F1’s sole tyre manufacturer may face an embarrassing public apology ahead of this race in Monza, having mis-diagnosed the cause of Sebastian Vettel’s tyre failure during the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Telegraph has reported that it believes a full investigation following Vettel’s blowout on the Kemmel Straight is expected to reveal that a cut to the tyre caused by debris or one of the circuit’s curbs to be the culprit for the incident.
This would contradict Pirelli’s theory with the Italian manufacturing having blamed Ferrari’s ‘risky’ strategy as the cause in the immediate aftermath of the incident. As such, The Telegraph expects Pirelli to backtrack and explain that wear was simply a contributing factor.
Laying the rubber for F1’s future
While Pirelli is the sport’s incumbent sole tyre manufacturer, the Italian manufacturer faces stiff competition from Michelin, who has also placed a bid to become the sole rubber provider from 2017-2020.
Pirelli’s current situation is something of a PR nightmare for Paul Hembery, the company’s Motorsport Director.
The potential public climb-down will not reflect well on the Italian company’s bid and comes at a time when fans have called for tyres that support harder, faster racing. Michelin have even made this their manifesto should they win the bid, promising to allow drivers to “push to the max“.
Pirelli also faces a major backlash from drivers at the Italian Grand Prix. Following Vettel and Rosberg’s high-speed, high-profile blowouts, many drivers have been vocal about having little faith in the safety of the current generation of tyres. This culminated in Vettel angrily confronting Hembery after the race in Spa-Francochamps, accusing him of risking his life.
This matter comes at a time when the safety of all open-wheel, open-cockpit cars in under increasing scrutiny from drivers, fans and the media alike. Pirelli must be seen to act with contrition and clearly set out how it will avoid these issues in future – safety and quality is of course paramount to the tyre manufacturer and it must be seen to be proactive to avoid further PR issues.