The Rundown

Shocks of the Year #7: The literally explosive British Grand Prix

This year, sport has been rocked by a string of incredible happenings across all sports.

The Rundown has picked out the biggest seven stories among the multitude of scandals, surprises, outrages, revelations and horrors that we've seen in 2013, and will be counting them down between Christmas and New Year.

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Shock number #7: The literally explosive British Grand Prix

The British Grand Prix was by far the most dramatic race of the Formula 1 season. Not because of drivers' daring overtaking moves, exciting wheel-to-wheel racing, or even the supposed "excitement" of record-speed pit stops.

No, none of that. It was because we had no idea whose tyres were going to explode next.

It all started with the almost unbelievable sight of Britain's Lewis Hamilton starting from pole position and leading his home Grand Prix, only to have having his hopes literally blown up as one of his rear tyres exploded.

From then on, we couldn't tear eyes off the screen: a blow-out earlier in the race weekend had been rather unconvincingly explained away as a result of debris on the track, but Hamilton's woes showed that there was obviously more to it.

And when Felipe Massa, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez all suffered similar fates, the world of F1 appeared to be on the edge of a precipice of excitement and pure danger. The FIA race director Charlie Whiting later conceded that one more blow-out would almost certainly have forced organisers to red flag the race.

That didn't happen, however: swiftly barked instructions to the drivers to take it easy on the fast left-hand section making up turns four and five seemed to iron out the problems, though Perez's blow-out came late on despite that collective easing off.

And there was, amazingly, no harm done: despite speeds of around 140mph for the blow-outs, nobody was hurt - and Hamilton even managed to creep back to the pits and climb back up to fourth place.

With the benefit of hindsight, it almost seems plausible to imagine that it might have been a fantastically crackpot idea from Bernie Ecclestone to spice up the racing. After all, Ecclestone once made the apparently genuine suggestion that tracks could be sprayed with water to make artificial wet races, so would it really be so far-fetched to imagine a sort of Running Man-meets-Hunger Games-meets-motor racing element to one of the highest-profile races of the year? Had the tyres somehow been hobbled? Obviously not - but whatever the cause, F1 suddenly felt wild and unpredictable in a way which it has seldom done for a generation.

Yet ironically, the problems which brought the British Grand Prix to life snuffed the life out of the remainder of the season.

Pirelli had been briefed before the season to provide the teams with tyres which would wear quickly in order to make things more exciting. But their 2013 design had evidently filled this brief by compromising safety, and the FIA, the teams and the rubber barons had no choice but to revert to tyres based on the previous year's design.

Our F1 blogger Will Gray posted a piece at the time speculating that Red Bull could end up running away with the title thanks to the changes.

That proved chillingly prophetic. A return to the old tyres gave the Red Bulls a clear performance advantage, estimated at a game-changing 0.40 per cent by one blogger. That equates to almost half a second a lap at most races.

The end result certainly bore out that analysis. Having won just three of the first eight races of the season up to and including Britain, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel cruised to essentially uncontested victories in 10 of the next 11 races of the season.

And the fact that such a huge change in the teams fortunes didn't cause bigger ripple in the sport is perhaps the most shocking element of the whole story.

Toby Keel