No question that the 2012 Formula One season is all about tire preservation. Like it or not, this has become an elusive combination of chassis set up and driver skill. Tactics and strategy play a huge role in the ability to put yourself in a position to win regardless if you are the fastest car on the grid or not.
It's not to say that those who have won didn't deserve the win, they most certainly did. What it does highlight is that Pirelli's tire compound change for 2012 and the regulation changes that removed a significant amount of aerodynamic downforce have created a markedly different situation than a mere 11 months ago.
Getting on top of the dynamic tire issue is paramount if you have any hope of performing this year and Williams F1 driver Pastor Maldonado thinks he's mastered the issue telling AUTOSPORT:
"I think I understand the tyres very well," said Maldonado. "Much better than last year. Even if they changed for this year, I have a great feeling.
"I know exactly what to do to look after the tyres, how to manage the race to get a longer life from them. I am always trying to improve, but I think the combination between me, the car, and the tyres is good at the moment."
It's a bold statement but one worth taking note of as the Venezuelan driver has won a grand prix this year in a car that suffered its worst season in the history of Williams F1 in 2011. They have a new engineer, engine and team (effectively) so those changes have all made their 2012 season much better but Maldonado may have a point here when it comes to clearly understanding what the tire needs in order to know how best to handle the chassis and provide that feedback to the team for race set up:
"These tyres are working with a small window of temperature," he added. "As soon as you are slightly out of that range, you are nowhere.
"It is very difficult to put a lap together, and the gaps are so small. As soon as you lose two tenths, it is difficult even to get into the top 10.
"We have been working so hard to try to understand the tyres, to help them, and to get the car working in different conditions and different set-ups."
Imagine the task of finding these disparate elements on any given circuit in any given condition and combining them all in a complimentary fashion to win a race. The task is the same for all racing series but the windows for tire performance, I would argue, are nowhere near as narrow or delicate or elusive as it is in F1.