Formula 1’s governing body responded to a spate of British Grand Prix tyre blowouts by deciding on Monday to change the rules and allow race drivers to test tyres with their current cars at Silverstone during this month’s Young Driver Test.
“Our priority is to ensure safety for all in Formula 1 and we believe the incidents at Silverstone represent a genuine safety concern for the drivers,” International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt said in a statement.
“We have thus taken the decision to alter the Young Driver Test to allow teams to use drivers they deem fit to carry out tyre development work in a bid to solve the problems we saw at the British Grand Prix.
“I believe it is fitting to carry out this work at the circuit upon which the issues were manifested.”
Teams that field experienced drivers on the July 17-19 test, which had been scheduled previously for drivers without race experience only, can do so provided they are clearly testing tyres for Pirelli.
Mercedes, who won Sunday’s race at Silverstone with Germany’s Nico Rosberg after team mate Lewis Hamilton took pole position, will not take part however.
The team had been told to miss the young driver test by an FIA tribunal as punishment for breaking the rules after taking part in a “secret” test with Pirelli in Spain during May with their 2013 cars and drivers.
Track testing with current cars is banned during the season under existing regulations.
The FIA said that Mercedes, despite the nature of the test being changed, had agreed not to participate.
Teams were informed of the plan on Monday and the FIA said that it would seek the immediate approval of its World Motor Sport Council to change the sporting regulations.
The FIA added it would also seek to change the technical regulations to allow Pirelli to modify the tyres during the season without requiring unanimous agreement.
Ferrari, Force India and Lotus have previously resisted Pirelli’s attempts to change the specification of the tyres because their cars work well with the current spec. The three teams fear losing their competitive edge.
However, all three teams made it clear after Sunday’s race plunged the sport into crisis that they would not stand in the way of any changes needed to ensure driver safety.
Five drivers suffered explosive tyre failures in Sunday’s race, with even former world champion like Lewis Hamilton – who had the first big failure while leading on lap eight – saying afterwards that he feared for his safety.
“It was the first time in my career I’ve ever felt it was dangerous,” said the 2008 champion after exploding tyres sent strips of metal-reinforced rubber flailing into the air, narrowly missing the heads of drivers behind.
“After my incident I was definitely nervous for the rest of the race that the tyres might go again,” the Briton said on Sunday.
“Safety is the biggest issue. It’s just unacceptable really. It’s only when someone gets hurt that [somebody] will do something about it.” (Reuters)
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