PARIS (AP) — Pirelli secured a new three-year contract with motor sport’s governing body on Thursday to remain Formula One’s sole tire supplier, a welcome relief for the Italian manufacturer following an extremely difficult season.
Last July, F1 teams held in-season testing sessions at Silverstone to assess new tires provided by Pirelli after several blowouts on the same circuit at the British Grand Prix in June prompted a furious response from drivers and even a boycott threat the following week.
Even before Silverstone, there were repeated problems — with the Spanish GP in May turning into a pit-stop procession as tires shredded and drivers made up to four stops each.
“Following a decision by the World Motor Sport Council confirming Pirelli’s status as the single supplier of tires to the FIA Formula One World Championship, Pirelli and the FIA have renewed their Formula One tire supply contract,” Pirelli said in a statement Thursday. “The duration of the agreement is for three years, starting from the 2014 season.”
This decision looked unlikely a few months ago when Pirelli was in an F1 crisis.
At the British GP, the tires exploded on four cars, including those of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa. Drivers then threatened to withdraw from the German Grand Prix if there were more blowouts. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was among the most vehement critics as drivers demanded a quick improvement amid fears for their safety.
Pirelli eventually buckled under intense pressure to modify its tires.
Following its own investigation, Pirelli decided that from the Hungarian GP in late July until the end of the season it would revert to the 2012 tires combined with the compounds from this past season. After that, the problems all but disappeared.
Toward the end of the season, Pirelli still had not secured a new deal, prompting speculation that another supplier could step in.
The FIA and Pirelli are working to improve safety and performance levels in F1.
Starting next season, one of the 12 days of official pre-season testing will be dedicated exclusively to wet tire testing.
Each team will dedicate one of their eight days of in-season testing exclusively to tire testing in tandem with Pirelli’s engineers.