Sebastian Vettel appears to have backtracked slightly on his post-Spa rant over tyres, but remains cautious about the outcome of Pirelli's investigation into the failure cost him a shot at the Belgian Grand Prix podium.
An official statement from the tyre supplier, issued shortly before Vettel – and fellow sufferer Nico Rosberg – appeared in the FIA's Thursday press conference, blamed a combination of issues for the Ferrari failure, but ruled out structural problems with the tyre itself.
Instead, Pirelli claimed that the 'combined effect' of debris on the track and the prolonged tyre usage by Ferrari had been at fault, with the sport's governing body, the FIA, adding that the tread thickness on Vettel's rear tyres was approximately 30 per cent at the time of the failure, making them more susceptible to damage from debris that may have been on track.
It was unclear whether Vettel had seen the detailed release
when asked for a more considered view of what happened in Belgium, but the German appeared more prepared to let Pirelli do its job ahead of this weekend's race in Monza.
“First of all, I think there was a lot of stuff explained or written that I think was not correct, the way that it was expressed – I think it was very clear what I said,” he started, suggesting he had been misquoted, despite his rant coming on live television, “The most important point, however, is that we have been looking into the reasons behind the issue very closely and Pirelli has been supportive and very open in the discussions. They handled it with extreme care and I think things are going the right way.
“I think it has been very professional in the way it was handled – it was taken very seriously and obviously our target is to improve the situation. If you look at the cars, they are very quick, but very safe - surely safer than they were 30 years ago. But there is still room for making them safer. You will have accidents and, for sure, things will happen, so it's a one-way street – you want to keep making progress and, more important than any press release, is the feeling that I got when I spoke to the engineers and spoke to Pirelli.”
Asked whether Ferrari had listened to the advice of the Pirelli engineer embedded with every team, Vettel admitted that it would have been unwise not to, especially at a circuit, like Spa, known for being hard on tyres.
“There are a lot of things that you have to stick to because it is part of the rules and the FIA is checking,” he explained, “You can decide not to listen but then you risk being disqualified, so I don't think any team would take that risk. Then there are other things that you talk about, [where you] use the expertise of the Pirelli engineer inside your garage. I think it would stupid not to listen to him because obviously they have knowledge that we can't get and we take it very seriously.”
Vettel's view was largely echoed by Rosberg, who suffered his own tyre failure during practice on Friday afternoon.
“It's being handled with extreme precision and a lot of energy is going into it, which I am happy to see,” the Mercedes driver agreed, “I'm confident that we'll be here and we'll be driving safely.”
The German, who continues to battle team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the 2015 F1 crown, confirmed that Mercedes had reacted to advice from Pirelli following his failure in a bid to ensure there was no repeat.
“Sometimes there are strict things that you must follow and other times there are suggestions…,” he noted, “We handled everything accordingly at Spa and made modifications throughout the weekend to make sure that we were running the tyres as safely as possible according to the guidelines given by Pirelli. I don't know about Ferrari, what their situation was…”
With the Pirelli statement claiming that as many as '63 cuts' had been found in tyres up and down the paddock, F1 veteran Felipe Massa suggested that, with debris a common occurrence on-track, despite the best efforts of the marshals, tyres needed to be more resistant to its effect.
“It shouldn't be common [to have debris issues],” the Brazilian claimed, “We have debris at every race and, at some, we have even more debris than others. For sure, the tyres should be strong enough to accept the debris that we have inside the track.”
Despite Pirelli suggesting revised settings for the tyres this weekend, Vettel returned to the blow-out issue that blighted the British Grand Prix in 2013 as a source of optimism going forward
“Tyre pressures, etc, are short-term reaction in those few days [since Spa] but, long-term, I think we need to understand exactly what happened,” the four-time champion insisted, “It is very clear that everybody is trying to their best, but I think we had a situation a couple of years ago which wasn't acceptable and there was immediate change and we didn't have problems afterwards, so you can see that the professional approach does work and leads usually to the right results.”