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SBD Global/July 2, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Pirelli Gets Green Light For Tire Tests After Four Tire Blowouts At Sunday's British F1 GP

Lewis Hamilton suffers a left rear tire failure during Sunday's British Grand Prix.
F1 "could be heading for complex legal wrangles after it became clear that Pirelli will be allowed to hold two test sessions to avoid the damaging blowouts that almost marred the British Grand Prix," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that he has reached an agreement with FIA President Jean Todt "to allow two, three-day sessions to go ahead using a 2013 car." F1 "could yet turn a crisis into a mess" as the sport "searches for ways around its own arcane rules and complex system of governance." Teams "could not agree to changes" to Pirelli’s tires, which left the manufacturer no choice but to "plough on regardless at Silverstone with the compounds and construction they had whether they wanted to or not." Ecclestone said, "[Pirelli] have said they would like to sort it out but they don’t have a chance to do any testing because of these bloody silly restrictions we have. They can use what they like -- no restrictions, none at all, so they can do what they want" (LONDON TIMES, 7/1).

FACING BACKLASH: The PA's Ian Parkes reported Ecclestone, when asked whether Pirelli would be allowed to use this year's car, said, "They can use what they like. No restrictions. None at all, so they can do what they want." Former F1 driver Jackie Stewart had earlier suggested that "free testing was the way forward for Pirelli." He said, "They've got to open up the regulations and do as many tests as they need to drive in order to feel comfortable their tires are durable. You have to lift the no-testing regulation. That's more important right now than anything else" (PA, 7/1). BLOOMBERG's Peter-Joseph Hegarty reported Pirelli "faces a backlash from Formula One drivers after four tire blowouts" at Sunday's race. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamiltion "was leading from pole position, in front of his home crowd, when his left rear tire exploded on the eighth lap at Silverstone." He "battled back to finish fourth." Hamilton said, "It was quite dangerous, I was thinking of stopping. I don't know why I have to put my life at risk for these damn tires." FIA "has called Pirelli into a meeting to discuss the matter on July 3" (BLOOMBERG, 7/1).

SILVERSTONE'S CURBS IN QUESTION: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported Silverstone's owners "hit back on Monday at suggestions that the circuit's curbs could be to blame for explosive Pirelli tire failures." British Racing Drivers Club President Derek Warwick said he had been out to look at the curbs and dismissed as "absolute rubbish" reports that sharp edges might have cut the tire sidewalls. Warwick said, "These curbs have been in since 2009. We've had thousands and thousands of cars go over these curbs and they have been absolutely fine." He "pointed the finger" at Pirelli, the three teams which prevented the supplier from introducing a stronger version of the tires for the race at Silverstone and Ecclestone. Warwick said, "I think Bernie, the FIA and Pirelli are bringing the sport into disrepute and they need to have a serious look at themselves and change these tires and not expect all the teams to agree" (REUTERS, 7/1).

GERMAN BOYCOTT
: REUTERS' Baldwin also reported the tire blowouts "triggered talk of a possible driver boycott in Germany next weekend." Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa, who "was almost killed by debris shed from a car in front of him at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, would not rule out drivers considering a boycott if solutions were not in place for Sunday's race" at the Nürburgring. Massa said, "I don't want to say that (drivers would walk out) because I don't want to create loads of problems but this is something that for our safety we can do." McLaren's Sergio Perez, another victim of the exploding tires, said that "drivers were risking their lives and needed assurances." He said, "If something like this happens again, we don't want one of us to be killed." McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh warned that "driver action could not be ruled out." Whitmarsh said, "I think there's that danger (of a boycott) and rightly so" (REUTERS, 7/1). The BBC's Andrew Benson reported Ecclestone "has dismissed talk of a boycott of Sunday's German Grand Prix." Ecclestone said, "I don't think that will happen. I don't think it's something we need to address" (BBC, 7/1). AUTOSPORT's Jonathan Noble reported F1 Race Dir Charlie Whiting has revealed that "he came close to red-flagging the British Grand Prix" in the wake of the multiple tire failures. Whiting said, "It was quite close to being red-flagged; it did occur to me to do that." When asked if just one more failure in that phase of the race would have been enough, Whiting replied, "I'm not going to give a specific number. Obviously to clear up all that debris was putting marshals at risk, and it is not satisfactory" (AUTOSPORT, 7/1).

F1'S 'WIDER SICKNESS': In London, Eason opined on the London Times' Formula One blog, "The structure of the Pirelli tyres were at issue but the structure of Formula One is where minds should be concentrated right now." The Pirelli storm "is merely a symptom of a wider sickness that afflicts Formula One at every level -- commercially, technically and as a sporting spectacle." Yes, Formula One "remains the pinnacle and, yes, it is a miracle of logistics and is still mesmerising millions around the world." But the sport "is almost an afterthought these days as we discuss whether the tyres work; whether the sport’s chief executive might go to jail; whether teams may be bankrupt, or whether the sport is disappearing down the wrong technological route as the world turns 'green' and F1 stutters and stalls in its efforts to keep up with the environmental agenda" (LONDON TIMES, 7/1).

ATTENDANCE: MOTORSPORT TOTAL's Timo Pape reported the British F1 Grand Prix "attracted 120,000 people -- the third-hightest attendance on raceday in its history." Silverstone Managing Dir Richard Phillips said, "The flagship events over the weekend attracted 80,000 people for Friday's free practice, 94,000 attended Saturday's qualifying session and even 120,000 showed up for Sunday's race, which equals a total attendance of 294,000 -- our third-highest attendance ever" (MOTORSPORT TOTAL, 7/1).
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