The British fans were today treated to an enthralling British Grand Prix, packed with controversy, strategy and on track action. Safe to say, it was an explosive race. Lewis Hamilton led Sebastian Vettel early on before he became one of four drivers to experience frightening tyre blowouts which shook the paddock. Teams frantically looked for explanations to prevent the issues and Pirelli frantically examined the suspect rubber. Meanwhile, it was Nico Rosberg who took his third career win despite being moments away from a similar blowout himself as a hole formed on the tread of his left rear tyre, right before his scheduled pit stop. A day of fine margins, but Rosberg came away with a fine result.
It certainly was a classic British Grand Prix, however, it will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Pirelli have been under-fire since the start of the season and the latest twist is sure to turn more of Paul Hembery’s hair grey. Unlike during the early part of the season, Sergio Perez experienced a tyre failure on Saturday morning, yet the steel canvas was not maintained. Instead, the tyre exploded leaving just the hub of the wheel. This was the case with all four incidents today. Firstly, Lewis Hamilton was controlling the race in P1, slowly extending his lead over Sebastian Vettel. Yet on lap 9, Silverstone was stunned as the left rear tyre delaminated in dramatic fashion on the Wellington Straight.
Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident, as just four laps later, Felipe Massa experienced a similar failure of the left-rear tyre. Next came the most terrifying of all – Jean-Eric Vergne’s tyre exploded into a confetti of rubber at the end of hanger straight at 190mph. Kimi Raikkonen who was following close behind was showered in “rubber shrapnel”. With debris strewn across the track, the safety car was called into action. At this point, Charlie Whiting later revealed that he considered Red Flagging the race on safety grounds. “It was quite close to being red-flagged; it did occur to me to do that,” explained Whiting after the race. “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 is too early to draw any conclusions. They have a lot of analysing to do, including the tyres that didn’t fail – because maybe we will find something there that was on the verge of failing that will give us a better indicator of what happened.,” he concluded.
Sergio Perez was the final driver to experience a blowout on the Hanger Straight, following the second safety car period. Teams conducted the race in a tentative fashion, warning drivers to stay away from kerbs, while increasing tyre pressures to reduce the contact patch and reduce lateral loading.
A disgruntled Hamilton had right to feel aggrieved. The race was running smoothly for the Brit before his tyre unexpectedly gave way. Initial speculation would suggest that the issues were not driver related and could not be monitored. “The safety is the biggest issue, it’s unacceptable,” he is quoted as saying by the BBC. “We had that tyre test to improve the tyre and to have four blowouts is unacceptable. It’s only when someone gets hurt that someone will be doing something about it. I think it’s a waste of time talking to the FIA, and if they don’t do anything that says a lot about them.” It has to be noted, that Lewis Hamilton performed admirably to recover to P4. It was a stunning display of overtaking from the Brit, albeit helped greatly by the two safety car periods. His tussle with fellow Brit Paul Di Resta was particularly enjoyable to watch. Paul himself drove superbly to recover from the qualifying calamity to finish in the points yet again.
If you didn’t watch the race, (which I recommend you do), you may be wondering where Sebastian Vettel disappeared to. The German controlled the race following Hamilton’s issue, yet with just 11 laps remaining, he slowed to a stop. The RB9 had suffered a gearbox failure, forcing Vettel to retire. Consequently, the standings have closed at the top, with Sebastian leading by just 21 points. “The fifth gear broke and it was not possible to carry on,” the Red Bull driver said. “It would have been a nice race to win. It’s difficult to feel inside the car what is wrong, and I saw Lewis’s problem with his tyre and we were told to avoid the curb and maintain position. We have to come back again next year and try to win.”
With so much to comment on, including Webber’s fight back to P2, and Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen’s strategy woes, expect more articles regarding this spectacular race to come over the next week, as well as the build up to the German Grand Prix.