Race director Charlie Whiting admitted that he almost stopped yesterday’s British Grand Prix following three tire explosions in four laps.
Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to suffer a tire delamination when his rear left tire exploded on the run into the Brooklands corner, forfeiting the lead of the race to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. Two laps later, Felipe Massa spun out of Turn four, mere metres from the scene of Hamilton’s delamination, with a similar problem on his Ferrari. Finally, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a blow-out on the Hangar straight on the very next lap. The flying carcass narrowly missed Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen who was battling team-mate Romain Grosjean just behind Vergne.
A Safety Car was deployed while marshalls took to the circuit to clean any debris away while teams urgently pitted their drivers for fear of a similar fate for their cars. Red Bull changed Sebastian Vettel’s tire and radioed the German to confirm there were deep cuts on his rear tires.
Following the race, Charlie Whiting spoke to Autosport in which he confirmed that the race came close to being stopped.
“It was quite close to being red-flagged; it did occur to me to do that,” Whiting said. “Obviously to clear up all that debris was putting marshals at risk, and it is not satisfactory.”
“We haven’t seen a failure like this before; we have seen other types of failure – and that is what has been addressed. So we need to analyse it very carefully to see if we can establish the cause.”
It’s not the first race of the season that Pirelli have suffered problems with. Mercedes in particular have suffered from the rear-tires degrading rapidly and they were subsequently invited to a ‘private’ Pirelli test to test various new tire compounds. The FIA took a dim view of the test, from which they were initially kept in the dark about, and reprimanded both Pirelli and Mercedes at the FIA International Tribunal on the 20th of June.