Temple of speed hosts fiery debate over tyres

If race tracks were women, this would be Sharon Stone mixed with Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer. A feisty blend of age, experience and panache. It's one of those venues that epitomises a great sport, and evokes the sort of hallowed memories that are becoming unfashionable in Formula One these days. It's Italy's temple of speed where the legend of Ferrari went through its growing pains decades ago. It is also the home of Italy's superfan, the
tifoso, and the fastest track on the calendar. Michael Schumacher's lap record here is 254kmh (158mph), and the drivers need to shed 280kmh in less than two seconds as they brake from 360 to negotiate the first chicane at the end of the long, long pit straight.

If race tracks were women, this would be Sharon Stone mixed with Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer. A feisty blend of age, experience and panache. It's one of those venues that epitomises a great sport, and evokes the sort of hallowed memories that are becoming unfashionable in Formula One these days. It's Italy's temple of speed where the legend of Ferrari went through its growing pains decades ago. It is also the home of Italy's superfan, the tifoso, and the fastest track on the calendar. Michael Schumacher's lap record here is 254kmh (158mph), and the drivers need to shed 280kmh in less than two seconds as they brake from 360 to negotiate the first chicane at the end of the long, long pit straight.

Clearly, then, it is not the sort of place where you want the kind of explosive puncture that sent Schumacher into the wall during testing here last week. Coming so soon after the high-speed tyre failures that affected Jenson Button and Juan Pablo Montoya at Spa (not to mention Ralf Schumacher's puncture at Indianapolis that has kept him out of racing since June), it has made tyres the hot issue here.

Schumacher himself shrugged off his hefty accident, dismissing it as one of the risks of his calling. "I'm not worried about what happened here," he said, "but naturally I am worried about what happened in Spa. I believe, from the point of view of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, it is pretty clear what we would like to ask but it is nothing we would want to discuss publicly. In the end it is up to the Fia to take consequences [sic] and we will find out what they think about this."

In practice yesterday there was initial concern about another tyre failure when Antonio Pizzonia went off the track on the entry to the Parabolica corner, one of the fastest parts of the track where speeds reach 360kmh, but it transpired that his BMW-Williams had encountered a brake problem.

Later, however, the Fia president Max Mosley spelt out the governing body's concern about the effect small shards of carbon fibre that litter the track as a result of the sort of first-corner accidents that occurred in Belgium were having, and which he believes were directly responsible for most of the tyre problems there.

"We never attempt to regulate the tyre companies when they have failures," Mosley said. "The most we do is write to them expressing our concern. They always act responsibly, and they are entitled to say to us, should they wish, that the shards should not be on the circuit. We are taking steps to stop that and we have suggested to the teams that things such as suspension components should be steel rather than composite materials that produce such shards when the components are damaged in collisions. Changing the materials' specification would not advantage or disadvantage anyone.

"If there were to be a really serious safety problem with the tyres, however, we would have to go to a single supplier, who could then make the tyres bullet-proof. But so far the manufacturers have been responsible and we do not want to do that."

Most accept that while the tyre war between Bridgestone and Michelin has directly resulted in the jump in lap speeds that Mosley is determined to rein in, it has also thrown the sport a lifeline that has at times reduced other competitors' deficits to Ferrari. Last year in particular the season was electrifying as a result.

Yesterday the red cars were only second and third fastest, once again upstaged by Spa winner Kimi Raikkonen who took his McLaren-Mercedes to 1min 20.846sec compared to Rubens Barrichello's 1:20.899 and Schumacher's 1:21.080. Britain's Jenson Button was fourth fastest, right behind Schumacher on 1:21.124. It's early days however, and none of them were noticeably overwhelmed. Raikkonen complained of a lack of grip and Button said his lap was "pretty average", while Schumacher knew that his time in the morning's session (1:20.526) was really the fastest of all and that the track will be quicker still tomorrow.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried