A Pirelli automobile tire, produced by Pirelli & C. SpA, March 2013 (Photo: Getty Images)

returns as the official tire of F1 in 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)

Former F1 driver has defended the sport’s official tire supplier Pirelli, after the latest round of negativity surrounding the Italian marque.

After its tumultuous 2013 season, including a barrage of criticism and questions about the quality of its tires, Mercedes’ suffered a high-speed blowout during testing of a 2014 prototype recently in Bahrain.

The news triggered another round of speculation about Pirelli’s place in F1, moving the Milan company to officially declare that the “safety” of its tires for 2014 “is not in question.”

But former Ferrari and Sauber driver Salo said the latest criticism was not justified.

“The drivers were testing prototype tires,” he told the Finnish broadcaster MTV3. “They knew what they were doing.

“It’s right that they fall apart in the testing rather than in the Grands Prix,” added Salo.