Sebastian Vettel's Belgian Grand Prix Ended With A [Tire] Bang

Ferrari tried a single-pit-stop strategy with Sebastian Vettel’s car for the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix today that didn’t ultimately work out, as you can see. One of Vettel’s Pirellis popped in spectacular fashion on the next to last lap.

Vettel was running in third as he was fending off Lotus’s Romain Grosjean, but his right rear tire exploded going down the Kemmel Straight.

The BBC reports that he did 27 laps on the tire, longer than anyone had attempted in practice.

Vettel was steaming mad after the incident, telling the BBC, “Things like that are not allowed to happen, full stop. If it happened two hundred meters earlier, I’m not standing here now. [I’d be] stuck in Eau Rouge. I don’t know what else needs to happen.”

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Vettel was adamant that not only could he have been injured, but that the poor quality of the tires cost him a podium finish that he felt like he had earned.

“I’ll tell you what is upsetting,” he continued to the BBC. “Upsetting is that one thing is the result. You know, this is racing, for sure, we deserved to finish on the podium, but the other thing, as I said, if this happened earlier, then you know.

“I think [tires are] a sort of theme that keeps going around, that nobody’s mentioning, but is unacceptable,” Vettel concluded.

According to the BBC, Vettel had stated his concerns in a driver’s meeting earlier in the week after Nico Rosberg’s blow-out in Free Practice 2. After having his own blow-out, Vettel was frustrated with Pirelli’s response, telling the BBC:

What was the answer? The same as every time: “Yeah, well there was a cut, debris, there may be something wrong with the bodywork, the driver went wide.” [expletive censored], if Nico tells us he didn’t go off the track, then he didn’t go off the track. I mean, why should he lie to us?

It’s the same with me, I didn’t go off the track, it’s just out of the blue the tire explodes. As I said—as I said, if this happens earlier, then [expletive censored].

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Rosberg was similarly annoyed with Pirelli after his blow-out in practice, telling the BBC, ”The problem is that we don’t really understand it. There are theories, but no real evidence.”

While Vettel admitted to the BBC that tires have improved since 2013’s asplodin’ spectacle at Silverstone, he still feels as if this many blow-outs is wholly unacceptable.

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Per F1 journalist Adam Cooper, Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene claimed that the team wasn’t taking a risk with Vettel’s long second stint, but declined to comment further on the blow-out.

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Sebastian Vettel ultimately finished twelfth at the Belgian Grand Prix. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton sailed on through to a commanding win, with teammate Nico Rosberg taking second place. A bit further behind the lead pair, Romain Grosjean took third place on the podium. Full results can be found here.

UPDATE: Pirelli expected teams to make this a two-stop race. “We felt it was a two-stop race and some tried for a three-stop,” said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery to the BBC. “Sometimes you try something different and if it delivers exceptional results, you’re a genius.”

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Hembery couldn’t criticize Vettel for being angry, though, given his result.

Rosberg agreed with Vettel’s frustrated remarks in his own comments to the BBC:

It was pretty scary again. A couple of metres earlier he has a big off. He was lucky just like I was, he didn’t hit anything but it needs to be sorted out.

Somehow we need to make it safer, somehow we need to see the tire failing earlier. If they are not able to completely solve the problem in the next couple of weeks - Monza is high speed again - we need to have something in place for that.

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Meanwhile, Vettel ran into another problem at Spa: he didn’t weigh in after the race.

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Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.

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DISCUSSION

repsolhonda
Repsol Honda

I know it’s easy to blame the FIA for this, but this is more about shared culpability than anything. The FIA has their role, but so does FOM for that matter, as well as Pirelli, and the fans. The fans bit might surprise some, but I believe so much of what we have is an outgrowth of casual fans whining endlessly for years about how Formula 1 should always be unpredictable and should not be processional, even though the entire history of grand prix racing was processional.

Pirelli gets the bulk of the blame, because no self-respecting tire manufacturer would ever have resorted to building racing slicks of a questionable construction all to try and spice up “the show”. Every tire manufacturer has had their shortcomings at one time or another whether it was back in the days of Goodyear, Bridgestone, and Michelin. However, none of those companies knowingly supplied a subpar tire, because let’s be real, the Pirelli tires are subpar product. They certainly are not the result of engineering prowess, but the result of a company so desperate for PR, they will do nearly anything asked of them, even if it has a negative outcome.

It’s funny that they do this to gain exposure, because the result it has for me personally, is that I will never buy a Pirelli tire ever because of how they chose to conduct themselves in Formula 1 this go around. At least circa 1991, they were trying to build a genuinely good tire when they were competing against Goodyear, even if the results were not really there.

F1 has no one to blame but themselves in the long run as they ceased to conduct themselves in anything resembling a sporting manner. Just imagine if those curbs were not taken out and Vettel suffered the blowout in Eau Rouge, and hit those curbs? That might’ve rivaled Ricardo Zonta in the BAR in 1999. Luckily nothing happened, but Vettel has every right to be pissed about what happened. The fans should want Michelin to get that tire contract because Pirelli is an absolute joke, and Michelin will pull their full effort into producing a quality racing tire.

tl;dr: If Paul Hembrey somehow read this post, your product sucks, and I will never allow a Pirelli tire on any of my vehicles.