Formula One’s tyre manufacturer Pirelli is under pressure to explain a series of failures that turned the final laps of this morning’s British Grand Prix into chaos.
Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz all suffered failures of the left-front tyre in the closing stages, with Bottas and Sainz forced to pit. Hamilton’s failure happened midway through his final lap, with the Englishman able to limp across the line just five seconds ahead of the fast-closing Max Verstappen.
With the cars set to race again at Silverstone next weekend, Pirelli now faces a race against time to identify the cause of the failures, or risk a major drama in just six days’ time.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Pirelli are already locked into supplying softer, less durable tyres for next weekend’s race.
A safety car period early in this morning’s race meant drivers pitted earlier than expected, running a much longer stint on the hard tyres through to the finish.
Pirelli’s initial investigation will focus on whether or not the tyres were damaged by debris on the track, or if they failed of their own accord.
“We will obviously investigate what happened in the last few laps,” said Pirelli’s Mario Isola.
“It’s a bit early now to give you any conclusion. It could be high wear, because for sure tyres with 38 laps or more on this circuit are quite worn, but I’m not saying that the wear is the cause of the issue.
“It can be debris, because we had the pieces of the front wing of Kimi (Raikkonen) that were on track, but also some other debris.
“So that’s why we want to investigate not only the tyres with a failure, but all the tyres used in the last few laps of the race, to understand if we find any other cut or any other possible indication on what happened.”
Isola acknowledged the short turnaround time before the next race, but says he’s confident they will have answers very quickly.
“We have to come to a conclusion as soon as possible. The target is to have something more fully by tomorrow, or Tuesday at the latest,” he said.
“There are a number of question marks at the moment and depending on which is the cause of the issue, we have to react appropriately.
“But the reaction can be different if we are talking about the wear, for example, it doesn’t matter if we go with the same compounds we use today, or the softer compounds, each tyre has a maximum number of laps that depends on each car. Each car is different.”
Speaking on Sky Sports, former world champion Jenson Button said the sight of Hamilton limping across the line was unprecedented.
“It kicked off with two or three laps to go – and it was just mayhem out there. I’ve never seen anything like that at the end of a grand prix for a winner.”
Hamilton said after the race he was convinced his tyre failure was the result of debris.