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.

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
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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.”