Pirelli will not change its approach to producing challenging tires in Formula 1, despite the controversy caused by Michael Schumacher's recent criticisms of its products.
Schumacher has been highly critical of Pirelli's high-degrading tires in recent days, and even suggested last week that racing on them was like driving on "raw eggs." Speaking about the matter at the Circuit de Catalunya on Friday, Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said that there were no plans to make any changes to the tires – and the only way his company would alter its approach would be if the teams asked it to, because the sport was losing popularity among fans.
"The last thing we want to do is do what one or two individuals want. It will take all 12 teams to sit down and ask us to change, but that isn't going to happen," explained Hembery. "There has been one particular comment made in the last few races. But at the end of last season the number of people who came to see us and say they were unhappy was zero. And the number of people who have come to see us this season is one. So you have to be reasonably pragmatic.
"We fully understand Michael's point of view, and what he wants to see – and if the fans ultimately want that, then I guess the teams and ourselves probably are more interested in what the fans say.
"But even then, you have to have a balanced viewpoint based more on viewing figures. You cannot go on [online] forums, because the vast majority are unfortunately slightly misinformed. It is down to everyone to inform them a bit better. Some people thought we were on our own going off and doing these things, but we were not."
Hembery said the alternative to its current tires would be to have ones that did not degrade, but that would ultimately produce processional races.
"We will do what the sport wants. If they want a tire that lasts all the race with no degradation, then we will do that. If they want what we have got now we will do that; if they want something in the middle we will do that, but it is not something you want to be changing every five minutes.
"The teams invest a lot of energy and a lot of money trying to maximize the package, and they want to know what the challenge is and that is what they are working on now. If you make a knee-jerk reaction and you go in a different direction, you can maybe throw things out the window that you don't want."
Hembery said that he was not upset at Schumacher's comments, but was slightly baffled because it was Mercedes boss Ross Brawn who pushed so hard for the tires to be so challenging.
"I don't really have any feeling about it," he said when asked for his reaction about Schumacher's stance. "We understand he is a great champion, and he has every right to say how he feels and what is his opinion, but it is one opinion and we have to try and take into account what we were given.
"We were not told to replicate a tire that runs for a whole race with no degradation and create a procession. We were told by his team principal to replicate Canada 2010."
Hembery said that Pirelli was actually more surprised by the criticisms it faced after India last year than by Schumacher's recent complaints.
"If we have been shocked since we got back into F1, it wasn't now – it was actually after India where we had very dramatic negative reaction to the race in the eyes of the public," he said. "That we did get a lot of reaction to – we were heavily criticized as to why now we are being so conservative. That really did make us go home and think."