Pirelli boss calls for new test rules
The tyres may have held up on the Nuerburgring course at last weekend's Formula One German Grand Prix, but the motorsport boss of tyre manufacture Pirelli said the lingering discussion about tyre safety is far from over.
Paul Hembrey is calling for new testing rules in light of the tyre disaster at Silverstone - in which four drivers suffered blowouts on June 30 - and the pending massive overhaul of the race cars.
"We are not talking about going back entirely to the old testing, but that the drivers just can return to the track. That would not only help us, but everyone involved in the sport," Hembrey said in an interview with the German Press Agency dpa.
Test rules have significantly changed over the years in Formula One. Teams used to be allowed to more or less take an unlimited number of practice laps. But the amount of testing was drastically reduced for cost reasons.
Test driving will be allowed as an exception during the coming week in Silverstone, but test rounds during the world championship - in the current race car with top drivers - are, in general, forbidden.
The Mercedes team earlier this month drew heat from their competitors saying the German team participated in an illegal tyre test with Pirelli following the Spanish Grand Prix.
"We have a sport in which the drivers are not allowed to drive. That is a little bizarre," said Hembrey.
The tyre manufacturers are also struggling in light of the sport's plans for massive race car changes for 2014.
"The only information we have for next year is on a single sheet of paper. You have to think about that," said Hembrey.
"So we have no information about how the cars will look in the future."
But, according to the world racing federation's statutes, the teams must present their tyres specifications for the following year by September 1.
Ferrari had recently used Michael Schumacher for some very intensive testing sessions on their own course in Fiorano. The multiple world champion criticised the new regulations upon his comeback with Mercedes in July 2010.
"Formula One is the only sport in the world in which you cannot test drive. Looking at the high technical level at which we operate, that is incomprehensible," said Schumacher.
"It would be ridiculous to test 90 000 kilometres a year, but it's just as ridiculous to not test at all."
No one is calling for a return to the inflationary number of test kilometres in the past. But many would like the testing ban lifted in light of the massive reform for next season with a change of engines as well as new technical and aerodynamic demands.
"There are also a series of other things which must be changed. The decision process must be changed," said Hembrey, who still doesn't know if Pirelli will be a Formula One tyre supplier in 2014.
With all the rule changes coming for next year, Hembrey said a situation like the widespread tyre failure in Silverstone could easily happen once again.
"But then, maybe, because of the brakes, because of the engine or the transmission. Maybe there will be all kinds of problems next year. But that is not good for the sport," said Hembrey.
Things have definitely not been easy for Pirelli since returning to Formula One in 2011.
"When we develop tyres, for example, for top German companies like Mercedes, BWM or Porsche, we work on them for three years before we send the vehicle - the entire tested package - onto the road," described Hembrey.
He said he definitely believes the discussion is far from over.