After “an exhaustive analysis”, Pirelli has announced its findings into what caused the spate of tyre failures at last weekend’s British Grand Prix, and it doesn’t make for pretty reading…
Formula 1’s sole tyremaker has indicated that up to three potential factors at the hands of the teams were at play in a chaotic race at the Silverstone Circuit: running the tyres at too low a pressure, using extreme camber angles and – most incredibly of all – mounting the tyres the wrong way around.
While it didn’t openly point the blame at the teams, it also accepted that its engineers had not been clear enough in communicating the best operating conditions for the tyres to the respective teams.
“Under-inflating the tyres means that the tyre is subjected to more stressful working conditions,” the company’s statement reads, adding that it, in conjunction with running too aggressive a camber angle (which influences how much, and what part, of the tyre is in contact with the road) was asking too much of the tyres.
By far the most worrying issue was that teams were mounting the tyres incorrectly, placing right-hand tyres on the left-hand side of the car and vice-versa.
“The tyres supplied this year have an asymmetric structure, which means that they are not designed to be interchangeable,” the statement continues.
“The sidewalls are designed in such a way to deal with specific loads on the internal and external sides of the tyre. So swapping the tyres round has an effect on how they work in certain conditions. In particular, the external part is designed to cope with the very high loads that are generated while cornering at a circuit as demanding as Silverstone, with its rapid left-hand bends and some kerbs that are particularly aggressive.”
However, Pirelli dismissed suggestions that its new bonding process introduced last weekend was a factor in the spate of delaminations witnessed over the race.
“The only problems that had come to light before Silverstone were to do with delamination, which was a completely different phenomenon,” is continued.
“To stop these delaminations Pirelli found a solution by suggesting that the teams use the tyres that were tried out in Canada from Silverstone onwards. When this proposal was not accepted, Pirelli found another solution through laboratory testing, with a different bonding process to attach the tread to the carcass. So the problem of delamination has nothing at all to do with what was seen in Great Britain.”
It also was at pains to stress that its 2013-spec tyre range “does not compromise driver safety in any way if used in the correct manner, and that it meets all the safety standards requested by the FIA”.
“What happened at Silverstone was completely unexpected and it was the first time that anything like this has ever occurred in more than a century of Pirelli in motorsport,” Pirelli’s motorsport boss, Paul Hembery, added in the company’s media release.
While it waits for further direction from the FIA on how it can access more information in a real-time environment from the teams on the pressures, camber angles and temperatures its tyres are running at in any given moment of a Grand Prix weekend – an ask that it believes will help it better understand its own tyres – Pirelli has proposed two measures to kick in over the coming Grands Prix.
The first is an interim solution: the prototype version of its 2013-spec tyres tested during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend – which were Kevlar-bonded and proved to be completely reliable – would be introduced at this weekend’s German Grand Prix. They will also mandate that the tyres cannot be swapped from right to left and vice-versa
The second adopts more of a long-term focus: a totally new range of tyres would be introduced for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The new tyres would have a symmetrical design (mitigating any concerns about incorrect mounting), but they will also combine the structure and belt of the 2012 tyres while offering the same performance in lap times and durability as the 2013 tyre compounds.
This new tyre specification, as has already been agreed by the FIA, will be tested at what was set to be the ‘Young Drivers’ test at Silverstone, but which has now been altered to allow the grid’s regular drivers to take part in a bid to aid Pirelli in evaluating and developing these new compounds as quickly as possible.