The decision to run the Australian Grand Prix as a flag to flag was fuelled by badly blistering Bridgestone tyres failing to adapt to the new track surface and hotter than expected conditions at Philip Island.
Throughout the weekend once Bridgestone cut open their tyres they saw evidence of bad blistering inside the tyre even though on most occasions there was little physical evidence of problems. Most riders did not have issues with blistering on the surface or could not even feel the tyre performance dropping off.
However with Bridgestone confirming the issue race direction felt that it had no choice but to take action. The options available to them were to run the race over half distance like they decided to do in Moto2, run the race in two parts as an aggregate race or change the flag to flag rules and allow riders to leave the pits on the same type of tyre as they started the race.
Of these options the only suitable solution was to run the race as a flag to flag race. An aggregate race would have been very complicated for fans at the track to understand and a half distance Grand Prix would have resulted in lots of negative publicity from fans unhappy to only see a 14 lap Grand Prix.
When asked after qualifying about his tyres throughout the weekend Cal Crutchlow admitted that he did not have any issues with blistering throughout the weekend and in fact his biggest problems had occurred while using the ultra-hard compound tyre on Saturday. Given the option Crutchlow would have in fact started the race on the soft tyre:
“If I had my choice I’d probably still run the soft tyre,” said the Tech3 rider. “The problem is with the hard tyre and not the soft as far as I am aware. No tyre had any problem except the extra hard that they gave me.
“I did all day yesterday and this morning on different tyres to that and had no problems at all so I think we should be allowed to run what we want but I don’t think that will be the case and everyone will be made to run a certain tyre. It’s very difficult because Bridgestone haven’t been here and it’s the same in Moto2 [for Dunlop].”
Nicky Hayden echoed Crutchlow’s view with the Ducati rider having no issues this weekend with tyre wear. The American in fact wanted to see the inside of his tyres just to find out exactly how bad the blistering had been:
“I’d like to see my tyre because I don’t have any problems with tyres,” said Hayden. “I think it’s tough to penalise some guys [and make them use the hardest compound] but safety is the highest thing and we’ve got a responsibility to put on a show for the fans and for TV so it’s a tricky situation. I haven’t blistered any tyres.”
While Hayden and Crutchlow were amongst the riders without tyre woes Dani Pedrosa spoke for many that had issues over the weekend with Pedrosa’s the most serious. The Repsol Honda rider said that all of his tyres were “losing pieces.”
Pedrosa also spoke about the effect of the higher temperatures at Philip Island, track temperature reached 40C during Saturday’s running:
“Today because it was warm the grip was working but all the tyres were losing pieces; no matter which bike or rider and also in Moto2,” said Pedrosa. “The asphalt has more grip and in this temperature the tyre does not cool down enough. But at the moment we used all the specifications and pressures that Bridgestone have said and nothing was lasting long enough.”
That Bridgestone hadn’t tested at Philip Island came under fire from many within the paddock and that this situation had happened as a direct result. Many cited cost cutting as the reason for the lack of testing but even in an era where there was no cost restrictions it was still common practice for World Championships to race at resurfaced tracks with no prior testing.
Apart from the cost of having to fly to Australia to test the tyre surface another key issue would have been finding a common consensus for a team to assist Bridgestone with this test. Given the competitive instincts of the paddock it is highly unlikely that Yamaha or Honda would have agreed for the other manufacturer to test at Philip Island. As a result even if there had been a desire to test here the actual chances of the test happening would have been very unlikely. It has been a massive PR disaster for the Japanese tyre manufacturer and shows once again the perils of being a single tyre supplier in a world championship.