Daily Archives: June 30, 2013

Where now for Formula 1 and Pirelli?

It’s obvious that the tyres failures that marred today’s British Grand Prix were extremely dangerous, and preventive measures must be put in place for the future. Although today’s debacle was not entirely their fault, the fact that the tyres have been delaminating in previous races as well proves that Pirelli needs to put in some serious work if it is to survive in this sport.

In both the Malaysian and Bahrain Grands Prix, Lewis Hamilton suffered tyre blowouts at high speed. Seeing as how the Mercedes is known to impose heavy wear on their tyres, it wouldn’t be out of the question to assume that degradation – a feature intentionally implemented by Pirelli – is contributing to these incidents.

However, the high degradation was requested by the FIA, in order to shift racing to a Canada 2010-style of tyre strategy. While this has worked (mostly), the consequences of high-fragility tyres are now clearly visible.

Pirelli are unlikely to revert to “concrete” tyres, as it would hurt their brand imaging to do such a u-turn in the public eye. However, it is completely unfeasible to keep the tyres the way they are, with such huge safety concerns having arisen this weekend.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery has already stated that the company’s new bonding method to construct the tyres is not the fault, so there is something more fundamental to blame. It is possible that the Turn 4 kerbs contributed to these incidents, but they are no different to any other kerbs on the calendar.

Therefore, it is likely that the 2013-spec tyres are reacting poorly to high levels of wear at demanding tracks like Silverstone. If this is the case, there wouldn’t have been a problem this weekend if Pirelli had originally had their way – the teams vetoed their suggestion to race more conservative constructs from early on this year.

In desperation, they turned to in-season testing, which I’m sure you’ve heard all about. Two tests were completed after Bahrain – one with Ferrari at the Sakhir circuit, and the infamous one with Mercedes in Barcelona. This only resulted in even more negative PR for the company that was only trying to fix a mess they were forced into.

If the drivers and teams are looking to ensure their safety on track, then they must be more willing to allow Pirelli to introduce changes. It is widely believed that Ferrari and Lotus vetoed Pirelli’s plans in order to gain an advantage over their rivals – and this must be stopped if the drivers’ safety is to be ensured.

At the very least, the next race at the Nurburgring will be much easier on the tyres than in Silverstone, as will the Hungaroring. Hopefully this will allow the teams, the FIA and Pirelli to work out a safe solution, not one that is manipulated in order to gain speed advantages at the cost of safety.

Points standings after British Grand Prix

Driver Standings

Driver Points
1 Sebastian Vettel 132
2 Fernando Alonso 111
3 Kimi Raikkonen 98
4 Lewis Hamilton 89
5 Mark Webber 87
6 Nico Rosberg 82
7 Felipe Massa 57
8 Paul di Resta 36
9 Romain Grosjean 26
10 Jenson Button 25
11 Adrian Sutil 23
12 Jean-Eric Vergne 13
13 Sergio Perez 12
14 Daniel Ricciardo 11
15 Nico Hulkenberg 6
16 Pastor Maldonado 0
17 Valtteri Bottas 0
18 Jules Bianchi 0
19 Charles Pic 0
20 Esteban Gutierrez  0
21 Giedo van der Garde  0
22 Max Chilton  0

Constructor Standings

Team Points
1 Red Bull 219
2 Mercedes 171
3 Ferrari 168
4 Lotus 124
5 Force India 59
6 McLaren 37
7 Toro Rosso 24
8 Sauber-Ferrari 6
9 Williams-Renault 0
10 Marussia-Cosworth 0
11 Caterham-Renault 0

Nico Rosberg wins bizarre British Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg has taken an unexpected victory today at Silverstone, after 4 tyre blowouts and a shock engine failure for other drivers gifted him first place.

Lewis Hamilton initially led proceedings, until the first of many tyre failures rocked his race. His left rear tyre was blown to bits, and the Mercedes driver dropped to last place after only 8 laps.

This granted Sebastian Vettel what appeared to be an easy victory. However, he was kept under pressure from Nico Rosberg throughout the race. While tyres were exploding left, right and centre, both Sebastian and Nico hung on, until a shock engine failure for the Red Bull put him out of the race, and granted Rosberg victory.

At the start, Rosberg had been jumped by Sebastian, while Mark Webber was shunted off the racing line by Romain Grosjean, and dropped to 14th place. Felipe Massa had a terrific start, leaping past his teammate up to 5th place.

Hamilton’s tyre failure destroyed his chances of victory soon after though, and Massa’s Ferrari suffered a similar fate only two laps later. This resulted in worried faces across the paddock, which was only made worse after Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a tyre explosion on the Hangar Straight on Lap 15.

The safety car was deployed to clear rubber debris, while team engineers examined tyre data from the first pit stops. Red Bull noticed that Vettel’s tyre had unusual cuts in the sidewalls, meaning they got extremely lucky with their pit stop.

Some engineers blamed the kerbs, the outside of which may have been causing unusual damage to the sidewall of the tyres. Others simply believed that the Pirellis weren’t standing up to regular wear, which is odd considering how the medium and hard compounds were being raced. Either way, it seemed as if a repeat of Indianapolis 2005 was on the cards.

The safety car peeled off on lap 22, with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso becoming embroiled in a battle with Lewis Hamilton, who had recovered from last place. Alonso had made his way up from 10th on lap 1, getting past Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta in quick succession earlier on.

Hamilton later had a fantastic battle with di Resta over 11th place, after his second stop. Up front, Rosberg began to slowly catch Vettel, but it proved to be unnecessary, as the Red Bull suffered a catastrophic engine failure, pulling over on the pit straight.

With the safety car out for the second time, Rosberg, Alonso and Webber all pitted. This time, it was Nico who was granted good luck, as it was revealed that his tyres were developing blisters near the end of his stint. With 10 laps to go, Rosberg led Raikkonen – who hadn’t pitted – , Adrian Sutil, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

The second Red Bull driver swiftly found a way past the Ferrari, and set his sights on the leaders. Together with Fernando, they carved up Sutil and Ricciardo in a matter of minutes, and were immediately all over the back of Raikkonen battling for a podium finish.

Kimi was left to rue not pitting under the safety car, as he was dropped from 2nd to 4th. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton charged up the field from 9th place, making his way up to 5th by the final few laps.

With the Force India and Lotus dispatched, Webber began a last-gap charge to catch Rosberg, getting to within the 1-second window in the final lap. Depsite a nail-biting push, Nico just hung on to take his second win of the year by only 0.7 seconds, with Webber and Alonso joining him on the podium.

Sergio Perez – the fourth victim of Pirelli delaminations – was forced to retire in the closing laps. Hamilton passed Raikkonen for 4th place, while Felipe Massa recovered from last to 6th place, pipping the Force India of Sutil, who had been gunning for a podium finish.

Ricciardo and Paul di Resta were left stranded in 8th and 9th, while Nico Hulkenberg scraped a point for the struggling Sauber team. After 64 consecutive points-scoring finishes, McLaren have now failed to score a single point in the last 2 races.

While this race will be rembered for a thrilling finish and the closing up of the championship contenders, there must also be serious steps taken to ensure that these tyre failures never happen again.

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