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F1 tire changes to be less dramatic than feared

A Petronas mechanic pushes a trolley with Pirelli tires in the paddock ahead of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalun
A Petronas mechanic pushes a trolley with Pirelli tires in the paddock ahead of the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalun

By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Changes to the Formula One tires due to be introduced next month will be less dramatic than some have feared or hoped for, supplier Pirelli said on Monday.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery told Reuters that the Italian company would find a solution that all teams could agree on without the outcome having a major impact on the championship.

He said the aim was "to make the changes that you have to make with minimal disturbance to the sporting equity.

"What we're trying to do is find the mid ground and that's where we're at. The changes required would appear less than first envisaged."

Pirelli said last week, after a Spanish Grand Prix crammed with pitstops and some eye-catching tire failures in practice, that they would change the structure and compounds of their tires from the Canadian Grand Prix - round seven of 19 - in Montreal on June 9.

The move drew criticism from Lotus and Ferrari, the two teams who have most to lose from any changes after adapting their cars to the 2013 tires more successfully than others including champions Red Bull.

Lotus principal Eric Boullier last week likened the changes to shortening the length of a pitch at half time in a soccer match because one team could not run as fast as their opponents.

Ferrari, in a 'Horse Whisperer' column on their website, complained of rivals having selective memories when they criticized the tires.

While Ferrari's Fernando Alonso won with four pitstops in Barcelona, so too did Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in 2011 without any furor. The total number of pitstops was also comparable in the two races.

The winning time in Spain was just over seven seconds slower this year than in 2012 but the fastest lap in qualifying was nearly a second quicker.

The Spaniard's win allowed him to cut the gap on Vettel in the championship standings. Vettel is four points clear of Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus with Alonso third, 17 behind the German.

The sporting regulations state that tire specifications cannot be changed during a championship season without the agreement of all competing teams, unless it is for safety reasons.

That would cover certain structural changes, with Pirelli eager to rectify a situation where treads on rear tires have been peeling off - 'delaminating' - without the tire itself deflating when penetrated by debris.

Hembery said Pirelli were confident they could keep close to the 2013 specification while rectifying the tread problem.

Last week, the company talked of introducing a revised construction using elements from the 2012 and 2013 tires to ensure both durability and performance and reduce the number of pitstops.

"Some teams have worked in a certain way to maximize the tire and chassis package and they don't want that to be lost by radical change," said Hembery.

"We're trying to find something that is sportingly equitable amongst the vast majority that allows us to rid ourselves of the tread (problem). We're hopeful we can do that without making such a change that would radically alter the work of any team so far."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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