Pirelli has released the findings of its investigation into the Spa tyre failures – and the Italian company is adamant that its products were not at fault.
Instead it says that the problems faced by Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg were down to external factors, or in other words debris.
At the same time Pirelli has not entirely backed down on Ferrari’s usage issue by stressing that Vettel’s long second stint at Spa left the tyres worn and more susceptible to damage from debris.
Pirelli’s conclusions were as follows: “The tests carried out by Pirelli on the tyres used at Spa have confirmed the absence of any structural problems. Pirelli has undertaken in-depth analysis on the materials and production processes used, utilising two different methods of tests and checks.
“Microscopic analysis, carried out on a large number of the tyres after the second free practice session, showed no signs of fatigue or integrity issues. The same result was confirmed for the tyres used during the race, which were cross-sectioned and analysed in Milan. Some of the tyres used in the race were subjected to a further laboratory fatigue test, passing all the assessments conclusively and confirming that there was no structural degradation or problem on-track.
“Since the start of 2015, 13,748 slick tyres have been used: including on especially severe tracks like Sepang, Barcelona and Silverstone. No problems have ever been discovered, underlining the fundamental solidity of the product.”
In the second part of its conclusion Pirelli underlined that external factors had caused the cuts in Belgium, while stressing that worn tyres were more vulnerable.
“The events of Spa can therefore be put down to external factors, linked with the prolonged use of the tyres on one of the most severe tracks of the championship.
“The external factors are demonstrated by a total of 63 cuts found in the tread of the Formula One tyres used over the course of the Spa weekend, following numerous incidents that took place during the support races before the Formula One Grand Prix. In the previous 15 events (10 races and five test sessions) an average of only 1.2 cuts per event were noted. All this indicates an anomalous amount of detritus on the track in Spa, with a consequent increased risk of encountering a foreign object.
“If even a small piece of debris – made of carbon or any other particularly sharp material – penetrates and cuts the various structural parts of a tyre (which is obviously subject to high-speed use, and more susceptible if used for a prolonged period) without penetrating the actual structure, this can cause a failure that is different to that found in the event of a normal puncture, which is characterised by a loss of tyre pressure. And the former was the type of event seen on Sebastian Vettel’s tyre at Spa.
“As for Nico Rosberg, in whose case the tyre usage was less, the tyre held up – as the footage clearly shows – and the failure was not instantaneous. For four corners previously, an element of the internal structure of the tyre was visible, coming out of the tread pattern. This highlighted the existence of the damage and the consequent start of the tyre’s attrition.
“Throughout the Spa weekend (including practice, qualifying and the race) cuts caused by debris were found on the tyres of other drivers, which damaged the construction but did not cause any failures.”
Pirelli concluded by noting that it has talked to the FIA about the issue of debris.
“At the end of qualifying on Saturday at Spa, following the exceptional number of cuts noted to the tyres, Pirelli pointed out the condition of the circuit to the FIA and asked for it to be cleaned, as well as for the teams to be told. The FIA reacted promptly in arranging for the track to be cleaned and advising the teams.
“Together with the FIA, Pirelli proposes a study to evaluate the way in which circuits can be cleaned most effectively.”
Meanwhile the FIA issued its own response to the Pirelli conclusions, noting “The FIA is willing to consider any safety recommendations made by the tyre supplier for the Italian GP and the remainder of the season.” It also added that Pirelli has decreed that Vettel’s tyres only had 30% of their tread left when he had the failure at Spa.
Nico Hulkenberg will stay with Force India for another two seasons, the team has confirmed.
The German had been linked with Haas – which potentially offered an eventual route into Ferrari – but he has decided to stay put.
“I’m very pleased to finalise and announce my plans for the future,” he said. “I know this team inside out and I feel at home here, so it made perfect sense to make a long-term commitment. The progress the team has shown over the last two years has really impressed me and gives me confidence for the future.
“It’s a great group of people who are hungry for success and want to keep improving year-on-year. I think we have the important things in place going forward and I want to continue growing with this team as we move even further up the grid.”
Team boss Vihay Mallya added: “I make no secret of being one of Nico’s biggest fans and so it’s fantastic to confirm him as our driver for the next couple of seasons. He has spent almost four years with us already and in that time we’ve seen him develop into one of the best racing drivers in the world. Nico has the speed, the technical knowledge and the maturity to help us achieve some great results in the years ahead. We will do everything we can to continue delivering a car to match his talent.”
