Formula One race director Charlie Whiting has admitted that he considered red flagging today’s British Grand Prix after a series of large tire failures during the early stages of the race.
Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa and Jean-Eric Vergne all experienced blowouts before their first stops during the race, with the Toro Rosso’s failure leaving debris strewn across the track and warranting a safety car period. Later on, Esteban Gutierrez and Sergio Perez also suffered similar failures, all of which caused Whiting to question the future of the race.
“It was quite close to being red-flagged; it did occur to me to do that,” Whiting told Autosport.
Whiting’s primary concern was the marshals who had to complete the large clean-up after Vergne’s failure.
“Obviously to clear up all that debris was putting marshals at risk, and it is not satisfactory.
“We haven’t seen a failure like this before; we have seen other types of failure – and that is what has been addressed. So we need to analyse it very carefully to see if we can establish the cause.”
Whiting has once again shown himself to have a cool head under pressure, prioritizing the safety of all involved with the grand prix going ahead. The failures have caused great concern, with Felipe Massa believing that his safety was “in the hands of God” during the race. Pirelli are expected to have a meeting with the FIA in the coming few days to discuss the issues.
Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.
Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.
It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.
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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.
“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”
The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.
Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.
“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”