Sebastian Vettel voiced his concerns after the two high-speed tyre blowouts in Baku left him wondering if it was about to happen to anyone else.
Vettel’s Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen both had high-speed incidents when their left rear tyres failed on the 2.2-kilometre main straight in Azerbaijan – with the two drivers careering into the wall at speeds approaching 200mph.
Pirelli initially blamed the incidents on potential debris on track, but Verstappen pointed the finger at the tyre manufacturer by calling his accident “life-threatening”, particularly as if his car had gone the other way he would have been hurtling towards the wall at the entry to the pit lane at full speed.
Stroll, meanwhile, had started on the hard compound tyre, which Pirelli said before the race would have been able to complete 40 laps of the demanding Baku City Circuit before fully wearing out – but the Canadian’s tyre blew out on lap 31.
The tyre manufacturer took their softest possible compounds to Azerbaijan – the same tyres as used in Monaco and a step softer than the previous visit to Baku in 2019, and four-time former World Champion Vettel said the accident caught his team completely off-guard.
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“I didn’t know what happened,” Vettel said to reporters after the race. “Obviously I saw that [Stroll] lost the car very late in the straight, so I thought maybe first he clipped the wall outside of Turn 19, but then I looked the next lap and there was not a scratch, so that would have been very unusual. But I couldn’t explain why he would crash so late in the straight.
“And then the team told me he’s fine. It was strange. Obviously I was on the safer side because my tyres were fresher than everyone else’s but when Max had the same issue, it was quite clear that… who’s next? That sort of thing.”
With Verstappen’s crash following around 15 laps later, concerns quickly heightened as to whether other cars would be able to make it to the end of the race on their tyres at that moment.
The red flag after the Dutchman’s accident allowed teams to change their rubber for the final two-lap dash to the line, easing any worries of further tyre failures.
Vettel called for an investigation into the exact circumstances behind both crashes, which could have potentially had much worse consequences than they did in Baku.
“I don’t know why but this is not supposed to happen, so I think there needs to be a bit of an investigation because it’s probably the worst place of the year you want to have this,” he stated.
“It could go massively wrong if you get it wrong so close to also to pit entry, to the wall there. We are doing well over 300kph.
“I was a bit concerned, but then with the red flag I knew we’re all fitting different tyres and it should be fine.”
After earning his first podium finish for his new team and a second consecutive Driver of the Day award in Baku, Vettel said he was “over the moon” to be back among the top three in a race – but will still be wanting answers after those two high-speed accidents.