Race drivers will be allowed to drive in the upcoming young drivers’ test at Silverstone to help Pirelli solve the problem with their tyres, the sport’s governing body the FIA has announced tonight.
Six drivers suffered tyre failures during Sunday’s British Grand Prix, raising questions over driver safety.
The three-day test, which takes place between 17-19 July and will be open to the public, will feature all teams except Mercedes who have agreed not to take part following their punishment for the controversial Barcelona Pirelli test.
The team’s regular drivers will only be allowed to work on tyre development and safety assessment. Young drivers will be allowed to work on car improvement work. To accommodate this change, the FIA is considering extending the test by an extra day.
FIA president Jean Todt said: “Our priority is to ensure safety for all in Formula One and we believe the incidents at Silverstone represent a genuine safety concern for the drivers.”
“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.”
The FIA added that it 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 grand prix.”
The letter from Todt to Pirelli was addressed to the company’s president Marco Tronchetti Provera, who has bigger problems on his mind at the moment as he is being charged with receiving stolen information relating to his time with Telecom Italia. The Italian prosecutor in his summing up statement at the trial today called for a jail term for Provera of two years.
It is likely that there will turn out not to be one single cause of the failures seen on Saturday and Sunday. A combination of factors with drivers being aggressive on the kerbs being a part, in conjunction with teams running the tyre pressures below 19psi, the high loads at Silverstone, the running condition of the tyre with the suspension of some cars.
Hamilton, Massa, Gutierrez and Perez’s failures happened on the medium tyre, which has been used at every race this season except Monaco, without ever experiencing catastrophic deflations like this. Vergne’s failure was on the hard tyre which has seen action in Malaysia, Bahrain and Spain.
Pirelli has been keen to move away from the steel belted tyres used this year to the more succesful kevlar belted models of 2012 and as a change of specification is now mandated on safety grounds this may prove the fastest and most effective solution.
The sport’s governing body have also informed the teams that approval of the World Motor Sport Council will be sought to change the regulation which says unanimous approval from the teams is required to change tyre specifications during the season.
It was this clause in Article 12.6.3 which meant Pirelli were prevented from making changes to its rear tyres for the Canadian Grand Prix as Force India, Ferrari and Lotus failed to agree.
Meanwhile, Silverstone’s owners have defended the circuit’s kerbs following suggestions sharp edges may have cut the tyre sidewalls which caused a number of failures during the British Grand Prix.
President of the BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club) Derek Warwick dismissed the reports as “absolute rubbish” having gone out on track himself to inspect the kerbs.
“These kerbs have been in since 2009. We’ve had thousands and thousands of cars go over these kerbs and they have been absolutely fine,” said ex-F1 driver Warwick. “We’ve had them checked by the FIA and they comply completely.
“I think [F1 boss] Bernie [Ecclestone], the FIA and Pirelli are bringing the sport into disrepute and they need to have a serious look at themselves and change these tyres and not expect all the teams to agree. Take it out of the teams’ hands and put safe tyres on these cars.”
On Ferrari, Lotus and Force India decision to resist moves to change the construction of the 2013 tyres because their cars have been able to get good performance out of the tyres, Warwick said: “The teams need to look at themselves. They made the decision not to bring a new tyre. I kind of blame Pirelli but they did their best to bring a new tyre to Silverstone and three teams voted against it.”