Almost unnoticed among the team orders controversies that dominated the headlines after the finish of the Malaysian Grand Prix was a comment that Mark Webber made in the post-race press conference.
It came in response to a question about Sebastian Vettel's defiance of team orders, its incongruity revealing that this was less answering a question than lobbying in the court of public opinion.
In the days building up to the race, the 2013 Pirelli rubber proved to be the main talking point. Webber had already complained about tyres dominating the sport after Friday practice ("Tyres, tyres, tyres, tyres, tyres," he said) and after the race he was at it again.
"You still have to drive the grands prix these days at eight tenths," he said. "It's not like the old days when grand prix drivers are driving flat-out and leaning on the tyres like hell because the tyres are wearing out. It's not the most satisfying thing for us as grand prix drivers these days."
It's not a new complaint. Since the Pirelli era started in 2011 the debate about whether its tyres wear and degrade too much has flared up periodically. This is a particularly popular topic early in the season when teams are still getting on top of the rubber.
But this year, the criticisms are a little different, with several drivers suggesting that it's very difficult for them to influence tyre life. Jenson Button is among those who have found that the tyre has a finite lifespan that doesn't vary according to the way you use it.
Even smooth drivers like Button are struggling with the tyres © LAT
"A lot of people found that when you look after the tyres, sometimes that's not a good thing," said Button before the race in Malaysia. "It's not like last year in terms of getting the tyre into the working range, but looking after the tyres is pretty tricky."
Unsurprisingly given its tyre troubles, Red Bull has been lobbying Pirelli for change, specifically a return to the 2012 rubber.
This was always a very unlikely course of action, not least because it was unable to drum up any support among other teams. Red Bull's position is that regardless of car balance, it is using up the tyres at an accelerated rate as a penalty for having the best car.
But the race last weekend weakened the case that the tyres degrade too rapidly. Even though the majority of drivers made four stops, this was distorted by the field running on intermediate rubber in the early laps.
"We felt that some comments were a bit misguided," said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery after the race.
"The results proved that Red Bull has a very competent, quick car and it worked extremely well with the tyres. It's a situation that they [Red Bull] might have to review.
"The race would definitely have been a three-stopper. If you look at the spread of laps that they did, they could have done three."
This is only half of the debate. The evidence of the first two races suggests that Pirelli's objective, which is a reflection of what it has been asked to do for the good of the spectacle of producing two/three-stop races, has been achieved.
But key to this philosophy is producing rubber that the drivers can have a tangible effect on. If there is no edge to be gained from effective tyre management or a limit on the influence that a driver's pace has on his result, then there is potentially a problem.
"Sometimes you try to go 'under' the tyre to give yourself a little more later on," said Vettel of the rubber. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It's not always in the driver's control. Sometimes there is not so much you can do from the inside of the car to control tyre degradation. "You can try to make fewer mistakes but sometimes there's more and sometimes there's less you can do."
Hembery is standing by his tyres © LAT
While most teams accept that there is a degree of truth to the claim that tyre wear can't be influenced as much as it was last year, few go to the extreme of suggesting there is nothing a driver can do.
When asked whether he had seen the trend some had complained of, with drivers unable to influence tyre life, Williams technical director Mike Coughlan said: "Yes, a little but certainly not to the same extent.
"We do a fast-slow-fast run and then we go again and the tyre is finished completely. It is very difficult to manage it."
The first two races suggest there are cars - notably the Lotus and the Force India - that are very easy on tyres and can gain an advantage from it.
It is likely that the drivers will gain greater influence over tyre management as the season progresses.
Either way, it's unlikely that there will be any major change in the tyres for this year. But with Pirelli yet to sign a contract for 2014, this is the logical time for F1 to consider whether it wants to continue with the high-degradation approach that it has had since 2011, or change tack.
The debate over Formula 1's tyre philosophy is a tense one that must balance the desire to create a good 'show' with staying true to the spirit of grand prix racing. The ideal, in a money-no-object world, would be a flat-out tyre war.
Unfortunately, economic factors make this nigh-on impossible to achieve. So in a control tyre formula, there is a need to lay down the objectives.
Taking safety as a given, the priority must be that the rubber is not so great a limiting factor that it eliminates driver differentiation.
Pirelli tyres © XPB
Tyre management has always been part of this sport. Speed has to be of the essence, but ensuring the rubber is a variable that creates an ebb and flow in the race should allow the driver's role in the overall competitive equation to be stronger than it would if degradation and wear are irrelevant.
But achieving this magical tyre is not a simple task, especially with the brilliance of the 11 engineering teams that will do everything they can to create the kind of predictable, durable tyre they love.
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