Tyregate VII – Silverstone 2013

Silverstone 2013 will be remembered for one thing – tyres. And for once it wasn’t degradation or graining that dominated the headlines, but exploding Pirellis, the blow outs sending ribbons of rubber skywards like some awful ballet. Hugh Podmore looks at that and other big stories from this weekend’s race.

1) Dangerous play
The jury is still out on what caused at least four cars to suffer massive blow outs during Sunday’s race. Some say it was the failure of the teams to agree unanimously to a change in the tyre’s core structure; others point to the stresses a series of fast right-handers put on the left rear tyre (which was usually the victim); pictures have even surfaced of a sharp kerb at the Northamptonshire track. Whatever the cause, it must be established, and quick. As many have already pointed out, nobody wants to see flying kilos of rubber on a race track. It is incredibly dangerous, and as has been noted, the greatest single danger to drivers comes from an object entering the cockpit. Talks of a boycott are not rash or unrealistic. Solutions? For Pirelli, go to a failsafe construction in the interim. For the FIA, let Pirelli test with all the teams so they have some actual information.

2) Fortune favours the brave – and Rosberg wins
A day like Sunday is often referred to as a lottery. To an extent it was – Lewis Hamilton was seriously unlucky, as was Sebastian Vettel for a different reason, as were Sergio Perez and Jean Eric Vergne. For Rosberg, knowing a blow out had happened to his team mate, in a car famed for its devouring of tyres, he had to be conservative and yet rapid. And this he did, particularly at the end when under serious pressure from Mark Webber. The Red Bull man too drove a wonderful race, recovering from an early clash with Grosjean to finish a superb second in front of what is effectively a second home crowd for him. Other gutsy performances in the face of adversity – Hamilton, Alonso, Sutil.

3) Raikkonen and Lotus set for divorce?
Tempers flared on Sunday between Lotus and their star employee, as the Finn felt he should have been pitted before the second Safety Car. That he wasn’t was a call made by the team which put Kimi under pressure at the end of the race and lost him a podium. On such fine margins are championships won and lost, although the team cannot really be blamed unduly. But will Raikkonen see this as further evidence that Lotus cannot step up to the plate to challenge regularly for podiums, wins and the title, like he indubitably can? And will it hasten his path to Red Bull?

4) Ricciardo shines to stake his claim – and Vettel may help
Daniel Ricciardo laid down a marker in Britain, by which Jev and even Raikkonen must measure themselves. That said, both the Toro Rosso chargers are yet to demonstrate the kind of consistency that would be required at the senior team. Raikkonen is supremely quick and in his second career has been the epitome of consistent performance. So is he Red Bull’s best bet? No, because of the Vettel effect. I’m not sure if there’s the appetite in that team for more internecine strife at any level, and certainly not from Sebastian’s side. The outcome of this little drama will be a very interesting insight into just how much influence Vettel has within the team.

5) Form guide for Germany
The form book is intriguingly balanced at the moment. To some extent Mercedes seem to have ironed out their issues, and in all likelihood could have had a one-two at Silverstone, but will that be true everywhere? The Nurburgring is a very different beast. Neutered and showy, it’s now a Mickey Mouse track of slow corners and quick squirts. Red Bull win, anyone?

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