Rubens Barrichello believes the narrower front tires in Formula 1 this year are a significant factor in the difficulty of overtaking.
The 2010 regulation changes were widely criticized after the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix where overtaking proved near impossible. Several drivers complained of not being able to follow another car closely enough to attempt to overtake, and Barrichello reckons it is largely caused by the narrow front tires.
"You follow another car and you just understeer off the track," he said. "Unless you have at least a second on board, which is not the normal thing – I overtook [Sebastien] Buemi but I was doing 2m01sec, he was doing 2m04sec and it wasn't an easy overtake.
"You cannot follow – the front of the car washes out. When you grab the throttle back on with lots of lock, you lose the back end so the car, in front just goes away. Sometimes I am a bit critical of things, but when I heard they will make the front tires smaller, I just didn't understand it. The fact that we had better racing last year was because we dropped the ugly grooved tires, to slicks. We need, more mechanical grip, to be able to lose the aerodynamics.
"It's not the weakness of the tire, it's the weakness of the rule, in my opinion. Bridgestone has proved it has tires capable. The front tire is weaker than last year and the rear tires are of course better. You need more mechanical grip, for me it's the only solution. They're going to argue that the car will go two seconds faster. But then you drop the performance on the aerodynamics again."
One suggestion has been to increase the disparity between the two available compounds of tire, to ensure that the speed difference between cars is enough to allow overtaking. But Barrichello says the solution is not that simple.
"In theory, that's what they're planning to have – that's why they bring tires that are not close together. But the engineers are so clever that we're still going around within three or four tenths. If you're talking about two seconds from one tire to the other, then you have overtaking. A minimum of laps on each tire might be one thing.
"It is a difficult task, because if we make a tire that's two seconds slower, but then we get to a place that's 10 degrees cooler, we'd never get the temperature and it's dangerous to go out. I can only say from what I saw inside, which is that it's very dodgy to follow a car because you don't have front tires capable of maintaining the car on the road."
Full Q & A with Rubens Barrichello