Sebastian Vettel has defended the strategy call made by Ferrari during Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, saying it was not the cause of his tire failure in the first half of the race.
Vettel’s right-rear tire blew on the main straight on lap 26 at the Red Bull Ring, the set of super-softs having also completed an additional three laps in qualifying the previous day. No driver completed more laps on the tire over the weekend.
The failure brought Vettel’s race to an immediate end, costing him more ground in the drivers’ championship as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg finished first and fourth respectively.
“When the rear right tire failed, I didn’t feel anything, or rather, I felt it when it was too late and it exploded out of the blue,” Vettel said after the race.
“There were no signs before that, everything was normal. I spoke with the people on the pit wall and everything looked the same, the pace was the same as the lap before, the tires felt fine, the lap times were fine. It’s completely a question mark on why the tire had the failure.
“Obviously the idea was to go on as long as possible with that set of tires and to shape our race on that idea, but I don’t think it was an aggressive strategy, as lots of people went longer than us on the same tires.”
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery added: “With Ferrari we’re fully investigating the incident on Sebastian Vettel’s car, in order to finalize a cause.”
The last-lap clash between Hamilton and Rosberg allowed Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen to finish on the podium, but Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene believes Vettel could have been close to the top step had he continued.
“The result could have been better as Sebastian, today, would have finished very high on the podium without the tire failure,” Arrivabene said.
“That happened when he was leading the race and all of a sudden, with no prior warning, so the causes will have to be investigated together with Pirelli.”