four points to become F1's youngest ever champion last year. "What I can say is that it will be a good show for the fans — and probably a good lesson for us drivers."