Fears of further Formula 1 tire drama and a driver boycott faded rapidly after Friday practice for the German Grand Prix.
Tensions reached at an all-time high on Thursday night when the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association threatened a mass withdrawal if tire failures continued. But while F1 will remain on edge until after the chequered flag on Sunday, the combination of the new Kevlar belt, strict limits imposed on pressures and camber, plus a ban on tire swapping and the lower demands of the Nurburgring circuit did as Pirelli promised, with no problems in practice.
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery, who has been at the eye of the storm since Silverstone, certainly appeared more relaxed with a trouble-free day behind him.
“You wouldn’t expect problems at this type of circuit,” he said, when asked about how much better the situation now felt. “Tensions are always high in these situations, especially when there are only a few days between events. But we’ve had no problems today.”
F1 drivers, who had been outspoken in Thursday night’s GPDA meeting with Pirelli and the FIA, were also much calmer as it became clear that the tire focus was now on strategy not safety.
“It was not a threat,” said world champion Sebastian Vettel, a GPDA director, about the body’s stance. “I think we expressed that we trust Pirelli and it was a good day today, but we also expressed that should there be an incident, then we should think about it. Fortunately nothing happened today and the tires were fine.”
Romain Grosjean added: “It’s nice to see that we had no problems here with tires. There were big marbles but it’s not as bad as before with three kilograms of tires flying.
“We were positive in that we thought Pirelli would have made a change. We are very happy Pirelli made a change to make it safe.”
Even Sergio Perez, one of the most outspoken men on safety matters after suffering two tire failures at Silverstone, was pleased with how the situation had panned out.
“The tire feels quite similar, and the degradation is as expected, so nothing changed apart from the safety,” he said. “I had a very bad flat spot, and I thought it was going to explode at some point, but the tire hung on, so that is positive.”
Worries that the tire adjustments would affect the competitive order also eased. Paul di Resta’s Force India team had been among those fearing this, but he felt the change had little impact on performance.
“I don’t think there’s much difference in the tires,” he said. “That’s definitely not why we are where we are today.
“There is quite a big spread — four teams are a big step up the road, McLaren seem to be closer to us, so it’s probably just our car not suiting the conditions and the track layout at the moment.”