Formula One Belgian GP: Pirelli or Ferrari, Who Is to Blame?

Pirelli F1 Boss, Paul Hembery
Pirelli F1 Boss, Paul Hembery

The 2015 Belgian Grand Prix was one of the most entertaining races to follow a summer break in recent memory. Mercedes proved they didn’t spend their time slacking when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took a one-two finish on the podium. The whole weekend was concerning for Pirelli when Nico’s front tire shredded during practice. Later in the weekend another incident cost Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel his third place podium finish on lap 43 when his tire exploded just after Eau Rouge. Pirelli denies their tires were to blame.

The tire burst could have cost Vettel more than just a podium had it happened just a few hundred feet before the turn named Kemmel. Vettel claims the incident “unacceptable” as it understandably potentially put his life at risk. Pirelli has since claimed the two tire issues were not related in any way whatsoever. What really has the situation under scrutiny is Pirelli saying they have no fault at all. They may be right given the high speed low down-force configurations of the cars.

When Nico Rosberg had a sliced tire in practice, Pirelli blamed it on an “external source”. This could be the case as Spa is 4.3 miles in distance. Anything could have been overlooked that might have caused the puncture including track debris. What about Ferrari? Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery says he was surprised at their strategy of having a one-stop plan. Vettel pit on lap 14, switching from the soft compound to the medium compound. A one-stop strategy is risky at a circuit with such a long distance with 20 turns. The medium compound is nowhere as durable as the hard compound and obviously firmer than the soft compound, so why did Ferrari have one stop with ¾ left of the race?

On Board cameras showed a trail of smoke just moments before Rosberg's tire exploded.
On Board cameras showed a trail of smoke just moments before Rosberg’s tire exploded.

Sebastian Vettel may have overused his tires. I keep thinking that is the most plausable. Vettel started the race in ninth position and crawled his way up to third on the last lap of the race. It’s easy to point out he was pushing the rubber, but what about that curb on the exit of Eau Rouge? Romain Grosjean was chasing down the Ferrari when they both jumped the curb. The drivers turn left, ending the long swooping turn. Could the curb puncture the tire? After all it seemed as if both of his rear tires hit the curbing.

Vettel is outraged at how Pirelli responded to the situation: “We deserved to finish on the podium but that’s racing; a different thing though is not to finish the race because of what happened.” Talks have already began for what lies ahead next weekend at Monza. Nico Rosberg has already said he has concerns for the tires. The driver suggested that Pirelli should discuss solutions. First, Pirelli wants to clear things up with Ferrari at their home race in Italy.

As story after story appears, I have to say I am with Pirelli’s explanation. A tear in Nico’s tire is likely to happen with such a large circuit. A lot of debris can be overlooked. It doesn’t take much to damage a tire, especially a soft one. As for Sebastian Vettel’s case, Ferrari’s one stop strategy was a mistake. No team can be totally confident with their strategy, even Mercedes.

We will never know who to point fingers at if both sides of the story are adamant in their official positions.

On to Monza.

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