A furious Sebastian Vettel faced possible post-race trouble with the stewards at Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix after the Ferrari driver raged about Pirelli’s ‘unacceptable’ tyres — and refused to be weighed at the end of the race.
The 28-year-old four-time world champion was the victim of a spectacular high-speed tyre failure on the penultimate lap as he fought to retain third place under pressure from chasing Frenchman Romain Grosjean in a Lotus.
In his 150th race and in Ferrari’s 900th, the German driver was unable to finish and, venting his frustration, launched into a tirade littered with swear words during a series of media interviews afterwards. Defending two-time world champion Briton Lewis Hamilton won the race ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and nearest title rival German Nico Rosberg to extend his championship lead to 28 points.
“Things like that are not allowed to happen,” he said. “If it happened 200 metres earlier, I’m not standing here now… I’d be stuck in Eau Rouge. “I don’t know what else needs to happen. I tell you what’s upsetting. What’s upsetting, for one thing, is the result. We deserved to finish on the podium. “The other thing, like I said, if this happens earlier… it’s a theme that keeps coming around, that nobody is mentioning, but is unacceptable.” Vettel’s right rear tyre failed on the Kemmel Straight and he was able to keep his car away from the barriers and climb out unhurt.
He and Ferrari were trying to make use of a one-stop strategy in a 43-laps race in which all of his rivals made two pit-stops. Both Hamilton and Rosberg used three sets of tyres, changing from ‘softs’ to ‘mediums’ and then back again. Vettel made one stop, on lap 14, to switch from softs to mediums. Rosberg had been the victim of a similar high-speed tyre explosion during second free practice on Friday afternoon when he also, and fortunately, was able to walk away unhurt. Rosberg said on Saturday he remained concerned about his experience and the lack of a proper detailed explanation. Pirelli had launched an overnight investigation and said Saturday that they were satisfied with the structural integrity of their tyres. They blamed the puncture on an external foreign object.
Vettel was scathing about this. “What was the answer? The same as every time: ‘yeah, well there was a cut, debris, there might be something wrong with the bodywork, the driver went wide’,” said Vettel.
“If Nico tells us he didn’t go off the track, then he didn’t go off the track. Why should he lie to us? It’s the same with me, I didn’t go off the track, just out of the blue the tyre explodes. “If this happened earlier then I’m f****d. It’s probably not as bad as it was at Silverstone some years ago, but it’s not acceptable.
“The quality of the tyres is miserable. It has been like this for years. That cannot be. I do not know what we are waiting for. “Pirelli said the tyres would last 40 laps and I think we had close to 30. Something like this cannot happen. “You feel ripped off. We must ensure that we learn from that. Soon one of us bangs into the wall and then we stand there and say ‘Oh, maybe we should have…’“ As Vettel fumed, the FIA’s Technical Delegate Jo Bauer issed a brief statement that confirmed Vettel “did not come for weighing when asked to do so.” This, Bauer said, was not in compliance with the sporting regulations, adding that he was referring the matter to the stewards.