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.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.