Webber in fresh row with Pirelli over tires

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Mark Webber has blasted Pirelli’s Formula One tires again after Sergio Perez suffered a tire explosion during the Korean Grand Prix.

Webber was following Perez at the time and picked up tire damage himself by running through the debris.

“That is how it is,” said Webber to The Telegraph after the race. “The drivers aren’t super important – it is what other people want.”

“The tyres are wearing a lot and they also explode a bit. But that is for Pirelli to sort out.”

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery responded to Webber’s latest complaints, saying: “There are two issues here that Mark is conflating.”

“Firstly the situation with Sergio’s tire. It was nothing to do with delaminations earlier in the season. He had a major lock-up and flat-spotted.”

“The other issue about degradation is the same old story.”

Fernando Alonso also complained about Pirelli’s tires during the weekend, leading to a stinging response from Hembery in which he told Alonso to consult the “soon to be four-times-champion” Sebastian Vettel on how to get the best out of the rubber. Hembery later apologized for his remarks.

Hembery said Perez’s failure was no cause for concern: “We have been able to determine very quickly that it was the result of a flat spot caused by a lock-up under heavy braking.”

“We’re obviously on exactly the same construction as we raced here last year, so there’s no underlying problem, while flat spots or punctures have just always been an integral part of racing.”

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.