F1 chief takes pressure out of tyre row

Not for the first time, Bernie Ecclestone exerted his authority over Formula One and the sport’s leading drivers with a few forthright words when he intervened to defuse a simmering row over the quality of Pirelli’s tyres.

He also gave a clear signal of possible intent and assured the Italian company it not only had security and backing during a difficult period, but also the prospect of another long-term deal with the sport.

After hearing of continuing complaints from four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, whose expletive-riddled anger had been aired widely after last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, the sport’s commercial boss issued a rare official public statement.

“Pirelli has been a first class partner of Formula 1 during the five seasons in which it has been the official supplier of tyres to the FIA Formula 1 world championship.

“We continue to have full confidence in the safety, quality and suitability of its tyres. Within the constraints of safety considerations, which are always paramount, Formula 1 encourages Pirelli to provide tyre compounds with performance because tyre degradation contributes to the challenge and entertainment of a Formula 1 race.

“When doing so, Pirelli provides strong guidance to competitors about any performance limitations of the tyres supplied.

“Competitors should heed Pirelli’s expert advice when setting their race strategy and tactics and, if they do not, it is at their own risk.

“We are entirely satisfied Pirelli was not at fault for any tyre-related incidents during the Belgian Grand Prix.”

Ecclestone’s support for Pirelli not only ended the immediate argument about its tyres following the high-speed blowouts suffered by Vettel, during the Belgian race, and fellow-German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes, during Friday practice, but also put the safety emphasis back on their teams.

Ferrari had chosen to run the Belgian race using a risky one-stop strategy for Vettel.

Ecclestone’s comments come at a time when there is much speculation about who will win the next three-year tyre contract for Formula One, from 2017, with Michelin reportedly also in the running.

Michelin has made it clear it would prefer to supply tyres to last a full race distance and not degrade rapidly, requiring pit stops.

Ecclestone’s statement added: “Pirelli has offered to provide to each car a single set of tyres to last for an entire event. While we know they would be very capable of it, a race with no pit stops would be less exciting.

“Thank you, Pirelli, for helping us to deliver excitement to Formula 1 fans.”

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