The crash suffered by McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the final lap of the European Grand Prix has sparked safety concerns over the tyres used in the F1 championship.
The crash suffered by McLaren’s Kimi Räikkönen at the start of the final lap of the European Grand Prix has sparked safety concerns over the tyres used in the F1 championship.
The new rule regarding tyres was implemented this year as a way to curtail the sport’s rising costs. Teams are prohibited from changing tyres during the race unless it is deemed too dangerous to continue on the current set of tyres. However, many teams believe that they should not have to choose between a driver’s safety and championship points in the first place.
“These regulations gave us a dilemma on Sunday, which we would rather not have,” Martin Whitmarsh, head of McLaren, said. Sunday’s decision to leave Räikkönen out on the circuit, after he had flat-spotted his front right tyre midway through the race, eventually led to the MP4-20's suspension failure.
Whitmarsh said: “The problem has often been talked about, but this has created a precedent which demonstrates how dangerous it is.” Räikkönen’s crash resulted from a badly flet-spotted tyre, the suspension failure being attributed mainly to the resulting vibration, which increased in intensity after the team decided to go for the win, rather than have Raikkonen pit for a tyre change.
BMW Motorsport director Mario Theisen said the tyre safety situation was currently unavoidable.
"The main reason to introduce the current rules is to save money and I think we could save more with a standard spec tyre with no testing and then change them as often as you want.
"It was quite a surprise what we saw today, but we had some tyre problems in Spa last year and that would certainly become critical there, so we have to closely watch the situation."
Michelin’s motorsport director, Pierre Dupasquier, whose company provides McLaren's tyres, believes Räikkönen's problem was amplified with every lap, and suggested that the suspension failure was inevitable.
He explained: "He flat-spotted his front-right tyre and we could see the problem very clearly in his second stop. The trouble is it becomes very easy to lock your brakes repeatedly when a tyre has been flat- spotted.
"That just amplifies the problem. We have seen cars locking up here on many occasions during the weekend and that seems to happen a lot here because one or two corners encourage drivers to turn while braking."
BMW's Theissen believes the tyre war between Michelin and rivals Bridgestone, which encourages competition to push designs to their limits, has been partially responsible for the recent trend in tyre performance.
"I was pleasantly surprised in the early races of the season because the manufacturers had to switch from three or four sets per race to one per race. That is quite a big change and I expected more problems than we had, so to me it was a surprise what happened, but maybe that is because companies are pushing to develop more."