Hulkenberg’s confirmation leaves Esteban Gutierrez, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kevin Magnussen as favourites for Haas drives.
Sebastian Vettel has broken his silence after the Belgian GP by underlining that he backed Ferrari’s one-stop strategy at Spa.
Vettel only spoke briefly to TV camera crews after the race, and not to print media, before dashing to the local airport – supposedly to beat an incoming storm. However, his TV comments revealed just how angry he was.
He has now reiterated that Ferrari didn’t take a risk by running a one-stopper and a long final stint.
In a statement in German on his website he said: “Just to make it clear, the team and I jointly decided on this strategy. I stand behind the team and the team is behind me. That makes us a team. The strategy was at no time risky. The team is not to blame.”
Pirelli has responded to Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure at Spa by saying that it asked two years ago for a limit on the number of laps a driver could run on each type of tyre.
In a statement Pirelli says that its request “was not listened to.” The statement would appear to be an aggressive response to criticisms from Vettel and others today. Pirelli boss Paul Hembery has already made it clear that it believes that the German’s failure was due to wear, and that Ferrari pushed the limits in terms of mileage.
The statement said: “In November 2013, Pirelli requested that there should be rules to govern the maximum number of laps that can be driven on the same set of tyres, among other parameters to do with correct tyre usage. This request was not accepted.
“The proposal put forward a maximum distance equivalent to 50% of the grand prix distance for the prime tyre and 30% for the option. These conditions, if applied today at Spa, would have limited the maximum number of laps on the medium compound to 22.”
Pirelli made no other comment on today’s race. It remains to be seen how the FIA reacts to the statement which would appear to be aimed at the governing body and the teams, who between them set the agenda for the F1 rules.
Pirelli motor sport boss Paul Hembery is adamant that Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure in the Belgian GP was a result of wear after Ferrari ran a single-stop stop strategy.
Ferrari has denied that it took any risks by trying to run 29 laps from Vettel’s lap 14 stop to the flag, but Hembery said it the issue was clear.
“Rosberg was an external cut, this was pure wear,” he said. “If you look at the images, the carcass was still intact so it was a wear issue, the second one on Friday was a cut.
“Actually it is the front tyre that gets hurt the most, that is the one you tend to be worried about here. Friday was a cut, and in this case it was wear. The tyre was finished.”
Hembery said Pirelli didn’t expect teams to run such a long stint.
“He did 28 laps. It is more we thought the strategy was going to be based on two or three stops, which you saw the majority did. They felt clearly that they could make it work on a one-stop and the wear life was indicated at 40 laps – and race conditions can change that. Some factors involved in racing mean that is not precise data. Other teams were clearly taking a different direction.
Regarding Vettel’s reaction he said: “You can always understand a drivers’ reaction when they get hot out of the car. I am not going to say anything negative about that. With time you have a chat, but that is normal.
He added: “It is perfectly easy to say at the end of the race with hindsight. If the race had been one lap less he would have been on the podium and said what a genius move! That is tough.”
Sebastian Vettel was keen to speak his mind when he faced TV cameras just a few minutes after a spectacular tyre failure robbed him of third place at Spa.
Vettel retired less than two laps from the flag after suffering a failure of the right rear, as experienced by Nico Rosberg on Friday.
The German denied that he and Ferrari had pushed the Pirellis too hard by trying to get from lap 14 to the finish at lap 43.
“How many laps I was missing, not many?,” he said. “Things like that are not allowed to happen, full stop. If it happened 200 metres earlier, I’m not standing here now, I’m with 300 [km/h] stuck in Eau Rouge. I don’t know what else needs to happen.
“I tell you what is upsetting, one thing is the result. This is racing. For sure we deserved to finish on the podium. The other thing as I said is if this happens earlier… I think it’s a sort of theme that’s going around, nobody’s mentioning, but it’s unacceptable.”
Vettel talked to the FIA about tyres in Friday afternoon’s drivers’ briefing, soon after the Rosberg failure. Asked if his view was taken seriously he said: “I think it was. But what’s the answer? Same as every time, there was a cut, debris, maybe something wrong with the bodywork, the driver went wide. Bullshit. If Nico tells us that he didn’t go off the track, he didn’t go off the track. Same with me, I didn’t go off the track, it’s just out of the blue, the tyre explodes. As I said if this happens earlier, then #####.”
Vettel said that the drivers should talk about the issue.
“I think we need to speak to each other. It’s probably not as bad as it was in Silverstone some years ago, but it’s not acceptable.”