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SBD Global/July 4, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Pirelli Clarifies Comments Appearing To Blame F1 Teams For Blowouts At British GP

Pirelli engineers examine a set of tires in the paddock at the British Grand Prix.
Pirelli Motorsport Dir Paul Hembery "has been forced to clarify his company's position after initially appearing to criticise the Formula One teams for Sunday's British Grand Prix chaos," according to Ian Parkes of the London INDEPENDENT. Hembery and Pirelli were "adamant the current range of tyres are safe." Pirelli "has cited four reasons:" incorrect reverse mounting of the rear tires, too-low pressures, extreme camber settings and agressive curbing. Hembery said, "I'd like to re-emphasize the fact the 2013 range of tires, used in the correct way, is completely safe." It immediately led to suggestions Pirelli was shifting "responsibility on to the teams." Just more than 90 minutes later, however, Hembery and Pirelli "issued a further response, suggesting no attempt was being made to criticise." Hembery said, "In no way are we intending to create arguments or attack anybody. We have taken our responsibilities upon ourselves ... but not having full control over all the elements that impact on the use of the tyres, we need everybody's contribution" (INDEPENDENT, 7/3).

PIRELLI APOLOGY: CNN's Sarah Holt reported Mercedes Motorsport Dir Toto Wolff "has welcomed Pirelli's explanation and planned changes." Wolff said, "Pirelli apologized and made a clear statement that it wasn't about complaining or saying that somebody else was to be blamed. I guess Pirelli are going to be clearer in advising the teams in terms of camber, on tire pressures and on swapping the rear tires. Most of the teams swap tires and have been doing it for many races." The Italian company is "close to agreeing a new deal to continue as F1's tire supplier when its current contract runs out at the end of the season." Being F1's tire supplier "is an expensive business with Pirelli effectively paying to supply tires to the F1 grid in a negotiated deal which also includes track-side advertising." The teams pay a small contribution toward the rubber but the bulk of the bill for the season's 36,000 spheres of rubber "is picked up by the tire supplier" (CNN, 7/3).

P.R. DAMAGE: REUTERS' Keith Weir reported Pirelli, which supplies all 11 teams in F1 motor racing, "suffered the downside of supporting high profile sport on Monday after images of its shredded tires were beamed to millions of TV viewers around the world." "Terror tires" was the headline on the back page of the London Daily Mail, while the London Times said, "Road to hell as tire chaos almost halts grand prix." F1's complex rules, internal politics and team rivalries "have all complicated Pirelli's efforts to produce a good racing tire this season but those subtleties were lost on most viewers." Octagon Strategy VP Joey Seymour-Hyde said, "A lot of these things are beyond their control. The bottom line is your product is a tire. It goes around on a fast car and it failed spectacularly." Coventry University Sports Marketing Professor Simon Chadwick said that few viewers "would have decided never to buy a Pirelli tire on the basis of Sunday's blowouts." However, the risk "was that the brand would develop negative associations." Chadwick said, "You normally associate F1 tires with safety and security. It's about reliability. Its brand to a greater or lesser extent will have been affected" (REUTERS, 7/1).

CONCERNS REMAIN: The AP reported "safety concern over tires threaten to overshadow what is becoming an intriguing battle for the Formula One championship between three-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari's Fernando Alsonso and several other drivers" (AP, 7/3). The PA reported Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said he is "satisfied" with the action taken by Pirelli to cure the recent tire blowouts, although he feels there are still concerns going into this weekend's German Grand Prix (PA, 7/3).
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