F1’s tyre-gate saga has taken another dramatic twist, as drivers formally threaten to boycott the German grand prix.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA), led by Ferrari tester Pedro de la Rosa, warned at the Nurburgring that drivers will pull out of the Nurburgring round if there are signs the tyre-exploding crisis seen at Silverstone has not been solved.
“The drivers have decided if similar problems should manifest themselves during the German GP, we shall immediately withdraw from the event,” read the statement.
The GPDA said it believes the entire problem has been “avoidable”, which is surely a dig at F1 and Pirelli’s deliberate move to supply tyres designed to degrade quickly.
At the very same time, leading F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were expressing their intention to stay away from the forthcoming Silverstone test.
“I have absolutely no intention of attending,” Ferrari’s Alonso is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport says teams will only be able to field race drivers on one of the test days, with rookies needing to drive at other times as originally intended.
And speculation about a fourth test day was ruled out.
Alonso, however, insisted he doesn’t want to test at all. “Ferrari will have to force me,” he said.
“I’m not a Pirelli test driver.
“The decision to test experimental tyres at the track where there was a tyre problem is a decision that I believe is extremely dangerous,” Alonso said.
“This season the tyre supplier hasn’t made the best decisions,” the Ferrari driver, who said being hit by the shards of metal tyre debris last weekend at Silverstone “would be like a bullet or a knife”, added.
McLaren’s Button agreed that he doesn’t want to run at Silverstone.
“Only one type of tyre is going to be tested, which – for me – is not a tyre test.”
Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa, however, told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper he wants to do the test.
“I think it’s important,” he said. “I’m always in favour of testing, and I think it’s important to have experienced drivers (there).”
Drivers and teams are also hitting back at Pirelli’s claims it was the practice of using extreme tyre pressures and cambers that caused the problems at Silverstone.
“McLaren stuck within the correct boundaries of what Pirelli told us to do and we had two failures on our car,” said Button.
Mercedes’ Ross Brawn has said the same, and Spain’s Marca newspaper reported that Sauber also followed Pirelli’s guidelines but had a failure.
Massa, meanwhile, said the fact rear tyres have been fitted the wrong way around may also not be an explanation.
“I had problems in Bahrain and they (the tyres) were mounted right,” he said.
Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez said: “Not just Pirelli is to blame, and not just the teams are to blame.
“I think we have to work together rather than blaming one another.”
But Button also questioned Pirelli’s decision to supply new tyres this weekend in Germany, before switching to yet another construction in Hungary.
“I don’t know why it is necessary (to change again in Hungary) if these tyres are fine,” said the 2009 world champion.
Watching the tyre crisis from the outside, former Mercedes director Norbert Haug sympathised those who are trying to fix the problem.
“Modern formula one is ungovernable,” he told Bild newspaper.
“People only care if they see an advantage for themselves.”
Former F1 driver Mika Salo also observed: “Silverstone was really unsafe, but the rules were the cause of it — Pirelli wanted to change (tyres beforehand) but they couldn’t,” he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3.
Whatever the case, it is possible the move to kevlar-belted tyres at the Nurburgring will shuffle the pecking order.
“Possibly,” admitted Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, while teammate Nico Rosberg said a shakeup is “very likely”.
Salo agrees: “Change always favours someone.”
Alonso, meanwhile, has the final word.
“At the moment, the priority isn’t about the performance of one team or another,” he said. “The most important thing is that everyone gets back to their own bed safely on Sunday night.”
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