BRITAIN’S Lewis Hamilton lashed out at Formula One’s governing body yesterday after a series of collapsed tyres provoked chaos at the British Grand Prix and thwarted the Mercedes driver’s dream of winning for a second time at Silverstone.
Hamilton led the race from the start yet was struck down in the eighth lap when his rear left tyre unexpectedly punctured, leaving him to drive on three wheels most of the way around the track, back to the pits. Other drivers were affected as a series of punctures occurred during the race, which was finally won by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
“The safety is the biggest issue, it’s unacceptable,” said Hamilton, who eventually fought back to finish fourth.
With some drivers refusing to rule out the possibility of a boycott, Pirelli will be called in front of motorsport’s governing body the FIA and team bosses this week to discuss the failures.
Hamilton said yesterday it is time for action: “To have four blowouts is unacceptable. I was thinking in the race – it’s only when someone gets hurt that someone will be doing something about it. I think it’s a waste of time talking to any of them at the moment. They can see what happened – and if they don’t react, that says everything.”
Completing the podium alongside Rosberg were Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, yet they also hit out over the tyres.
“We’ve been trying to have input for the last three years, but [it’s fallen on] deaf ears,” complained Webber.
“It’s a question for them, for sure,” added Alonso, who said that he did not believe Silverstone’s kerbs were to blame for the punctures.
“It’s dangerous for the drivers behind. They’re being hit by chunks of rubber with metal in it,” said Britain’s Jenson Button, whose McLaren finished 13th. Button is a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, which is believed to have written a letter to the FIA complaining about the tyres.
Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery defended the firm: “Obviously today wasn’t foreseen. We’ve seen something new, a different tyre problem.”
Following Hamilton’s puncture yesterday, championship leader Sebastian Vettel gained first place having overtaken Rosberg into second on the opening straight of the race.
The Red Bull driver led until lap 39 when he suffered his own misfortune, a gearbox failure forcing retirement.
Rosberg took over to win, and although he was later reprimanded for not slowing down for two yellow flags, the result stands.
Alonso’s third place finish sees the gap at the top of the drivers’ championship cut to 21 points.
Meanwhile Britain’s Paul Di Resta finished ninth, despite starting the race from second to last on the grid.
Q and A: Analysis: when the wheels come off
Q What happened in yesterday’s race?
A At least six tyres were punctured, with teams finding cuts even on tyres that held together.
Q Why did it keep happening?
A No one is sure, but a ridge on one of the kerbs is a possible cause. Many of the punctures happened to the same tyre – the rear left.
Q Haven’t tyres been causing problems in Formula One all season?
A There has been a separate issue involving something called delamination – which is when the elements of a tyre come apart. At tracks such as Barcelona the tyres have worn very quickly, forcing the drivers of some teams to slow down.
Q What are they doing to put this right?
A Ironically, Pirelli – who supply the tyres – hoped that Silverstone would help solve the problem. Teams were given a prototype set of harder tyres to use in practice, with the possible intention of introducing new tyres in subsequent races.
Q Well they can still do that – and then the problem is solved, right ?
A Pirelli have offered stronger tyres to F1, but it is believed that teams such as Lotus, Force India and even Ferrari were set to veto the changes. For cars that do not wear tyres as quickly as their rivals, fragile tyres are an advantage. Also, tyres that wear down were brought in to make the racing more exciting.
1. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 132 points
2. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 111
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 98
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 89
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull) 87
6. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 82
7. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 57
8 Paul Di Resta (Force India) 36