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Motorsport | Formula 1

Adrian Newey © Gallo Images

Newey blames tyre crisis on rivals

Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey on Monday attacked the 'short-sightedness' of rival Ferrari, Lotus and Force India teams for blocking Pirelli's planned introduction of new Formula One tyre constructions – and blamed them for a safety crisis that has engulfed the sport.

Newey, the design genius behind Red Bull's domination of both the constructors' and drivers' championships for the last three years, said it was "a sad state of affairs" when top teams vetoed change because they feared it would hand an advantage to their rivals.

In the wake of an extraordinary British Grand Prix, overshadowed by a series of high-speed tyre blow-outs and post-race drivers' declarations that they may strike if the "unacceptable" circumstances were not addressed, Newey pin-pointed the politics at the heart of the problems.

He said: "It's a sad state of affairs but such is the nature of Formula One, really.

"It's been fairly clear that there's been a number of worrying tyre failures through the year. Pirelli came up with a solution for that, with a different construction, and that was being offered initially for Montreal.

"But two or three teams vetoed that because they were worried it would suit some other teams more than it would suit them.

"As a result of that short-sightedness, Formula One ended up putting up the worrying performance it did [at Silverstone] and concerns about driver safety."

Italian suppliers Pirelli wanted to change the internal structure of their tyres from one based on a steel belt to one made of Kevlar, from the Canadian Grand Prix. to try and eradicate frequent problems with delamination as seen in several of the season opening races.

But Force India, Lotus and Ferrari were reluctant to accept the modification, which needed unanimous approval from the teams and they blocked the moves to change, saying at the time that they felt changes to the tyres could cause them to lose their competitiveness.

The block on using the Kevlar belt caused Pirelli to give up their push for a new tyre construction and, instead, they worked on trying to improve the bonding process of their steel constructions.

Sunday's spectacular race, won by German Nico Rosberg for Mercedes, saw four dangerous tyre failures hit Rosberg's teammate Briton Lewis Hamilton, while he led early in the race, Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso and Mexican Sergio Perez of McLaren.

Each blowout created a spray of thick rubber and metal debris that flew in the air ahead of following drivers. Hamilton recovered to return to the pits and, after rejoining last, he fought through the field to finish fourth.

In the aftermath, Hamilton led a call by the drivers for the sport's ruling body to tackle the problem.

Frenchman Jean Todt, the president of the International Motoring Federation (FIA) reacted by calling Pirelli to an urgent meeting of the F1 Sporting Working Group on Wednesday at the Nurburgring where the German Grand Prix is scheduled to begin with free practice on Friday morning.

Newey's team discovered damage to the tyres of defending triple world champion German Sebastian Vettel after the championship leader was forced to retire from the lead late in the race with gearbox problems.

Pirelli said they still waiting for the results of their own internal investigation into the failures which the race director Briton Charlie Whiting confirmed afterwards had almost caused him to stop the contest on safety grounds.

Newey added: "It's really one for Pirelli, but from what I understand of it, had we gone with the different construction we wouldn't have had the sort of catastrophic failures we had today."

"It's a concern for the whole paddock, primarily from a safety point of view, but then also if the championship ends up being decided by random tyre failures then it wouldn't be a very satisfying championship.

"Safety wise, there are two issues – there's the car that has the failure having an accident and then, also you have three kilos of tread flying around and if that hits the following car's driver in the helmet it doesn't bear thinking about. I will be very disappointed if, after this, there continues to be no action."

Given that the breathless and dangerous drama was played out in front of a capacity crowd and millions of stunned television viewers, that option was swiftly rejected on Sunday night when Todt took action.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh, whose Mexican driver Perez suffered two similar failures during the weekend, said: "We clearly have a serious situation where we have to act responsibly and respect Pirelli.

"They have to do the best they can. We have to make a decision urgently, as it gives you a much better chance than talking about it on Wednesday – when you want to drive out of the garage on Friday."

He added: "In 2012, we were not having this problem. Therefore, if that is a known, established, durable specification, you would have thought that is the easiest thing to do. We have to change back... "

Red Bull chief Christian Horner backed Whitmarsh's view.

"The most logical thing would be to go back to the tyres that worked well for them previously. The tyres they had last year did not have these failures."


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