Pirelli threaten to walk away from Formula One

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The pressure on Pirelli may have finally tolled as the Italian tire supplier has openly threatened to walk away from Formula One for the first time.

After receiving criticism from many teams and drivers for producing tire compounds that were too aggressive, Pirelli agreed to a revision of their current design in time for next month’s Canadian Grand Prix. However, with their contract set to expire at the end of the season, Pirelli’s F1 chief Paul Hembery has admitted that a renewal may not be viable.

“Apparently on September 1st, we are meant to tell them [teams] everything that they need to know with the tires for next season, but now we are in mid-May,” Hembery said in an interview with multiple publications.

“You can imagine how ludicrous that is when we have not got contracts in place. Maybe we won’t be here.”

2014 marks a big change in Formula One’s technical regulations, with V6 turbocharged engines set to replace the current V8 configuration. Hembery admitted that the change may be too great for Pirelli to keep up with as well as refining the current tires.

“It is not just a case of maybe putting a harder compound on to this year’s tires – the changes are so dramatic that we will need to do a thorough re-engineering of the tire. That takes time, so the longer is goes on it makes our job impossible.

“There comes a time where we will not have time to do the job any more.”

This will undoubtedly alert many other tire manufacturers that the Formula One contract could be up for grabs, yet they will also be aware of the great pressure placed upon producing the ‘right’ tires. With Honda set to return to the sport in 2015, it may be a sign that the worst of the financial crisis is over, allowing for the likes of Bridgestone or Michelin to return next season should Pirelli opt to walk away at the end of the year.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”