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Pirelli to be allowed restriction-free tests?
1 July 2013
Pirelli looks likely to be granted two opportunities to test its tyres without the sort of limits that have been placed on it over the past three years, as F1 attempts to solve the tyre problems that blighted Sunday's British Grand Prix.
Four violent failures on the left-rear corner caused not only short-term concern among those taking part in the race at Silverstone, but also sent ripples beyond the event as the sport realised – after much prevarication and self-interest – that something needed to be done to prevent a repeat.
While FIA president Jean Todt summoned Pirelli representatives to Wednesday's meeting of the Sporting Committee in Paris, it also appears that he has been speaking to Bernie Ecclestone, the man behind 'the show' who also had a hand in directing the tyre supplier to produce rubber that would produce unpredictable racing ahead of the 2011 campaign.
As a result of that conversation, it has emerged that Pirelli will be given free rein to develop solutions to the current crisis – something it hasn't been able to do in the past after being prevented from getting hold of a contemporary F1 car, both by the regulations and the reluctance of the teams to allow one of its rivals to potentially gain a vital advantage from a relationship with the tyre manufacturer.
"[Pirelli] have said they'd like to sort it out, but they don't have a chance to do any testing because of these bloody silly restrictions we have,” Ecclestone told PA
, "But I spoke to Jean Todt over the weekend and he has said 'let them test'.
"He has allowed them to run two three-day tests between now and... well, when they want, to try and do something for next year, as well as this year, so that's exactly what's going to happen."
With the controversy of 'testgate', which arose from Pirelli and Mercedes using the latter's current W04 chassis to conduct 1000km of development work at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya in May, still fresh in the memory, Ecclestone was quick to point out that 'free rein' meant exactly that.
"They can use what they like,” he insisted, “[There are] no restrictions - none at all - so they can do what they want."
Several teams have already called for the impending Young Driver test at Silverstone to be turned into a full-blown session where experienced race drivers can provide vital feedback on alternative tyres, while some have suggested a return to 2012-spec rubber, something which would also require extensive work as teams seek to get their 2013 machines suited to the earlier design.
Three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart shares Ecclestone's belief that Pirelli now needs as much time as possible to ensure that it can provide safe tyres for the remainder of the season – and beyond if all parties agree to a new contract.
“They've got to open up the regulations and do as many tests as they need in order to feel comfortable their tyres are durable,” the Scot, a renowned safety campaigner, told Britain's Daily Mail
, “You have to lift the no-testing regulation. That's more important right now than anything else.
“We've got to have a harder construction [tyre], a harder compound or whatever it is, and then let's get going. If we've got to run with hard tyres that mean there's going to be no pit-stops for three or four grands prix, let's do that. The amount of debris that was flying around [at Silverstone], at the height and speed it was travelling at, is a great concern.”
The question now, however, is where, when and who will the tests involve. With Mercedes already reprimanded for its part in the Barcelona test, will teams be wary of taking up the cudgels, or will the tests be thrown open to all? Will Mercedes be able to take part after being banned from the forthcoming Young Driver test?
Little is going to be achievable between now and the German Grand Prix this weekend, but there are three weeks between the Nurburgring and Budapest, and another four before the Belgian Grand Prix, so there is clearly time to slot in a couple of tests, although anything in August will impinge on the traditional shut-down of all F1 facilities for the summer.