Drivers deny new Formula One tyres are dangerous

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have played down claims that the high wear rate of the new Pirelli tyres is posing a danger to Formula One drivers.

Pirelli replaced Bridgestone as F1's sole tyre supplier at the start of the season and the new rubber has been a major talking point at the opening two races, with increased degradation forcing the drivers to make more pit stops.

The disintegration of the tyres leaves small rubber chunks either side of the racing line, referred to in the sport as 'marbles'.

While small, the sheer number of marbles accumulated at the opening races has given way to concerns that they could create problems when a driver moves off the racing line, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso among those to express misgivings.

Renault's Vitaly Petrov also blamed the marbles for his spectacular airborne accident towards the end of last Sunday's race in Malaysia, but McLaren driver Hamilton insists they are merely one more variable for the drivers to deal with.

"I think it's normal," said Hamilton. "I think in the past we had a lot of marbles, in places like Montreal. Now we have it more at other circuits but I don't think it's bad.

"I've tried overtaking and with these tyres when you go onto the marbles you lose a bit of grip, but I don't see any danger whatsoever."

Red Bull driver Vettel was among those who questioned the increasing amount of rubber on the track after the last round in Sepang, but the championship leader maintains there has been no increase in danger levels.

"The amount of marbles we have next to the racing line is more than we used to have simply because we're on different tyres," he said. "We've seen this throughout testing and now the first couple of races.

"There are a lot of marbles but I think Pirelli is aware of that, and should it become a problem I think they can get on top of it and change it.

"The amount you can see on television, from the beginning of the race to the end, is huge, but I don't think we have anything to fear."