Thursday 22 February 2018

Rosberg overcomes tyre chaos as boycott looms

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa with his punctured tyre the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa with his punctured tyre the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone

Formula One drivers will consider boycotting this weekend's German Grand Prix unless the "unacceptable" tyre explosions which blighted the British Grand Prix are rectified.

During an extraordinary, chaotic race, eventually won by Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, four drivers including Lewis Hamilton, suffered almost identical rear-left tyre failures.

A fifth driver, Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez, suffered a burst front-left tyre, with a host of others close to having failures when they pitted.

Ferrari's Felipe Massa, one of the drivers affected, said a boycott would definitely be discussed, with drivers fearing for their safety.

"I am 100pc sure that every driver is complaining about what happened today," said the Brazilian, who was nearly killed when he was struck on the helmet by debris at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

"I don't want to say that (we will boycott) because I don't want to create loads of problems but this is something that for our safety we can do."

The FIA's race director, Charlie Whiting, admitted he had come "quite close" to aborting the race, with both drivers and track marshals being put at risk by the high-speed accidents and the resulting debris, but decided against it.

A meeting of the Sporting Working Group, to which F1's sole tyre supplier Pirelli have been summoned, will take place on Wednesday.

Hamilton, who had been leading the race at the time of his 180mph incident on lap eight, said that he feared it would take a serious crash for something to happen as "nothing had been done" to improve things in the wake of Mercedes' controversial 'private' test for Pirelli in Barcelona in May, which earned both outfits a reprimand.

"The safety is the biggest issue," Hamilton said. "It's just unacceptable. We had that tyre test to develop and improve the tyres to stop that from happening and after that tyre test they didn't do anything.

"Someone could've crashed. I was thinking behind the safety car that it's only when someone gets hurt that something will be done about it."

McLaren's Sergio Perez echoed Hamilton's words, saying it was extremely fortunate that no one had been hurt.

"It was not dangerous this time because it happened on the straight but it could have been really serious," he said. "We are risking our lives and if something like this happens again, we don't want one of us to be killed."

There have now been 20 tyre failures this season alone, with the Grand Prix Drivers Association writing to FIA president Jean Todt last month to demand action.

McLaren's Jenson Button, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa then went to see Todt in person at Silverstone at the weekend to impress upon him the urgency of the issue.

Rosberg was allowed to keep his victory after being reprimanded by the stewards for failing to slow for yellow flags during the race.

The FIA had asked Rosberg and a team representative to report to the race stewards, with 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell among their number, for appearing to fail to observe the yellow flags.

However, he was reprimanded, rather than handed a time penalty, rubber-stamping his second win of the season and third of his career.

Rosberg committed the offence between turns three and five and, although the stewards found he had not made the required significant reduction in speed required, a reprimand was deemed sufficient punishment.

Once Sebastian Vettel retired with a gearbox problem at the end of lap 41, Rosberg held off Mark Webber's late charge to take the win by 0.7 seconds.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso took advantage of championship leader Vettel's troubles with third place, closing his deficit to the German to 21 points.

Pole starter Hamilton was fourth, but was left bitterly frustrated having led the early laps before becoming the first driver to fall victim to a Pirelli tyre failure. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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