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Formula One

Time to blow up tyre issue

After numerous tyre explosions at British Grand Prix, F1 drivers are threatening boycott if Pirelli do not make changes.

Last Modified: 01 Jul 2013 11:56
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The tyre blowouts have triggered talk of a possible driver boycott in Germany next weekend [GETTY]

Complaining about tyres in Formula One was getting old.

Considering the glam of the paddock, the personalities of the drivers, and the power of the engines – tyres are perhaps the least romantic thing about the sport.

When tyres are mentioned a large percentage of sports fans switch off.

However, the British Grand Prix on Sunday – won by Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg – was a stern reminder that we cannot tire of tyres just yet. 

Silverstone confirmed what many had suspected – that after 20 tyre failures already this season - Pirelli are struggling to provide tyres dependable enough to allow us to talk about others things.

While the tyre explosions looked phenomenal on TV and provided much drama, four major failures in one race is about more than entertainment. The 11 teams were lucky to get their drivers home in one piece.

On Sunday, everyone in the paddock – from drivers to engineers to analysts – agreed something needed to be done, and very, very quickly.  

The British GP may be over – but with four days until the German GP - another race is on.

"Pirelli have been good partners to Formula One but doing nothing is not an option. Pirelli have the best knowledge about what is logistically possible before the next race," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.

"It is not about having more tyre testing, they’ve just done that, there is already one solution we know of," said Whitmarsh, referring to the idea of bringing back last season’s tyres.    

However, this point raises its own problems. After the dominance of Red Bull and McLaren last year, returning to old tyres is not a tactic all teams favour. Whitmarsh’s comments reveal how difficult it is to come to a consensus with so many vested interests in the sport. 

But when it comes to exploding tyres at 180mph, consensus is desperately needed.

As soon as the race was over, motorsport pundit and former racing car designer Gary Anderson was down inspecting the track. He pinpointed the culprit to be Turn Four - where he found a razor sharp edge, and a convincing argument as to why Lewis Hamilton and company saw four become three.  

It’s easy to say 'Pirelli Pirelli Pirelli' but I don’t agree with that, they made a tyre the teams wanted

Gary Anderson, former F1 car designer,

"It’s easy to say 'Pirelli Pirelli Pirelli' but I don’t agree with that, they made a tyre the teams wanted. It’s meant the shoulder where the tread joins the side wall is weaker than last year because they have stiffer tread to get better contact and more rubber on ground," Anderson told Al Jazeera outside the Red Bull motor-home.

"It’s a combination of the kerb being too sharp and the tyre not strong enough- either you can say to drivers the black bit is the track, or smooth the kerb to get rid of sharp corners. Or Pirelli can make another tyre." 

"But Pirelli can’t do that in a week before Germany so to react to this situation, they should sort the kerbs out at Nurburgring and make a stronger tyre for after the August break. They should forget about unanimous agreement. Pirelli  - make the tyre you want."

Lucky

While celebrating good afternoons, winner Nico Rosberg and third-placed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso admitted to having their own fortune during a testing race.  

"It’s definitely something that needs to be looked into. Because too much of that happened today, that’s for sure," said Rosberg on the tyre issue that dominated post-race discussion.

"I was staying off the kerbs and I got a tyre problem myself but it worked out well. I was able to pit before it broke apart because the safety car came out. I was a bit lucky there."

Alonso was luckier still, after finding himself behind Sergio Perez when the McLaren driver’s wheel failed.

‘The exploding wheel, yes I was really lucky. It happened so suddenly and so close to me that I involuntarily jerked the wheel to the right. It was very dangerous," the Spaniard said. 

Red Bull driver Mark Webber, who last week announced he will be retiring from F1 racing at the end of the season, hinted at his frustration with the powers that be.

"It’s not December yet, so I’ll stay quiet," said the Australian, who is likely to have a whole lot more to say on this and other issues when he leaves the sport.  

"I think we’ve been trying to have input for the last three years and it’s deaf ears. Anyway, we’re part of the package, part of the show. The show goes on by the looks of it."

But with drivers threatening a boycott if changes aren’t made, the show cannot be taken for granted. 

Certainly - you would not want to be in Pirelli’s shoes over the next few days... especially if they had rubber soles.

Poor jokes aside, what happened at the British Grand Prix is no laughing matter. It is one of safety. Something that F1 prides itself on.  

And with recent uproars over issues such as degrading tyres and illegal tests, this is one matter that fully merits the attention it gets.  

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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