• Belgian Grand Prix

Tyres kick up a storm ahead of Belgian GP

Laurence Edmondson at Spa-Francorchamps
August 28, 2011 « Maldonado given five-place grid penalty for Hamilton collision | »
Some soft tyres had blisters after qualifying © Sutton Images
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A row over tyres has erupted in Spa-Francorchamps on the morning of the Belgian Grand Prix, after several drivers in the top ten experienced blistering on their front tyres during Q3.

After wet conditions all weekend the final session offered a chance to run in dry conditions and the top ten positions were decided on slick tyres. The problem appears to be linked to the level of camber the drivers use on the front wheels to aid turn-in, and the soft tyres, of which each driver only has three sets for qualifying and the race, were experiencing blistering.

Teams asked the FIA if more tyres could be made available because they considered their tyres to be damaged, and an FIA press release on Sunday said 17 new option tyres were available for "possible use at this event" after being flown in overnight. However, after meetings that saw a large proportion of the paddock marching from their motorhomes to the FIA and back again, the new tyres will not be used because the damage to the tyres was not considered to be accidental.

"There was a concern about tyre durability after qualifying and the FIA felt that they should allow the top ten drivers to change the front tyres and I think they discovered that they didn't have enough tyres to do that," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh told ESPNF1. "I think some of the teams, in self-interest, argued that that wasn't fair. So the position now is that teams are not allowed to change camber, or if they do they start from the pit lane, and although they issued a decision saying they allocated new tyres, the teams that were expecting them are not allowed to use them. They've allocated them but, strangely, you can't use them. A pretty useful allocation really," he said wryly.

Asked if there were any options left to mix-up sets or any other way out of the problem, Whitmarsh said: "We can't go beyond the allocation we thought we had before we had new tyres allocated."

He added: "I don't think that we've covered ourselves in glory with how it's been dealt with."

The drivers believed to have suffered most with the blistering are Sebastian Vettel, who was seen in the paddock in a deep and public conversation with a Pirelli employee, Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Jaime Alguersuari. Drivers suffering from the issues will have to manage their tyres carefully, particularly in the opening stint, or might have to make an early stop for fresh rubber.

At the time of writing the track was dry, with cloud cover over the circuit but no immediate signs of rain, which could result in a wet race.