ERJ staff report (BC)
Silverstone, UK – Formula One tire supplier Pirelli faced a full-on crisis on 30 June, reported Alan Baldwin of Reuters, after the British Grand Prix came close to being stopped for safety reasons due to a spate of explosive high-speed blowouts.
Television images broadcast worldwide showed bucking cars scraping along on rear left wheel rims stripped of rubber, with drivers wrestling to keep them on the track.
Race director Charlie Whiting is reported to have told reporters that it had been a close call.
"It was quite close to being red flagged. It did occur to me to do that," he said, when asked how many more failures it would have taken before he had acted. "I don't want to put a figure on it but it was close.
"I don't think we've seen anything like this. I can't remember anything. To have four total catastrophic failures, I believe, is a first."
Britain's Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion who had led for Mercedes from pole position, was the first casualty when his rear tire blew after eight laps at around 200kph and shed debris behind him.
He was followed by Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne – who was going the fastest of all – and then McLaren's Sergio Perez. Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez had a front tire failure.
Mercedes' race winner Nico Rosberg had signs of imminent delamination – when tread peels away from the rest of the tire – when he made a pitstop and champions Red Bull said cuts were found on the tires of triple champion Sebastian Vettel, who retired with a gearbox problem.
With the next race in Germany only a week away, Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery said the Italian company – which has come under fire all season for the performance of its product – was making the investigation a top priority.
"We can exclude that the new bonding process, which we introduced at this race, is a cause for the tire failures we have seen today," he added.
"There might be some aspect to this circuit that impacts specifically on the latest version of our 2013 specification tires but at this point we do not want to speculate."
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Full story from Reuters