Italian GP: Drivers told to keep worries over Pirelli tyres private

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer at Monza
Bernie Ecclestone (left) and Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel (right) was one of the drivers to suffer a blowout in Belgium
Italian Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Monza Dates: 4-6 September
Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV. Full details here

Leading Formula 1 drivers have been asked to stop criticising tyre supplier Pirelli, at a meeting with the sport's boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel were told not to make their concerns public.

Ecclestone said: "If any one of them has got problems, they should talk to the people making the problems."

Inside F1: Closed cockpits and tyre wear debated at Monza

Pirelli F1 boss Paul Hembery said the drivers should make their comments "in the right environment".

The move follows two high-speed blow-outs at the last race in Belgium.

Ferrari driver Vettel was heavily critical of Pirelli after the Belgian race, in which he suffered a tyre failure at 200mph shortly after the high-speed Eau Rouge swerves with two laps to go.

Rosberg, who is Hamilton's team-mate at Mercedes, had a similar failure in practice at the Spa-Francorchamps track.

Before this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton had called Pirelli's decision to impose stricter operating guidelines on tyres "a disaster", before the limits were eased on Friday morning.

Paul Hembery of Pirelli
Pirelli Motorsport director Paul Hembery faced criticism after the Belgian Grand Prix

McLaren's Alonso had said the need to introduce the guidelines, which imposed higher tyre pressures on precautionary grounds, was "strange" in a high-tech sport such as F1.

Hembery said the drivers should express any concerns "in their team and with us. They should express their opinions in the right manner."

Vettel described the meeting as "useful" but said he could say "nothing more".

Rosberg said the meeting was "very constructive", but added: "I am not going to say anything. It is not a good idea."

Asked whether he was happy with the relationship between the drivers and Pirelli, the German said: "I am pleased with the effort that has gone in since Spa to try to understand it and to put in place all the different measures to further improve safety."

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Pirelli chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera, Hembery, and leading team bosses Christian Horner, Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda and Maurizio Arrivebene, of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari were also at the meeting.

Ecclestone hinted after the meeting that Pirelli would remain as F1's supplier.

The company's current contract expires at the end of 2016 and it is in competition with Michelin for the new three-year deal starting in 2017.

Michelin has stated that it will only supply tyres if it can produce rubber on which drivers can push hard all race, which is contrary to Ecclestone's desire for tyres that degrade quickly to promote more pit stops.

The decision will be made by Ecclestone, after both companies were approved by governing body the FIA on technical and sporting grounds.

"We're not going to let them go; they're doing a good job," Ecclestone said.

"I said to them a long time ago I don't want a tyre that's going to last the whole race.

"They do the very best they can with what they've been asked to do."

But Hembery said that Pirelli would not remain in the sport if it was not allowed to do proper testing with the drivers - and said the company wanted the top drivers to be involved in that testing.

"We can't carry on in the sport if we can't do our work," he said.

Nico Rosberg's car
Rosberg was lucky not to hit the barriers at speed after his tyre failure in Belgium

Mercedes dominant

Mercedes dominated practice on Friday, with Hamilton leading Rosberg. Vettel, who was third fastest, admitted: "They are very strong and they do look very, very quick. It is no surprise.

"If they are not on the front row it would be a surprise, but we like surprises so we do our utmost to turn things around."

Hamilton said he expected the battle with Rosberg to be "close".

Rosberg, who was 0.021 seconds slower than Hamilton in second practice, said afterwards: "It's not gone my way so far but Saturday is another shot and it was very close today so for sure there is a good opportunity tomorrow."

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