Pirelli points finger at Red Bull over Spa tyre controversy
|By Jonathan Noble||Sunday, August 28th 2011, 21:05 GMT|
Pirelli has accused Red Bull of putting it in an 'unfair' position over the Belgian Grand Prix tyre situation, because of the way the team's set-up choices were the cause of the controversial blistering to the option tyres it begun the race with.
The build-up to the Spa race was engulfed in intrigue as Red Bull pushed to be allowed to replace the rubber it had run in qualifying, after witnessing blistering on the outside shoulder of its front tyres.
Its calls received no support from the FIA, and rival teams did not back the move - suggesting the damage to the tyres was not accidental and had been caused by set-up choices that Red Bull had made itself.
That left the team with the option of taking a risk and pushing on with its current configuration, or making set-up modifications to its cars in parc ferme, which could have included changing tyres.
Either move to alter the car would have forced the team's cars to start from the pitlane.
Although Red Bull overcame the difficulties to deliver a one-two finish at Spa, Pirelli is unhappy about the difficult situation it found itself in - claiming the main contributing factor to the blistering was the fact that the reigning champion team was running camber outside of a recommended four-degree limit laid down by the Italian company.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery believes the situation could have been avoided if its camber recommendations had been heeded – and feels that risks in the race could have been reduced if Red Bull had elected to make the camber changes and switch tyres before the start, even if it had cost the team its places on the grid.
"We don't appreciate being put in that position," said Hembery after the race. "It is a slightly unfair position to be put in. Of course it could have been avoided.
"Teams have the ability to start from the pitlane with a different set-up and a new set of tyres. That was an option that they [Red Bull] decided not to follow – but that is obviously the perogative of the people making the decisions. The problem we have, of course, is that our name is on the side of the tyres and we have to live with that."
When asked by AUTOSPORT about how the tyre situation had developed from Saturday, Hembery said: "Post-qualifying we were approached by one team that had some ideas and concerns. We then analysed the situation with all the cars that we were running.
"Overnight we had some tyres sent over to give ourselves the option of changing front tyres if we felt there was an underlying issue with all the teams. But following investigations on Sunday morning that was found to not be the case, and we spoke to all of the teams that were in Q3, and the majority consensus was that the rules should be adhered to. That was also the rule point of the FIA."
Another contributing factor was that rain throughout practice didn't allow for either Pirelli or Red Bull to measure the implications of the set-up choices made.
"We were in a little bit of a rock and a hard place, because if we had run with some dry conditions on Friday and Saturday, ordinarily it is a situation that would have been minimised. So we were left in a situation where one team in particular was stretching the limits of our recommendations and we felt that that, in a race situation, would create difficulties and blistering."
He added: "In the end, what do you do? Do you make a change and end up creating a precedent? Do you make a change that would be seen to assisting one team and, particularly with the result we had at the end – I think today you would not be asking me about this, you would be asking me why we helped Red Bull win the race?"
Hembery also said that he believed the issue to be one of performance, rather than safety: "We were confident that if you came to me and asked if it was a safety issue I would have said no, absolutely not. Is it a performance issue? Ultimately yes."
When asked if Red Bull was the only team going beyond the camber recommendation, Hembery said: "There was quite a good correlation between camber and the level of blistering with the teams."
Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey admitted that his outfit had been worried about the tyre situation in the build-up to the race.
Speaking to the BBC about how he felt, he commented: "I have to say, it is one of the scariest races I have been involved in ever. It is heart-in-the-mouth stuff, because first and foremost our duty of care is to the drivers' safety, and you are trying to make that call or making sure the car is safe while not excessively handicapping ourselves from a performance point of view.
"I found it quite a difficult judgement to make, and at the end of the race I was very relieved that both our drivers were safe."
"Around 5pm yesterday evening Pirelli came to us and said that having looked at our tyres from qualifying they were concerned about the safety of the tyres and that they could be suffering structural damage in the junction between the sidewall and the tread, and felt that failure of the tyre could be imminent on both cars," he added. "It was very concerning... We then entered into a lot of debate with Pirelli about what we should do. They recommended that higher front pressures would make the tyre safer, as would reduced camber – but without permission from the FIA, reducing the front camber would be in breach of parc ferme regulations, so we would have to start from the pitlane."