Hamilton races to 80th podium win amidst tyre concerns

The defending champion can now claim the same number of podium wins as the late Ayrton Senna. Hamilton finished two seconds ahead of teammate, Nico Rosberg, at the Belgian GP, giving Mercedes their seventh 1-2 finish this season.

Rosberg had a rough weekend, suffering a tyre failure during Friday practice, and starting off poorly on Sunday. He dropped from second to fourth before regaining second. “I completely messed up the start,” Rosberg admitted. “Then I fought my way through and gave it everything, we were both really on the edge all the time. Lewis did a great job and deserved the win.

Over the weekend, several tyre incidents have gotten the racing drivers riled up, and for a very good reason – tyre failure at high speeds is exceedingly dangerous. During Friday practice, Rosberg’s right rear tyre failed while he was doing 190mph at one of the most dangerous portion of one of the most challenging tracks of the series – the flat-out Blanchimont left-hander. In his own words, Rosberg was “lucky” to not hit the wall.

The drivers raised their concerns with F1 director Charlie Whiting in their briefing later that afternoon but Pirelli announced, after extensive investigations, that no structural problems on Rosberg’s tyre or any others could be found, though they could not explain what had caused the failure. Nonetheless, the drivers and teams were extremely nervous and wary during the weekend, and then Sebastian Vettel’s tyre gave out on the penultimate lap of the race.

On Lap 32, Ferrari had radioed Vettel informing him that the tires looked “pretty good to go to the end.” But as Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was putting pressure on him and just after the famous Eau Rouge corner, his rear right tyre blew out. A furious Vettel, after the race, said, “These things are not allowed to happen. If it happens 200m earlier, I’m not standing here now.”

“It was a bit scary being behind,” Grosjean said.

Not since the 2013 British GP has there been repeated tyre problems; during that weekend, six tyre failures drew considerable criticism towards Pirelli. Since then, the Italian tyre manufacturer had made drastic changes but the unease never quite went away.

image: The Sun

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