Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery has admitted that the Italian tire supplier underestimated the effect of allowing teams to undertake ‘tire swapping’ at the last race, believing that this was the biggest factor in causing the multiple failures at the British Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Jean-Eric Vergne, Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez all suffered from blowouts during the race at Silverstone, triggering Pirelli to make changes for this weekend’s race. Hembery has admitted that it was a mistake by Pirelli which caused the madness to ensue.
“Just to recap, at Silverstone we’d underestimated the impact of swapping the tires,” Hembery said in the Friday press conference. “The cars were two, maybe three seconds quicker this year. Whilst we’d allowed the teams to do that, we’d underestimated the impact on the tire.”
Teams have been permitted to switch which side of the car they run the Pirelli tires on – i.e. using the front-left tire on the front-right of the car – and it has aided tire management, reducing wear in places. However, Hembery explained how this has caused a weakness in the tire which was evident at Silverstone.
“When you swap them around that creates a point with the metallic belt that we have on it, on the left hand side, the camber side, and that created the weakness.We got that wrong and we needed to get it right going forward.”
As a result, Pirelli have changed the structure of the tire, using a kevlar belt in the tire before reverting to the 2012 constructions for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of this month. The process of tire swapping has been banned for this weekend by the FIA following guidance from Pirelli.
Sunday’s United States Grand Prix could go down as a memorable race in Formula 1 history as both Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes bid to clinch their fourth world championships (live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET).
Hamilton gave his chances of wrapping up the drivers’ title and re-claiming the crown he lost to Nico Rosberg in 2016 a world of good by charging to pole position on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas.
However, with chief rival Sebastian Vettel starting second for Ferrari and a 16-point swing required, it seems likely that the title race could continue to next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Nevertheless, here are the permutations for Lewis Hamilton to win his fourth F1 world title on Sunday in Austin, Texas.
- If Lewis Hamilton wins the race (25 points) and Sebastian Vettel finishes sixth or lower (maximum eight points), he is world champion.
- If Hamilton finishes second (18 points), Sebastian Vettel finishes ninth or lower (maximum two points), and Valtteri Bottas does not win the race, he is world champion.
While Hamilton’s coronation seems likely to be postponed until the next race in Mexico, Mercedes looks nailed-on to wrap up its fourth consecutive constructors’ championship in Sunday’s USGP.
The German marque currently leads Ferrari by 145 points in the teams’ standings, and requires a lead of 129 after the race to clinch the crown.
As a result, a double top-four finish from Hamilton and Bottas would be enough for Mercedes to wrap up the title, regardless of how Ferrari fares.
The success would see Mercedes become just the fourth team in F1 history take four straight constructors’ titles, following Red Bull (2010 to 2013), Ferrari (1999 to 2004) and McLaren (1988 to 1991).
The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.