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Drivers ready to withdraw from German GP if tyre problems persist
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Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Jul 2013   |  6:47 am GMT  |  131 comments

It is very rare for Grand Prix drivers to threaten to boycott a race.

So the actions of the drivers ahead of this weekend’s German Grand Prix should be taken seriously.

They met to discuss a response to the five tyre failures experienced during last week’s British Grand Prix, which came close to being stopped by Race Director Charlie Whiting.

But it wasn’t stopped and following a meeting of the Grand Prix Drivers Association in the Nurburgring paddock on Thursday, a strongly worded statement was issued, which ramps up the heat in this situation significantly.

“The drivers of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association wish to express their deepest concerns about the events that took place at Silverstone.

“We trust that the changes made to the tyres will have the desired results and that similar problems will not occur during the German GP weekend.

“We are ready to drive our cars to the limit, as we always do, and as it is expected by our teams, sponsors and fans.

“However, the drivers have decided that, if similar problems should manifest themselves during the German GP, we shall immediately withdraw from the event, as this avoidable problem with the tyres endangers again the lives of drivers, marshals and fans.”

Pirelli has so far been unwilling to use the word “safety” in regards to the problems they have had with delaminations in April and May and now failures in June. Pirelli’s Paul Hembery insisted that the tyres are safe if used correctly. McLaren’s Sam Michael confirmed yesterday that the team had not run lower tyre pressures, extreme camber angles or swapped tyres around and yet Sergio Perez had suffered a failure.

New rear tyres this weekend, featuring a kevlar belt rather than the troublesome steel one, should mean that the characteristics of the tyres are quite different.

As the people on the front line, the drivers usually do what they are told – as they did at Indianapolis in 2005 when the Michelins were failing in practice on the banking. The Bridgestone teams, led by Ferrari, were not willing to allow a chicane to be built so that the race could go ahead will all competitors, even though the Michelin runners offered to let the Bridgestone runners have the points. They just wanted to put on a show. The then FIA president Max Mosley would not compromise, so the Michelin drivers were instructed by their teams to pull in at the end of the parade lap.

Michelin left the sport soon afterwards.

Ironically it is Michelin that may now return to the sport if this developing situation were to lead to Pirelli departing.

So it is interesting that here the drivers are taking their own political stand, one that will reverberate around the world, as fans and casual observers take note of anything to do with personalities far more than more dry talk of “tyres” – the dominant theme of this 2013 season.

However many observers in the F1 paddock here in Germany question why the drivers waited a week to issue this pointed statement, after Pirelli had done a lot of work on analysis, rather than after Sunday’s race. It may be a question of lack opportunity to meet after the race last Sunday, but the timing makes it seem even more political.

That said, the feeling is that the drivers are entitled to express themselves in this way, given the seriousness of what happened at Silverstone.

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131comments

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1
James Clayton

I think that most of the drivers are actually hoping to be able to boycott this race. Paul Hembry and his crew strike me as some kind of gang of bullies. I think the teams and drivers are petrified of getting on the wrong side of Pirelli, as they know just how much influence the corporation has on the outcome of race meetings. Get too critical and you’ll find the tyre selections for the next races all of a sudden go against your vehicle.

The only teams and drivers who have been supportive of Pirelli in this whole mess are ones who think they’ve found some special way of dealing with the tyres and think they can use it to their advantage. And if a team feels that way then the driver more or less has to tow the corporate line. It was very interesting to hear Massa speaking out in the Silverstone incidents, as Ferarri are one of these teams who believe they’re on to something.

Now the drivers have the opportunity to make a stand against Pirelli on the grounds of safety, the magical ‘S’ word which elevates them above any responsibility to their employers and their sponsors, and I’m guessing there’s more than couple of drivers who’d like to see the race halted one way another on safety grounds to hammer the final nail into Pirelli’s F1 coffin.

2

This is a bloated threat. We all know the tires aren’t the only reason for failures. I hope it comes down to this just to see who the real racers are. They deserve the spoils. There is always an element of risk in racing… Pirelli has made changes. The brave drivers can collect points and the babies can go home early.

3

They won’t bloody withdraw. They’ll say they all will, then one of them will break ranks for the potential boost to his championship standing, then the rest will all follow suit. Predictable breed, racing drivers.

4

A complete driver boycott will never ever ever happen. Bernie and all of the team principals must be having a good laugh about that one. The words “shut up and drive” may have been used, or “your replacement is at the back of the garage and can be sat in the car in 5 minutes.”

5

The top drivers aren’t worried about replacements. Who will replace Hamilton? Alonso? It’ll be tougher for drivers in the smaller teams. But nonetheless who will replace them? What if the replacements dont want to drive? Anyway, these days the 3rd driver for a lot of teams don’t even come to the races. A driver boycott will work as they work in other sports. I hope there is no need for one though.

6

I dont see this as being any more than a bit of sabre rattling to show the world that the drivers are not prepared to be seen as robots who just do as they are told. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.

7
Tornillo Amarillo

Drivers are OK, it’s FIA responsibility not to go ahead with the race if the tyres are not safe and to demand Pirelli to supply safe tyres for each event. It’s a no-brainer one.

8

The GPDA are saying something for the sake of it. They know that what happened at Silverstone was due to a multitude of factors, and that there will be no repeat in Germany.

If they were that concerned why didn’t they issue a statement on Monday, or is it the teams firing the drivers up in a bid to have a go back at Pirelli after their statement.

9

Boys,

Stop beating a dead fish and get driving! FIA will watch your tire use and guess what will happen this weekend? That’s right…nothing.

10

This could lead to some very strange race results/strategies.

Say the drivers agree that if there are two or more similar tyre failures they’ll all quit the race – what order do they do it in? Who gets what points?

If I’m in 11th do I wait until at least one of those in the first 10 quits so I get into the points?

Maybe Max Chilton pretends to quit but then goes out again and does a few more laps and suddenly Marussia have a chance at a 25 point haul!

11
Craig in Manila

So far this year, we’ve had failures blamed (in no particular order) on debris, and on camber, and on under-inflation, and on kerbs, and on swapping tyres across the cars.

Can we have a competition to guess the next reason ? Just in case.

First prize being a set of Pirellis.

Winner to be chosen by Paul Hembery.

12

The air.

13

Now now! They don’t use air in the tyres! Many tyre fitters now use nitrogen as it is much more stable than air. I believe that is what F1 use and have done since Bridgestone pioneered this with ferrari only along with special treatment in every respect of the tyres fitted to red cars.

14

There is air in the atmosphere they drive through and breath. No?

Please.

15

I’ll pass on that prize thanks 🙂

16

Well it seems Alonso´s car has started the boycott already. Missed the entire practice 1. This car has a mind of it own.

🙂

17

“McLaren’s Sam Michael confirmed yesterday that the team had not run lower tyre pressures, extreme camber angles or swapped tyres around and yet Sergio Perez had suffered a failure.”

Wow, it’s almost like Pirelli peddled a whole bunch of unsubstantiated nonsense in their “it wasn’t us guvnor” press release. Shocking.

18

I would be very surprised if Pirelli simply invented the claims in their press release. It would be a ridiculous thing to do, as it would be very easy to disprove. All such press releases would, undoubtedly, have to be approved by their in house legal team and I just can’t see them allowing barefaced lies to be written on Pirelli ‘letter headed’ paper. That said I don’t think Pirelli are entirely blameless, either. Their refusal to admit that any kind of safety problem existed, allowed the teams who so wished, to veto any changes. The tyres appear overly fragile, but there is no doubt, in my mind, the teams ‘misuse’ didn’t help either.

19
Tom Haythornthwaite

I think this is the first time I’ve heard the Bridgestone teams being blamed for Indy. I thought it was only Max (blaming insurance restrictions) who vetoed the chicane.

Clarifications?

20

The Bridgestone teams (notably Ferrari) were loudly against altering the track. Its an understandable position, you don’t move the goalposts, because your opponent has a cramp.

21

I thought Michelin weren’t interested in entering a sport without competition between two or more tyre suppliers…

22

This feels like a positioning statement that is designed to significantly raise the heat on Pirelli.

Honestly, I can’t see the drivers boycotting the event. If there are any similar failures in practice, then perhaps, but as pointed out, not all drivers are members of the GPDA so the agreement doesn’t really exist. Drivers are at heart fiercely competitive animals: they will use the kerbs, they will push as hard as possible. And any sniff of taking more points towards the title will override any other consideration.

I agree with a comment above: I’d like to know which teams vetoed the change. Guessing Red Bull are in there. On another note, one of the reasons I think Vettel was booed is because fans recognise Red Bull as the intensely political team they really are, in many ways similar to Ferrari of old. The young, wild image Red Bull would like to have simply doesn’t wash anymore.

23

I can’t see a drivers boycott happening unless there are a lot of tyre failures during practice. With the benefit of hindsight, the Silverstone race should have been a red flag rather than safety car. Based on that experience I would imagine that Charlie Whiting would stop the German race at the first sign of similar tyre problems. However, I strongly suspect that the problem was unique to Silverstone. As to whether the drivers would meekly slow down and drive into the pitlane, I can’t see that happening.

24

Who are the members of the GPDA and who are not?

25

My understanding is that Raikkonen, Sutil and Bottas are not members.

26

I believe all drivers, bar Kimi and Lewis are members of the GPDA.

27

The BBC reported Kimi and Lewis weren’t members, but they seemed to be wrong. Apparently Kimi, Sutil and Bottas aren’t members.

28

You are correct and thank you for correcting my post. I read that Lewis and Kimi were not members when the beeb first reported this matter, and then this afternoon they had changed the names of the drivers – very annoying .

