Formula 1’s intense heat on Pirelli only got hotter, as the British Grand Prix took place amid shards of exploding tyre rubber and only a miracle preventing a catastrophe on the day.
Four blowouts, all left rear tyres (the same as Perez’s failure a day earlier) is now an unacceptable scenario for drivers and teams.
The near misses were plentiful as debris from Hamilton caused Vettel to swerve in avoidance; debris from Vergne’s incident nearly took out both Lotus drivers, shards struck Raikkonen’s helmet and the Toro Rosso driver did well to keep the car from slamming into the barriers; large chunks of rubber from Perez’s destroyed tyre flew past Alonso, missing the Ferrari by inches.
Lewis Hamilton, just one of four drivers who had spectacular rear failures during the Silverstone race, was comfortably leading when he had his problem. Afterwards, the furious Briton told reporters he was trying to hold his tongue.
“Big time,” he relented to Sky when asked if he is worried about safety. They need to do something”
Later on BBC he added, “It’s unacceptable. We tested a tyre that was much safer than this one and I don’t know why they’ve not used it.”
His Mercedes teammate and race winner Nico Rosberg also had a partial tyre failure just as a safety car period began and only quick thinking by the team kept him in contention.
On-board footage from Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso’s cars showed how the big chunks of flying tyre debris could have seriously hurt a following driver had they been struck by the wayward shards.
“It’s only when someone gets hurt that [somebody] will be doing something about it,” Hamilton charged. “I think it’s a waste of time talking to the FIA, and if they don’t do anything that says a lot about them.”
McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale, whose driver Sergio Perez had one of the exploding failures, insisted: “We have to make sure our drivers are safe.”
Perez reflected on the incident, “My race had been going well. I’d been running inside the top 10 for most of the afternoon when my left-rear tyre suddenly exploded. I just felt an explosion along the Hangar Straight – there was nothing I could really do about it. ”
“The tyres are a big concern. Luckily nothing too serious happened to anyone, but we need to sit down together, get an explanation and get something done,” ventured the Mexican.
Jenson Button agreed: “The cars behind get hit by rubber that has metal in it. It’s obvious it’s got to change. It’s very scary.”
“We’ve had five tyres over the last few days, a big issue and something that needs to be sorted out. Don’t change how you drive but of course it’s on your mind. Happening at 300 km/h, like for Checo, it’s not right.”
“It’s not just dangerous for the driver in the car, it’s dangerous for all the other cars. The cars behind get hit by rubber that has metal in it. It’s got to change. I don’t think anything needs to be said. We all know the situation,” warned Button.
Vergne said of his incident, “I don’t know what happened, I did not feel any warning signs and it just let go under braking. I am very upset about it and something needs to be done about it soon.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was visibly alarmed by the failures, “The issues with the tyres changed the complexion of the race so instructing the drivers to stay away from the kerbs changed the race.”
“I think they’ll be some fairly serious questions being asked and I think Pirelli will address that. It’s clear Pirelli need to do something but the most important thing is that they address it,” added Horner.
Recently, Pirelli wanted to make a fundamental change to the tyre construction – replacing an internal steel band with a kevlar one – to stop delaminations, but teams like Lotus blocked the move.
F1’s official supplier instead had to resort to tackling the issue by deploying a new kind of glue to bind the tread.
All the talk immediately after the race on Sunday was about the obvious need for Pirelli to change the tyre construction, whether or not the teams agree.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery refused to immediately comment pending an investigation, despite the international media relentlessly bombarding him with questions.
“Sorry,” he told them. “When we have the answers, we’ll let you know.” (GMM / Apex)
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