The Australian Grand Prix gave plenty of food for thought. The circumstances were extreme; the remedial measures likewise. But there are lessons that could be carried forward to races where Bridgestone and Dunlop manage to bring tires that are actually able to run a full race (to be fair, that’s every other race but this one).
Brief recap: lovely new surface at lovely Phillip Island in unexpectedly lovely weather. Both companies brought special hard tires in anticipation of higher speeds and stresses, and both fell so far short of the goal that they might as well have used marshmallow. At least the heat blisters would have made a tasty confection.
Acting on the hoof, making it up as they went along, race management went into overdrive. First an international teleconference at supremo level authorized those on the spot to – basically change the rules as often and as much as they liked, whenever they liked.
Under these new powers, Race Direction did just that. Moto2’s heat-fatigued Dunlops were given half the day off, the race cut from 27 to 13 laps, still on full points. MotoGP’s battle-fazed Bridgestones likewise, but in a quite different way. Since all riders have two bikes, they could do half a race on each of them. Bike-swapping flag-to-flag rules were in place for weather changes. But why wait for the weather to change when you can change the rules instead?
Generally it was considered a fair Band-Aid for a messy wound, give or take some concerns for safety in the old track’s narrow pit lane. Race distance was cut from 27 laps to 26, with a compulsory bike change halfway. Along with other strictures: hard tires only, and no fiddling with the pressure given in the manufacturer’s handbook.
On-the-hoof means what it says, and quick reactions were required the next day when further tire failures in morning warm-up earned a more shamefaced confession from Bridgestone: they’d said their tires could do 14 laps safely. So sorry. Mistake. Actually they can only do 10.
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