FIA announces test changes in wake of tire problems

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In a statement, the FIA has confirmed that race drivers will be allowed to take part in what was originally to be the Young Driver’s Test at Silverstone “provided it is clear that they are testing tires for Pirelli.” The session, scheduled for July 17-19, may also be extended by a day.

“Our priority is to ensure safety for all in Formula One and we believe the incidents at Silverstone represent a genuine safety concern for the drivers,” FIA President Jean Todt said in the statement. “We have thus taken the decision to alter the young driver test to allow teams to use drivers they deem fit to carry out tire development work in a bid to solve the problems we saw at the British Grand Prix.

“I believe it is fitting to carry out this work at the circuit upon which the issues were manifested.”

Per the recent decision from the FIA’s International Tribunal, Mercedes will not take part in the Silverstone test.

The FIA will seek approval from the World Motorsport Council to change sporting regulations regarding the current in-season testing ban, which would make the aforementioned test legal. In addition, the FIA will also ask for an additional change to technical regulations that would allow modifications to tire specifications to be made without the unanimous approval of all teams.

These decisions come after Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez all suffered left-rear tire blowouts during Sunday’s British Grand Prix. Pirelli is still investigating the matter, but has declared that the new bonding process on the tires were not the cause of the failures.

As MotorSportsTalk’s Keith Collantine reported this morning, all opposition to Pirelli’s initial plan to switch from tires with steel belts to those with Kevlar belts has backed down in the wake of Sunday’s incidents.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “