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.