There has been a lot of discussion about whether McLaren made the right decision to not bring Kimi Raikkonen in for a tyre change towards the end of the European Grand Prix, but as far as the Finn is concerned staying out was the only option.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether McLaren made the right decision to not bring Kimi Raikkonen in for a tyre change towards the end of the European Grand Prix, but as far as the Finn is concerned staying out was the only option. Raikkonen flat-spotted a tyre and the resulting vibrations eventually caused the front suspension to fail on the last lap.
McLaren could have called him in for a tyre change but it would have lost the near-certain win, which the team and Raikkonen decided was not an option. "There was no point stopping," Raikkonen told the BBC.
"We wanted to try to win the race and if the suspension hadn't given up I think we could have. It is disappointing but what can you do? We gave our best. You would think it would last one lap more because it had lasted so long, but this time it didn't."
Had McLaren bought Raikkonen in there was also the chance that they could have been penalized by the FIA. The regulations state that a punctured or damaged tyre may be changed for safety reasons without penalty but there's no clear rule about the precise nature of the damage.
"You don't know how bad the tyre needs to be before you are allowed to change it," said Raikkonen. "As well, even if we had changed it maybe they would have said it is not bad enough so we penalise you."
"Even then we would have lost the first place if we would have come in so we took the gamble and unfortunately it didn't pay off. But we needed to score more points than (Fernando) Alonso so we didn't see any reason to try to come third and get six points because that is not our aim."
FIA president Max Mosley wrote to the teams and the tyre manufacturers after the European GP to remind them of their safety responsibilities. He said that if there were any doubts about the safety of a car it should be bought into the pits and checked or, if necessary, retired from the race. But the fact remains that the teams and drivers are in competition and chances will be taken.
There are concerns that the tyre rule has increased the danger as drivers would rather stay out on track with less than optimal rubber than risk losing points by stopping for a tyre change, as Raikkonen did. Certainly with the old rules the danger was less as tyres were routinely changed in pit stops.
Reportedly the FIA has said that a flat-spotted tyre may be changed if it's a safety issue, but is now concerned that drivers may deliberately flat-spot tyres in order to have a change without penalty. There seems to be no resolution to the issue unless there is a rethink, or at least a clarification of the regulations.