Bigger Blow For Pirelli…?


A blow-out for Sebastian Vettel at the Belgian GP put paid to his chances of a podium finish but it may be a bigger blow to Pirelli's tender to stay on as Formula 1's sole tyre supplier in 2017.

Pirelli are up against Michelin to be named as Formula 1's sole supplier when the Italian tyre manufacturer's current deal expires at the end of 2016. With a decision, which rests in the hands of Bernie Ecclestone after the FIA gave both the green light, looming the last thing the company needed is negative headlines. But that's exactly what they were hit with in the wake of the Belgian Grand Prix.

An angry and rather sweary Sebastian Vettel slatted Pirelli after his one-stop strategy – and his podium bid – came to naught when his right-rear exploded. The Ferrari driver called it "unacceptable" and "upsetting", adding that if it "happened 200 metres earlier I wouldn't be standing here now."

Vettel's blow-out was the weekend's second failure as on Friday Nico Rosberg was pitched into a high-speed and rather hairy slide when the right-rear on his W06 let go. He was much calmer about the situation, which Pirelli insisted was caused by an "external cut", but that could have more to do with the timing of his incident.

Days later the tyre drama continues to make headlines with the Grand Prix Drivers' Association's chairman Alex Wurz having his say. According to the former F1 driver, "tyre's performance window can and should not be a tyre delamination in the form of an explosion."

And right he is but Pirelli can't shoulder all the blame.

For last Sunday's race Vettel and Ferrari stepped into the unknown. While Friday afternoon's second practice is usually used to put in a lap after lap, testing the limits of the tyres, FP2 was twice halted for red flags.

That meant none of the teams had a clear picture of what to expect but despite that the majority felt it would be a two-stop race while others were even leaning towards a third. Yet Ferrari still tried to cover 43 laps, plus two installation laps, on one stop.

They gambled. They lost.

Now it remains to be seen whether Pirelli, dogged by negative headlines for the last week, will be the biggest losers as Ecclestone weighs up the pros and cons of the Italian supplier versus Michelin.

Michelle Foster