Things appear to be getting heated at the FIA this week.
Following Kimi Raikkonen’s tyre failure at the European Grand Prix, a debate has started as to whether or not the new regulation of one set of tyres for the weekend (Qualifying and Race) has compromised the safety of the cars.
For those who may not be aware, Raikkonen was leading the race and about 10 laps from the end, started to slow a little. It appeared that he had flat-spotted his front right tyre, and this inevitably led to massive vibrations and lack of brake/turn-in speed. With this knowledge, Fernando Alonso – in second – piled on the pressure and started to close the gap rather rapidly. Raikkonen continued to push, causing further wear to the tyre.
With so few laps left, a pit stop to change the offending rubber boot would have meant sacrificing the win, so McLaren and Raikkonen opted to continue. Eventually, the massive vibrations led to the suspension giving way and the tyre went, throwing the McLaren Mercedes into the barrier and out of the race.
The rules state that a tyre may only be changed if it is considered dangerous. Tyres that are changed must be replaced with similarly worn substitutes and the old tyre will be inspected after the race.
So the big question is: Should McLaren have pulled Kimi into the pits and replaced the tyre?
Well, that is a mighty big question. With only a few laps left, it is conceivable that the tyre may have lasted, and the win would have gone down in the history books! It is also possible that McLaren may have changed the tyre and then found the FIA saying that is was not dangerous. So far this season, only completely deflated tyres have been changed – so this is a very grey area at the moment. If the FIA had judged the tyre to be okay, Kimi would have probably had time added to his final race time and therefore would have had the win taken away from him.
McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh claimed after the race that a lack of clarity over what is considered a tyre’s ‘dangerous condition’ has left teams with an awkward choice that could lead to sacrificing a strong result unnecessarily.
These regulations have given us a dilemma we would rather not have. Martin Whitmarsh
There is also the side that Formula One is meant to be fast and dangerous. The FIA introduced this new regulation in 2005 to encorouge overtaking and make a grand prix more of a spectacle. Unfortunately, the result is that drivers are not too keen to make lunges down the inside fearing a lock-up and thus – a flat-spotted tyre.
In my opinion, Kimi and McLaren did right by staying out. It’s not the taking part, only a win ever counts as a good result!