The threat made by the GPDA in a statement on Thursday night which promised that the drivers would boycott the race should any of the Silverstone tyre drama be repeated, has proved to have been worthless.
The threat revolved around the five tyre delaminations at the British Grand Prix which saw Lewis Hamilton drop from the lead, Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne also suffer a tyre delamination each, while Sergio Perez suffered two – one during third practice and the other near the closing stages of the race. Race director Charlie Whiting subsequently admitted he had come close to stopping the race on Safety grounds.
The threat was obviously a big talking point but wasn’t expected to become a reality for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Pirelli somehow managed to construct new tyres – this time with Kevlar belts – and ship them from their factory in Turkey to Germany between Monday and Thursday. The tyres with the Kevlar belts would obviously be much stronger than the ones without, and thus much less likely to the spontaneous explosion seen in Silverstone.
Secondly, Pirelli have asked the FIA for a certain number of factors to be enforced – such as stopping the swapping of tyres. Previously, teams had swapped tyres – putting the right tyre on the left side and vice versa, but Pirelli admitted that when the teams had asked about doing that, Pirelli had underestimated the consequences and the subsequent obvious damage to the tyre.
Thirdly, the GPDA is not a blanket union of drivers. Instead, it is a select number of drivers and that obviously points to a flaw. Imagine for example the GPDA drivers boycott the race. Then, any non-GPDA driver is left with fewer people standing between himself and the win. Kimi Raikkonen for example, had said that if the GPDA boycotted the race, he would not take part in the boycott. Having missed the Indianapolis Grand Prix in 2005 due to similar concerns, he said he refused to miss another one.
Fourthly, Sebastian Vettel, a GPDA driver, had within hours, undermined the statement. The statement said if the tyre drama was repeated, they would “immediately withdraw from the event”. This obvious threat was undermined by Vettel when he was asked about it by Sky F1’s Natalie Pinkham on Friday morning: “It was not a threat – you must have got it wrong,” Vettel said, obviously now retracting the warning he had issued mere hours beforehand. “It expressed that we trust Pirelli, and it was a good day today [i.e. there were no tyre issues], and it also expressed that if there were any tyre issues, we would think about something like that [a boycott].” That statement is nonsensical given the statement he issued hours beforehand which was an obvious threat and threatened definite action, not merely a debate.
All things combined, it seemed extremely unlikely that a boycott would happen. The combination of Kevlar belts and the Pirelli suggestions actually being obeyed has seen a completely flawless weekend for Pirelli which would have made a boycott unnecessary – even though all signs point to it being all-talk instead of an actual threat.