Formula 1’s tyre scandal looks set to deepen even further, as a Spanish sports newspaper claims that Pirelli – already under reprimand for their role in ‘test-gate’ – blatantly broke the rules by modifying the tyres used at Silverstone.
Marca correspondent Marco Canseco reports that, prior to the tyre-explosive British Grand Prix, Formula 1’s official supplier changed the construction of its 2013 tyre without the knowledge or the consent of the FIA or the teams.
“At worst, it jeopardised the lives of the drivers,” Canseco said, referring to the spate of spectacular tyre failures at the British Grand Prix that has thrown the sport into crisis.
Marca said that the tyres used at Silverstone had a completely new structure, with a layer of kevlar included in the internal steel-belt.
Earlier, teams including Lotus, Force India and Ferrari vetoed the introduction of the purely kevlar-belted tyres, under the rule requiring unanimity for mid-season changes.
Canseco said that he discovered Pirelli’s breach when Sauber and McLaren sent team personnel out to the scene of Sunday’s tyre explosions, only to discover kevlar shards among the debris.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery denies the charge, “I can assure you that the tyres [at Silverstone] were [of] the same construction as the ones used in Barcelona.”
Reacting to Formula 1’s new tyre crisis, the FIA has agreed to open up the forthcoming three-day young driver test at Silverstone to include the use of race drivers for tyre development.
“The test may also be extended by one day,” read a statement issued by the Paris federation.
Mercedes, however, remains banned from the test, even though team director Toto Wolff expressed concerns about what the other teams will be allowed to do.
“If it is a pure tyre test, I’m all for it,” he is quoted by Germany’s Sport Bild.
The FIA also said that it will seek the World Motor Sport Council’s consent to allow Pirelli to introduce new specifications during the season without the need for unanimity.
“In the meantime,” the governing body added, “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.”
If that guarantee is not forthcoming, it is possible, if highly unlikely that drivers will boycott the Nurburgring.
“I don’t think that will happen,” Bernie Ecclestone told the BBC.
But McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh insists: “There is that danger [of a boycott], if it is not certain that it is safe. But this is not what we want for Formula 1. We had these problems in Indianapolis [in 2005] and it was terrible for the sport.”
“This is not the time to blame anyone,” he is quoted by Auto Hebdo, “we need to work together and find a solution.”
The Telegraph reports that Pirelli will “almost certainly” use its safer kevlar tyres this weekend.
“We would support this,” Lotus boss Eric Boullier, who previously blocked the introduction of the kevlar tyres on sporting grounds, is quoted by AFP news agency. “Safety is the primary concern.”
F1 chief executive Ecclestone confirmed: “Pirelli can change the tyres. Jean [Todt] agreed with that and I told Pirelli.”
Influential French sports daily L’Equipe headlined that the sport is “in tatters” after Silverstone, but the most damage has been to Pirelli’s image.
“Fortunately [Pirelli] don’t make condoms,” joked German tennis legend Boris Becker, according to Welt newspaper.
Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali thinks the Nurburgring will be a “less stressful” circuit for tyres than high-speed Silverstone. (GMM)
Subbed by AJN.