[Updated] Pirelli has announced a package of measures ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the FIA Sporting Working Group in Germany, aimed at addressing the tyre failures witnessed at Silverstone at the weekend.
The press release from the Italian company, issued this evening, is likely to cause waves among teams as it essentially accuses them of misusing the tyres, claiming that the tyres are safe if used correctly. However the change of specification has been unilaterally put through by the FIA on the grounds of safety. FIA president Jean Todt described it on Sunday night as “a safety problem”.
Pirelli also calls on the FIA to give it much greater powers to control and police the use of tyres by teams.
There is a strengthened rear tyre for the German Grand Prix weekend – the kevlar belted rear development tyre which was tested briefly in Montreal last month – where the soft and medium compounds will be used and then a revised tyre, based on 2012 construction with a kevlar belt will be tested at the Young Drivers Test at Silverstone 17-19 July, which will feature race drivers too.
If these tyres pass muster, the new range will be made available from the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July onwards.
Pirelli has analysed the causes of the failures in Silverstone and believes them to be as follows:
1) Rear tyres that were mounted the wrong way round: in other words, the right hand tyre being placed where the left hand one should be and vice versa, on the cars that suffered failures. The tyres supplied this year have an asymmetric structure, which means that they are not designed to be interchangeable. The sidewalls are designed in such a way to deal with specific loads on the internal and external sides of the tyre. So swapping the tyres round has an effect on how they work in certain conditions. In particular, the external part is designed to cope with the very high loads that are generated while cornering at a circuit as demanding as Silverstone, with its rapid left-hand bends and some kerbs that are particularly aggressive.
2) The use of tyre pressures that were excessively low or in any case lower than those indicated by Pirelli. Under-inflating the tyres means that the tyre is subjected to more stressful working conditions.
3) The use of extreme camber angles.
4) Kerbing that was particularly aggressive on fast corners, such as that on turn four at Silverstone, which was the scene of most of the failures. Consequently it was the left-rear tyres that were affected.
On the subject of teams running lower tyre pressures, Pirelli has asked the FIA for this to be subject to “accurate and future examinations”. Pirelli has also asked for compliance with these rules to be checked by a dedicated delegate.
Clearly unwilling to be made to look bad any more, Pirelli wants some control over the way the teams are allowed to use the tyres. As this will require regulatory change, it may take time but what the company has in mind is, “real-time data from the teams regarding fundamental parameters such as pressure, temperature and camber angles.”
As for the new range of tyres to be tested at Silvertsone prior to debut in Hungary, Pirelli says,
“The new tyres will have a symmetrical structure, designed to guarantee maximum safety even without access to tyre data – which however is essential for the optimal function of the more sophisticated 2013 tyres. The tyres that will be used for the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards will combine the characteristics of the 2012 tyres with the performance of the 2013 compounds. Essentially, the new tyres will have a structure, construction and belt identical to that of 2012, which ensured maximum performance and safety. The compounds will be the same as those used throughout 2013, which guaranteed faster lap times and a wider working range.”
It remains to be seen how the new range of tyres will affect the balance of the world championship battle. They will clearly behave in a different way from the 2013 tyres used so far, so there will be winners and losers.
It’s too simplistic to say at this stage that competitive teams who were disadvantaged by the 2013 tyres, such as Mercedes and Red Bull, will gain from the change or that teams who were on top of them, like Lotus, Ferrari and Force India, will lose out.
It may work out that way, but until we have seen the new tyres in action at Budapest and particularly Spa we will not know for sure how the rest of the championship will shape up.
* Late last night Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery issued a second statement, denying that the original was aimed at pinning blame for the Silverstone problems on the teams,
“Contrary to the impression that some people have formed, I would like to underline the collaboration and support that we are receiving from the teams, drivers, FIA and FOM. In no way are we intending to create arguments or attack anybody. We have taken our responsibilities upon ourselves as our press release indicates. But not having full control over all the elements that impact on the use of the tyres, we need everybody’s contribution. With regard to this, we are receiving the full support of all the parties involved, for which we are very grateful.”