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GP Week : Issue 185
Nico Rosberg took the chequered flag in a dramatic British Grand Prix that will enter the history books not for the Mercedes’ driver’s success, but for Pirelli’s dramatic run of failures. In what pundits are already calling the Italian tyre manufacturer’s very own Indianapolis – harkening back to the embarrassment that was the 2005 United States Grand Prix, Pirelli saw four identical tyre failures that affected the outcome of Sunday’s race – which nevertheless ptovided a riveting, NASCAR-style, finish! First to be affected was pole sitter Lewis Hamilton, who delivered a textbook performance for the first eight laps of the race, getting a good start and opening up a comfortable two-second gap over the chasing Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel. But as the Mercedes driver was exiting The Loop, heading down the Wellington Straight, his left rear tyre disintegrated and Hamilton was forced to limp back to the pits, from where he emerged in P18, near the back of the pack. Two laps later, Felipe Massa suffered an identical failure, at almost exactly the same point on track. The Brazilian racer had done a phenomenal job in the opening phase of the race, launching himself off the start line like a man possessed, getting up to P5 from a grid position of P11. Like Hamilton before him, the long journey back to the pits from the Wellington Straight meant that Massa emerged at the back of the pack, with a lot of ground to make up. By lap 14, Pirelli had registered a hat trick of failures, with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne also suffering a left rear disintegration. And while it’s hard to conflate luck with failure, the Frenchman was incredibly lucky that all he suffered was a blown tyre – Vergne’s collapse took place when the Toro Rosso driver was at the end of Hangar Straight, running at around 275kph, and could have had far more dramatic consequences. With three blown tyres in a seven-lap period, FIA race director Charlie Whiting deployed the Safety Car so that the marshals would be able to clean up a circuit that was littered with tyre debris, from the ever-present marbles to full belts flapping along the track. But the hat trick was not enough, and Pirelli were to see a fourth left rear tyre disintegrate on live television, this time on the McLaren of Sergio Perez. The Mexican racer was 46 laps into the race, getting back into the fight on the restart following the second Safety Car of the afternoon, when his left rear exploded. Perez was lucky to retain control of his car and avoid running into Fernando Alonso, but when he limped back to the pits McLaren elected to retire their driver from the race. Both Hamilton and Massa recovered well from their tyre failures, helped in part by the afternoon’s two Safety Cars, with the Briton finishing six-tenths off the podium and Massa crossing the line a mere 14 seconds behind race winner Rosberg. The race dramas were not all of Pirelli’s making, however. Rosberg’s eventual victory was an inherited win that came about courtesy of a gearbox failure for Vettel, who retired from the lead that he himself had inherited from Hamilton when he ground to a halt at the beginning of the International Pits Straight, bringing out the second Safety Car of the day. In the end, it was pure theatre – an eight-lap sprint at the finish. After a dreadful opening lap, Mark Webber, equipped with fresh Options charged through to second. Another lap could have made a significant difference ... The farce that was the 2005 Indianapolis race led to Michelin’s withdrawal from Formula One. Will Silverstone 2013 be the watershed moment for Pirelli, a much-maligned and oft-criticised supplier who have yet to sign a contract for 2014 rubber? Pirelli has its 'Indy' moment 28 GPWEEK.com // 28 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> GREAT BRITAIN