Why F1 only has itself to blame for the British GP tyre fiasco but now must act decisively
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle gives his take on the dramatic events of Silverstone amid what, tyre explosions aside, was a successful event for the home of British motorsport
By Martin Brundle. Last Updated: 02/07/13 12:43pm
Sunday's British Grand Prix turned out to be a great race for all the wrong reasons.
With a host of overtaking in the final stages, the Silverstone crowd was treated to a thrilling finale because of the Pirelli tyres - although Lewis Hamilton won't see it that way after losing the solid lead of the race when he became the first driver to suffer a tyre blow-out.
The sport has allowed a ridiculous situation to develop and it only has itself to blame. Pirelli will meet with the teams and the FIA at the Nurburgring on Wednesday as it seeks to address its failings.
F1 got lucky on Sunday, firstly that none of the tyre failures resulted in any serious injury and secondly that there was enough debris on the track after the opening fourteen laps for Race Director Charlie Whiting to send out the Safety Car. Its deployment not only gave the marshals the chance to clear the track but also meant that the teams could pit cars with tyres which were also on the verge of going bang.
One team boss told me afterwards that they were asked to increase the pressure in their tyres by 20% to 24 psi. I imagine some of the teams would have ignored that request because there would have been no way of knowing how the tyres might have reacted to that level of increase, or any secondary effects. But I was surprised that some of the drivers continued to ignore calls from their pitwall not to run over the kerbs. They are hard-wired to race but they were pushing their luck.
Charlie has since confirmed that he was very close to red-flagging the race after the third tyre failure. I know that some people thought the race should have been stopped but in my view Charlie made the right call because the situation was still manageable - with fuel levels diminishing, the load on the tyres was already easing.
Overall, it was a good weekend for Silverstone. In our post-race show, I felt a bit like an inmate at London Zoo in Regent's Park talking to the fans through a wire fence, but judging by the looks on their faces - and by what I've read on Twitter - they loved what they saw. It really struck me at the time that they were happy with what they had watched, but F1 was skating on thin ice throughout Sunday afternoon and I do wonder what the reaction of the fans would have been had the race been abandoned or had the stewards stripped Nico Rosberg of his win on Sunday night instead of meting out a reprimand.
That verdict - made public three hours after the chequered flag had fallen - was a massive relief. I would have been very upset if Nico had lost his win so long after the event and the fans had all departed for home. I like the American system that these things are decided straight away or penalties are applied to the next event; we can't have fans spending a lot of time and money to attend an event only to then find out that the result was different to what they had witnessed firsthand.
I'm told that Nico probably did a then fastest sector under yellow flags and so it sounds as if he was lucky.
We need consistency on these penalty calls but right now it has a more pressing matter to fix.
The teams themselves are to partly to blame for what we saw on Sunday and from Pirelli's perspective there are mitigating circumstances - on the one hand, they've been asked to spice up the racing, and on the other they've been hindered by a ban on in-season testing and the lack of access to a representative car. But Pirelli are not, at present, doing a good enough job and the sight of tyres exploding at 180mph was totally unacceptable. There are too many excuses and not enough fixes.
The sight of Kimi Raikkonen's car and crash helmet being hit by debris as he followed Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso underlined just how dangerous the tyre blowouts were. And it's not just the lives of drivers being put at risk when large chunks of rubber are flying around but the marshals and even the public too.
The FIA has significant letters from the drivers expressing their concerns and after Sunday they could impose a directive on the teams to run with different geometries on their cars, particularly camber angle, and with increased tyre pressure to alleviate the risk of more blow-outs. The Nurburgring itself will also be less taxing on the tyres than Silverstone.
The likes of Spa and Suzuka will put a huge load on the Pirellis and some team bosses told me that returning to the 2012-spec tyres seems the best solution for a longer term fix this season. After the Nurburgring there's a three-week gap in the calendar before Hungary - a lengthy break by today's standards - F1 must use this window.
I was intrigued also about the loud cheers all around the circuit when Sebastian Vettel retired. Remember this happened after Lewis was out of the lead so it wasn't just patriotic. I asked the same fans on pit straight why this was so, and a very clear answer came back: Malaysia Multi-21.