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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The fan's view: Enough

The British Grand Prix is in the books, and it was a thrilling race. A gearbox issue knocked out the championship leader, allowing his pursuers to gain some ground and make things interesting. Nico Rosberg wins his second race with Mark Webber breathing down his neck and Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton not far behind, all thanks to a late safety car bunching up the field.

But all that will be overshadowed by the multiple tire failures that plagued this race.

Tires, of course, have been the talk of this season. The rubber Pirelli was asked to design, to spice up the show, has shown a tendency to fail. Mercedes' inability to come to terms with the tires was the root of the testing soap opera we have been watching since it came to light in Monaco.

Red Bull has been a critic from the start, and admittedly, for a while it looked like sour apples. Tire issues seemed specific to certain cars, and cars that were designed to optimize the tire looked not to have the same issues. It looked like it should be down to the teams to come to grips with the problem.

But the problems experienced at Silverstone were altogether new ones, and appear to have played no favorites. More importantly, it isn't just about compromising the racing anymore, it is about safety.

I can totally understand the desire of certain teams to block changes to the tires simply because they don't suit certain teams in the field. But if Pirelli can solve these issues, and one would guess everyone has access to data that proves whether Pirelli can or not, then the teams should be overruled on safety grounds if they try to block the introduction of new rubber.

This is not all Pirelli's fault, though there are those with an interest in painting it that way. The fact that there is no way for the company to test the tires on a modern car is ludicrous. Safety of the competitors must be the number one priority, and I find it hard to believe, just as I did in 2006, that the FIA has not stepped in.

I sincerely hope someone acts. When drivers make comments like those above, there is a serious problem. Back in the 70s, the drivers forced the sport to become safer by acting as a group. I was in the stands at Indy in 2006. It was an ugly situation for all involved. It did irreparable damage to the sport's image in the U.S., but while others played chicken, the teams did what they thought was necessary for safety.

I would not have been surprised if something similar had happened today. It may be the only thing that gets the attention of the key players of this sport and motivates them to do what is right for everyone involved. There are more than points and money at stake.

Someone has to step up. They've got a week. Enough is enough.

UPDATE: Joe Saward reports the FIA will meet with Pirelli for an emergency meeting, and Jonathan Noble reports dissenting teams will not block any Pirelli changes. This is good news. Hopefully, the smart people will get quickly to the root of the problem and ensure there won't be a repeat. Perhaps a solution will also be found for the lack of testing. It's a start.

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