Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, August 24th, 2013 (F1Plus / Graham Keilloh) - It is possible that the 2013 F1 season will go down in history as the year of the tyre. The product that Pirelli has been providing this year has been a massive source of discussion, sometimes rancour. The issue, directly or indirectly, reached its tipping point in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, with a series of harrowing tyre failures in the race (as well as one in Saturday practice) leading to changes to their construction, with preliminary changes in place for the following round in Germany then more permanent changes coming in from Hungary onwards.
While punctures have and will always happen, perhaps inevitably given the context of right now any punctures are going to be accompanied by people fearing that the structural failure problems as seen at Silverstone have not totally been resolved. And indeed that was the fear of many watching on as in yesterday’s second practice session at Spa as Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull trundled into the pits with a right-rear tyre failed. It didn’t help that – with eery reminiscence of Silverstone’s one incident following another – it was followed immediately an accident for Giedo van der Garde. Fernando Alonso noted afterwards that he too had experienced a puncture on his Ferrari in that session. Later, the F1 drivers demanded reassurance from race director Charlie Whiting that Pirelli understands the problem.
But speaking after the practice session Pirelli’s Paul Hembery insisted that while the Italian company’s investigations were at an early stage, both failures look to have been caused by external factors, not by internal failures.
"It looks on the Red Bull as if something’s been rubbing on the surface and then cut straight through the surface" said Hembery, "and on the Ferrari there (are) two quite clear holes through the top of the tread. So we’re going to go and have a look at the track later to see what’s between turns 13 and 15.
"You’ve got to go and find it (the cause of the punctures), and that’s obviously what we want to do. There (are) some cuts on other tyres so there’s clearly something somewhere that’s causing an issue."
Hembery showed the gathered journalists a series of pictures of Vettel’s and Alonso’s tyres that appeared to support his claims, Vettel’s having a line marked on it consistent with something rubbing against it and Alonso’s tyre having two small holes in the middle of its surface. Hembery also said that in almost all cases the cuts were on the right-rear tyre.
In addition, Hembery stated that this all did not represent a return to the failures of Silverstone: "It’s completely different…it’s from external sources."
Hembery also confirmed that van der Garde’s accident was not caused by a tyre failing: "(The crash) doesn’t appear to be (tyre related), it was fully inflated (the tyre) and there were no signs on it." He also said that all F1 teams at Spa were operating within Pirelli’s parameters on cambers and the like.