F1 drivers want answers on tyres
7:52pm Friday 23rd August 2013 in National Sport News
© Press Association 2013
Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the second practice round (AP)
Formula One’s drivers are demanding guarantees about the safety of the latest Pirelli tyres ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The move comes just two races after a boycott of the race in Germany was threatened by the drivers in the wake of the dangerous blowouts that overshadowed the British Grand Prix at the end of June.
Fresh concerns, however, have been raised in the wake of punctures suffered by Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso during practice for Sunday’s race at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
Whilst a far cry from the incidents at Silverstone that put drivers’ lives at risk, they feel their fears should be quelled as they are not satisfied with Pirelli’s explanation the punctures were track related.
As Red Bull’s Mark Webber remarked: “We need answers and ‘debris’ is not the answer.”
Press Association Sport can confirm Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery met with FIA race director Charlie Whiting to discuss the situation.
It is understood Whiting is to review the matter ahead of final practice on Saturday once Pirelli has completed its findings.
Given what occurred in practice, Alonso said: “I don’t think it’s a similar problem to what we saw in Silverstone, maybe more of a random set of circumstances, but all the same, it needs careful analysis.”
As for Vettel, he said: “We don’t know what happened when I got the puncture in P2. We lost the rear right, very suddenly, so we need to have a look. Pirelli is working on finding out why it happened. Other than that, it was a positive day.”
Hembery earlier dismissed fears of a repeat of what occurred over the Silverstone weekend, but again his reputation and that of Pirelli are on the line.
By his own admission, however, Hembery said: “It is a worry for the sport because we have to go out and find what it is.”
But asked specifically whether there could be a repeat of the horror show at Silverstone, he added: “It is completely different.”
With photographs of both the offending tyres in his hands, Hembery pointed to two puncture holes in Alonso’s rubber.
As for Vettel, there was a long scar on a part of the surface before it materialised into a puncture further round, suggesting to Hembery the circuit itself had played an intrinsic part in the failures.
“It looks on the Red Bull as though something has been rubbing on the surface and then has just cut through it,” explained Hembery.
“It rubs through and comes up to a point where it just digs in. On the Ferrari there are two quite clear holes through the top of the tread. There’s not a lot we can do about that.
“So we have to go and look at the track and see what is between turns 13 (Fagnes) and 15 (Stavelot).
“We have seen a lot of signs on other tyres, small surface cuts, so there is clearly something. I cannot tell you what it is, but it is from external sources.
“The tyres were, apart from the cuts, very good. There is not a lot we can do, but we will try our very best to identify it and give us an indication of what is causing it.”
The incidents at Silverstone forced Pirelli into a redesign of its tyres for the subsequent grands prix that followed in Germany and Hungary last month.
From Hungary in particular, the Italian manufacturer adopted a design that incorporated the structure of last year’s tyres with this year’s compounds.
Prior to this weekend, Hembery conceded the high-speed nature of the circuit would prove the acid test of the latest construction due to the strain and heavy loads involved.
Vettel’s incident, however, did not stop him from topping the timesheet with a lap of one minute 49.331secs.
That was six seconds faster than that set by Alonso in the first session due to the inclement conditions that prevailed throughout the opening 90 minutes.
Vettel ultimately spearheaded a Red Bull one-two, with team-mate Mark Webber 0.059secs adrift.
The duo were head and shoulders ahead of the remainder of the field, with Lotus’ Romain Grosjean third fastest but over eight tenths of a second down.
Force India’s Paul Di Resta was the best of the Britons down in 10th, 1.280secs back, with Lewis Hamilton 12th in his Mercedes and Jenson Button 15th for McLaren.
With three successive poles and a win in Hungary last time out to his name, Hamilton will be the man to beat in qualifying.
But the 28-year-old, who finished 1.4secs behind Vettel, admits there is work to do “to get the car feeling just right”.
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