Tuesday 16 January 2018

F1: Pirelli switch to safer tyres after British farce

Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa of Brazil enters the pit with a puncture during the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone
Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa of Brazil enters the pit with a puncture during the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone

Tom Cary

Under-fire tyre manufacturer Pirelli will almost certainly use Kevlar belts in Germany this weekend as it seeks to address the safety concerns arising out of Sunday's British Grand Prix.

Drivers had threatened to boycott the race at the Nurburgring unless modifications were made to the tyres after five cars suffered massive tyre blow-outs (right) at Silverstone, some of them while travelling at speeds approaching 200mph. Red Bull's Mark Webber likened the racing to Russian Roulette, with nobody sure who was going to be next to suffer a potentially catastrophic failure.

The chances of any boycott are practically non-existent, though, with Pirelli acting swiftly to address the safety concerns. It is understood the Italian manufacturer will issue a statement today, with a switch from steel to Kevlar belts – which it intended to do in Canada last month before the change was blocked by some teams – coming into effect immediately.

A return to 2012 tyres, which also featured Kevlar belts, would have been introduced this weekend but there was not sufficient time to do so given the five-day turnaround from Sunday's race to Friday's first practice session at the Nurburgring. The use of 2012 tyre structures, with 2013 rubber compounds, is likely to come into effect from Hungary at the end of July.

In the meantime, Pirelli already has two private tests lined up – one at Paul Ricard next week and the other at Barcelona a fortnight later – at which they will be allowed to use a 2013 car.

There is also a young driver test scheduled at Silverstone from July 17-19 at which, it was confirmed yesterday, race drivers will now be allowed to run. A statement from the FIA said that Mercedes, banned from the young driver test after their illegal 1,000km test with Pirelli in May, had accepted to take no part "in the interests of the sport".

"In the meantime, the FIA has asked Pirelli for an assurance that there will be no repetition of the tyre problems at this weekend's German Grand Prix or at subsequent grands prix," the statement added.

Pirelli will give those assurances at tomorrow's meeting of Formula One's Sporting Working Committee, but is not expected to encounter any resistance. Ferrari, Lotus and Force India – the three teams who had objected to the switch in Canada – all agreed to put safety before their own interests in the wake of Sunday's fiasco. Adrian Newey, Red Bull's chief technical officer, had hit out at the "short-sightedness" of those three teams.

After extensive analysis, Pirelli believes the tyres 'fatigued' under the heavy loads put through them at the high-speed Silverstone circuit.

This year's cars are much faster than last year's – up to two seconds per lap – which means far heavier loads through the tyres. And since Pirelli was unable to test with current race cars due to the ban on in-season testing, it is difficult to replicate the sorts of loads experienced on Sunday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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