Mercedes and the tyres made all the headlines again after Nico Rosberg’s victory at the British Grand Prix on Sunday — during which four racers, including Rosberg’s then-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton, saw their left rear tyres explode.
The extremely dangerous situation at the Silverstone circuit prompted race director Charlie Whiting to almost stop the race. A quick assessment of tyre manufacturers Pirelli and the teams is needed for the next race in Germany, which is scheduled for this Sunday.
Exploding tyres at high speed are a nightmare for any driver, and flying debris from tyres can put others at risk as well.
Pirelli Motorsport Chief Paul Hembery met with motorsport supremo Jean Todt and Whiting less than an hour after the race. Meetings to discuss about the proceedings at Nürburgring have been set for Wednesday.
“There have been some issues with rear-left failures which we have not seen before. We are taking the situation very seriously, and we are currently investigating all tyres to determine the cause as soon as possible ahead of the German Grand Prix,” Hembery said.
Drivers and teams are also calling for swift action, with Hamilton being among those who described the situation as “unacceptable”. “I don’t know why I have to put my life at risk for these damn tyres,” he added. Tyre wear has been an issue all through this season, but the issue reached a new dimension on Sunday when the left rear tyre of Hamilton’s (Mercedes), Felipe Massa’s (Ferrari), and Jean—Eric Vergne’s (Toro Rosso) cars exploded within eight laps, bringing out the safety car. Sergio Perez of McLaren suffered the same fate late in the race.
Whiting told autosport.com that he considered stopping the race after the first three incidents.
“It was quite close to being red-flagged; it did occur to me to do that,” Whiting said.
Teams advised their drivers to stay off the kerbs, as riding hard over them on the high-pace course may have contributed to the mayhem. Whiting was among those calling for swift action to making racing safe on Sunday.
“Pirelli have got to analyse it, to try and find the cause. We need to make decisions earlier than Wednesday,” Whiting said.
The issue came 10 days after Pirelli and Mercedes had to appear before FIA’s International Tribunal regarding a controversial tyre test in mid-May — in which the team used its latest car and its regular drivers Hamilton and Rosberg.
Mercedes got away with a reprimand in the affair, and Rosberg then topped the podium on Sunday, profiting at least in part from Hamilton’s mishap and even more from that of Sebastian Vettel, as the world champion was leading with 10 laps left when his gearbox failed.
“I would have been close throughout the race, but to overtake him, I didn’t have enough speed,” Rosberg admitted.
However, Rosberg was pleased that the Mercedes cars are recording better race-speed than before. The Germans have had five pole positions, but have mostly been caught by Red Bull and Ferrari in the races.
“I think pace-wise, possibly I was a little bit quicker, because very often I was able to come back to him (Vettel) once I started pushing again before the pit stops. I think I had good pace in the race today,” Rosberg said.
Mark Webber saved the day for Red Bull by coming second. He overcame a poor start — due a broken front wing — and roared onto the podium from fifth, after the second safety car phase following Perez’s incident.
Fernando Alonso was third, up from ninth on the grid. The Ferrari driver reduced Vettel’s lead from 36 to 21 points, but was not satisfied with the Ferrari’s performance.
“We get the podium and Sebastian doesn’t finish the race. It’s one of these weekends where the result is very good, but the feeling is that we must improve for the next weekend,” Alonso said.