29

Add Bottas and Sutil to the non members list

30

Both were refused membership i believe.

31

Any idea why this is?

32

The members of the GPDA should be wary of entering into a pre-race agreement with young Vettel. We all know how flexible he is with such things, particularly if there is a sniff of a win 🙂

33

Vettel is a member of the GPDA.

34

Indeed, he is a director if reports I have read are to be believed. My point was, that he has a somewhat checkered record when it comes to sticking to pre-race agreements!

35

“Multi 21 Seb. Multi 21.”

36

This was clearly a kerb problem. All failures were on the left side & the teams claim to have been operating them as prescribed by Pirelli. The tyres were letting go all of a sudden not delaminating like earlier in the year. Let’s move onto the next race & return to Silverstone next year after the track is repaired.

37

There is nothing wrong with the kerbs, but everything wrong with the tyres.

Cutting the kerbs is standard practise in racing.

If you can show me a single motor race from anytime in history in which kerbs were not used, I’ll give you the lottery win for this weekend.

38

How about the Indy 500? A wall and a white line rumble strip define the track.The drivers certainly do not cut the corners there, not unless they are hoping to crash.-can I have the lottery win please ? 🙂

Btw I’m am being pernickety and I know what you mean.

39

You got me, though. 🙂

40

Like Alonso said, the track layout and the kerbs have been at Silverstone for years. The GP2 races than were held earlier in the day did not have any problems.

Conclusion: Pirelli tyres are faulty.

41

Of course you know that Pirelli makes the GP2 tires too right??? Ask a manufacturer to make marginal tires (FIA/Bernie), then outlaw meaningful testing (FIA/Teams), then object to any changes during the year (Teams), then have teams running outside of recommended specs (Teams again) and you are left with a situation very hard to be successful in if you are Pirelli. I’m not a fan of this current racing “generation”, but Pirelli is taking way too much heat over this when the blame is clearly spread among all involved. The USGP taught people nothing and it seems like this situation will happen again in a few years…

42

Alonso had a right rear failure on lap 9 as he was coming into the pits. So no, not all failures were on the left side.

43

I think at least one of the failure was on the right!

44

James,

Which drivers are not members of the GPDA?

If, and I hope this isn’t the case, failures occur during the practice sessions, how likely is it that the drivers would withdraw? Is this an empty threat?

Would the teams be able to replace their drivers for the weekend with drivers who are not members of the GPDA?

45

already answered ad nauseum above:

Kimi

sutil

bottas

46

What I’m battling to understand is why this has only been a problem at Silverstone and we haven’t seen anything like this before? What changed on the tires that shouldn’t have?

47

What changed is that Silverstone is a considerably faster track than any that has previously been racedd on this year. Only the likes of Monza, Spa and, I think, Suzuka are in it’s league speed wise.

48

There was tyre delaminations in previous races but not blow-outs like Silverstone. Pirelli brought slightly modified tyres to Silverstone with a stronger bonding process to try to prevent the previous failures. That may have stopped the delaminations but cause the more severe blow-outs instead.

49

If I was Pirelli I would threaten to boycott the rest of the season if Formula 1, its teams and its drivers continue to throw them under the bus in the media the way they have been lately.

I am not defending Pirelli, just saying this appears to be a systemic problem that everyone bears responsibility in fixing, not just the fault of the tire supplier.

50

The tyres are bad. Thats all.

51

I suspect that would be a PR, marketing, legal and financial disaster.

52

If they refused to supply tyres for the rest of the season I suspect it would be the end of Pirelli – not just in F1 but in general.

Breaking their contract would trigger massive financial sanctions.

53

If I were Pirelli, I’d just say to hell with it and pack up and go home. Right now. This isn’t doing anything good at all for their reputation. Let F1 find another tire supplier for the rest of the season.

54

There will be no boycott – as always, self interest will prevail over anything else.

55

If I was Marussia, I’d stay in it. Drive the GP, take the huge point haul!

56

Joking aside, that is why any boycott would fail. It’s all well and good someone like Alonso or Lewis throwing their weight around, as they are well established drIvers. But if say, Toro Rosso or Marussia said to their drIvers, we have a queue of guys just waiting to fill your seat if you don’t get in the car and drive – how long would it be before they had their helmet on and were sat in the car? About 30 seconds would be my guess 😉

57

And at that speed there would be a lower chance of a failure 😉

58

Boo-yea! I’m w/ you! Eff ém! Skullduggery or lack-of-solidarity or backstabbing – whatever it takes to get the points!!!

59

I would expect that if tyres started exploding during any of the sessions that Charlie would hit the big red button. I don’t think it would get to a stage that the drivers needed to make the decision. They may all talk the talk but I don’t think there’s too much solidarity among this group anyway 🙂 Common sense should prevail and the race will director step up if required. That’s how I see it going down.

60

Too bad The Rolling Stones are not part of the German GP events. Fans don´t even have a Plan B in case of a boycott

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