Pirelli: Debris to blame for Belgian GP tire failures

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Pirelli has concluded that the tire failures in last month’s Belgian Grand Prix were caused by debris and not the result of structural issues with its compounds.

Sizeable blowouts for Nico Rosberg in practice and Sebastian Vettel during the race at the Circuit de Spa Francorchamps raised concerns among the drivers about the safety of Pirelli’s tires.

Vettel launched into an irate tirade against Pirelli in the aftermath of the race, claiming that it was “unacceptable” that his tire had failed at high speed.

Pirelli initially blamed Ferrari for only changing Vettel’s tires once during the race, but vowed to launch a full investigation that has now been completed.

“The tests carried out by Pirelli on the tires used at Spa have confirmed the absence of any structural problems,” a statement from the Italian tire supplier reads.

“Pirelli has undertaken in-depth analysis on the materials and production processes used, utilising two different methods of tests and checks.

“Since the start of 2015, 13,748 slick tires have been used: including on especially severe tracks like Sepang, Barcelona and Silverstone. No problems have ever been discovered, underlining the fundamental solidity of the product.

“The events of Spa can therefore be put down to external factors, linked with the prolonged use of the tires on one of the most severe tracks of the championship.

“The external factors are demonstrated by a total of 63 cuts found in the tread of the Formula One tires used over the course of the Spa weekend, following numerous incidents that took place during the support races before the Formula One grand prix.

“In the previous 15 events (10 races and five test sessions) an average of only 1.2 cuts per event were noted. All this indicates an anomalous amount of detritus on the track in Spa, with a consequent increased risk of encountering a foreign object.

“At the end of qualifying on Saturday at Spa, following the exceptional number of cuts noted to the tires, Pirelli pointed out the condition of the circuit to the FIA and asked for it to be cleaned, as well as for the teams to be told.

“The FIA reacted promptly in arranging for the track to be cleaned and advising the teams. Together with the FIA, Pirelli proposes a study to evaluate the way in which circuits can be cleaned most effectively.”

The FIA has also issued a statement expressing its support for Pirelli’s investigation and findings.

Perhaps the most interesting part of that statement is the final bullet point, which does lay some of the blame with Ferrari for overworking the tire and making it more susceptible to the impact of debris.

Although the investigation has now concluded, all eyes will undoubtedly be on Pirelli’s tires over the course of the Italian Grand Prix weekend to see if any further issues arise.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.