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Archive for the day “July 1, 2013”

On Pirelli and glass houses…

The FIA today announced that the  Young Drivers’ Test at Silverstone on July 17-19 would be opened up to regular F1 drivers “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 GP”.  Even more significantly, the FIA says it will seek approval to “change the Technical Regulations to allow modifications to the specification of the tyres during the season without the unanimous agreement of all competing teams”.  This, I think, is to be applauded, bearing in mind that Pirelli wanted to revert to Kevlar constructions after the first Bahrain incident and were forbidden for doing so by the teams, who could not come to a unanimous agreement.  (Lotus and Ferrari were going well at the time and understandably did not want to see any major construction changes at that point.)  It also seems likely that the ridiculous (current) requirement for Pirelli to define its 2014 tyre specification by September 1, 2013, will be re-written.  Less comforting is the closing threat in the FIA statement today: “the FIA has asked Pirelli for an assurance that there will be no repetition of the tyre problems at this weekend’s German GP or at subsequent grand prix (sic).”  I may be reading too much into it, but that to me sounds like a governing body potentially wanting to discipline a tyre supplier – the only tyre supplier that would step into the void left by Bridgestone – for making future mistakes.  What would happen, for example, if Sebastian Vettel in Germany this weekend suffered exactly the same sort of tyre failure that took him out at the first corner at Abu Dhabi in 2011? Does anyone outside Red Bull Racing and Pirelli know exactly what happened on that occasion?  Judging by the number of different opinions in the pit lane to this day, I think not.  Surely the role of the FIA at this time – when Pirelli have been subjected to massive criticism from all quarters – is to re-assure the F1 tyre supplier that it has the support of the people who matter.  Pirelli have made mistakes – and will continue to make mistakes – because that is the nature of the F1 business.  Indeed, it is the nature of life.  I make mistakes – plenty of them.  The F1 teams make mistakes. The drivers make mistakes. And so, come to think of it, does the FIA.  I seem to recall some FIA fuel rigs under-performing a few seasons back – and who ratified the regulations that are now being changed mid-season?  Of course Pirelli have had a bunch of problems – but then so did Michelin back in 2005, at Indianapolis.  I think it’s interesting that a number of F1 people who now dream of a Michelin return were the same people who refused to race at Indianapolis that year (when some sort of race could have been put together to save Michelin’s face in its biggest market) and who in 2006, at Monza, openly accused Michelin of cheating.  Pirelli spend several hundred millions of Euros per year supplying tyres for F1;  they don’t have to do it – and I’m sure that at present they wish they weren’t doing it.  In the absence of Goodyear, Bridgestone and Michelin, though, the alternative three years ago was for the F1 industry to produce its own tyres, with the vague hope of a sponsor branding the sidewalls.  Instead, Pirelli stepped up to the plate and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. In my view, it now behoves the F1 industry to stand squarely behind Pirelli, to give them the scope they need to do the job and not to threaten them with some sort of discipline if/when something again goes wrong.

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