Blame Ferrari, Force India and Lotus

Raikkonen and Massa might want to have a word with their bosses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 4:10am

Just as you thought it might be safe to talk about something else, this column has been hijacked again by a familiar subject - tyres.

The British Grand Prix was certainly an exciting affair, but it was on the whole the kind of excitement the drivers could do without.

Punctures is too tame a word for what really happened to those affected by the tyre issue. Perhaps Charlie Whiting, the race director was nearer the truth when he described it as "catastrophic tyre failure".

In layman's terms the things exploded. When you are doing 180mph it's a life-threatening situation. It's not much better when you are in the car behind. As Adrian Newey, the Red Bull designer put it: "The car has a failure and suddenly you have three kilos of tread flying around. If that hits a helmet, it doesn't bear thinking about."

Of course the drivers have been thinking about it, and for some time. Since Bahrain, they have been writing, asking for some kind of action on tyres. After the British GP, they were even talking about boycotting this weekend's German Grand Prix.

You can understand their anger. Filipe Massa almost died four years ago when a stray spring from a car in front hit his helmet. Kimi Raikkonen found a lump of rubber from Jean-Eric Vergne's tyre in his cockpit.

Whiting was one more tyre failure away from red-flagging the race at Silverstone on safety grounds. The safety of the 22 drivers quite rightly would have taken precedence over the 120,000 people watching in the English sunshine and the hundreds of millions watching around the world.

That would have topped Indianapolis in 2005, when only seven cars turned up to the grid because of concerns about the Michelin tyres. It's Pirelli which is taking the heat this time and a lot of fingers are being pointed at the Italian firm.

It seems unfair. Surely it's time the teams were put under scrutiny. As reported in this column previously, Pirelli was looking to make changes in time for Silverstone. This included changing the steel belt to a stronger kevlar construction.

To make the changes though, Pirelli needed the agreement of all teams. Three vetoed the proposals. They were the three who were benefitting the most from the current tyres: Ferrari, Force India and Lotus. Perhaps Raikkonen and Massa should have a word with their bosses.

The sport's governing body, the FIA, has stepped in to ensure kevlar in tyres is introduced this weekend, with the teams' support or not. The rest of the season is likely to be raced with last year's tyres. In the meantime, the young driver test will be open to race drivers testing tyres and there will be extra tyre testing arranged.

Make no mistake, we needed action, or a drivers' boycott would have been entirely justified. In the modern era, they are no longer expected to take stupid risks for our entertainment.

Not many words left for the original subjects of this column. What a shame the British Grand Prix wasn't a couple of laps longer as Mark Webber would have won the race and metaphorically put two fingers up to his team for the second time in a week.

They say revenge is a dish best served cold and Webber was magnificent in the way he told Red Bull of his retirement, just a few minutes before Porsche told the world he'd be driving for them in sports cars next season.

Relations haven't really been repaired after Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to grab the race win from Webber in Malaysia. I'm sure the Australian wasn't too upset to see his German rival grind to a halt last weekend when a victory was within grasp.

Finally, Williams celebrate their 600th grand prix this weekend. It's a marvellous achievement, and testament to the inner steel of Sir Frank Williams. With his daughter, Claire Williams, now the deputy team principle, the family enthusiasm for the sport shows no sign of dilution.

You can forgive Williams for celebrating a week early in front of British fans. "600" was emblazoned on the side of the cars, as well as the names of all 691 employees. A truly family affair.