Pirelli head into practice for the German Grand Prix under enormous pressure to prove their tyres are safe after the drivers threatened a boycott should their lives again be placed at risk.
The latest twist in the tyre saga emerged late yesterday, after the drivers had predominantly applauded under-fire tyre supplier Pirelli for acting swiftly in the wake of Sunday’s explosive drama at the British Grand Prix.
The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association remarkably announced they would stage a walkout should there be a repeat of the scenes witnessed at Silverstone.
Their bombshell statement read: “The drivers of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association wish to express their deepest concerns about the events that took place at Silverstone.
“We trust the changes made to the tyres will have the desired results and that similar problems will not occur during the German GP weekend.
“We are ready to drive our cars to the limit, as we always do, and as is expected by our teams, sponsors and fans.
“However, the drivers have decided if similar problems should manifest themselves during the German GP, we shall immediately withdraw from the event as this avoidable problem with the tyres endangers again the lives of drivers, marshals and fans.”
Pirelli this week announced a two-fold plan to remedy the situation.
For this weekend, the belt on the rear tyres is now made of Kevlar – a high-strength synthetic fibre which is more resistant to punctures – as opposed to steel.
From the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards the tyres will change again, comprising 2012 construction with 2013 compounds. They are to be tested at the young driver test at Silverstone from July 17-19.
Should the drivers withdraw from the race, it would be for the first time since the 2005 United States Grand Prix.
On that occasion concerns over the safety of the Michelin tyres, after a spate of incidents, resulted in the 16 drivers using them pulling into the pits at the end of the parade lap.
What followed was a farce as just the six drivers on Bridgestone tyres competed in front of an angry crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, both GPDA directors, had given no indication when conducting their usual media sessions earlier in the day as to what was to come.
Vettel said: “It’s good that within a week we have been able to get a different tyre for this race which hopefully is safer for all of us.
“Obviously the last race was not what we wanted, not satisfactory, so it’s good we have a new tyre here.”
As for Button, he added: “The important thing is the safety issue. We don’t want tyre explosions.
“Last weekend was tough so to turn it around and bring a totally different construction here will help the situation. It is good.”