Pirelli hasn’t been in the crosshairs much of late – a testament to improved reliability, tire life and performance – but was a talking point in the final minutes of Sunday’s British Grand Prix as three different drivers pitted in the final few laps with left front tire issues.
But with both Ferraris pitting with left front issues, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel both falling back in the final laps, it was worth exploring what happened and updating the media on what did. Raikkonen ended third, in a surprise recovery after both Vettel and Max Verstappen also needed to pit for repairs.
“The British Grand Prix contained a sting in the tail for the two Ferrari drivers, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both unfortunately experiencing a tire issue close to the hard-fought finish; that’s a real pity and we’ll obviously now look into exactly why this happened together with the team,” Pirelli racing head Mario Isola said in Pirelli’s post-race release.
“The race was run at an incredible pace this year, with the fastest lap being nearly five seconds faster than the 2016 equivalent.”
Isola expanded on the issues in a post-race media scrum at Silverstone.
“We believe – although it has to be proven – that the mode of failure of the two tires is different, so we need to investigate,” Isola told reporters.
“What we can exclude is that we had any carcass failure on Kimi’s tire because the tire was still inflated. There is a part of the tire that is damaged and we will investigate deeply on all the tires, not just this tire.
“Sebastian had a different issue with a loss of air, so we have to understand and we will provide a report.”
Raikkonen was more blunt about his tire issue when speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton after the race in the media bullpen.
“All was fine. Then it suddenly exploded. The air wasn’t in the tire. A part came off and it was flapping around. It was sudden,” he told NBCSN. “It was only a few laps to go. We should have been OK.”
Red Bull’s Verstappen, who also pitted late in the race with left front issues, just blamed the strain of the high-speed right-hand corners at Silverstone, which Isola mentioned about the pace as key to the delamination and ultimate punctures.
“All the fast corners are the too right so it’s quite normal it wears out the left,” Verstappen told NBCSN. “We pitted early so struggled with that. There’s a bigger risk with punctures.”
Pirelli noted that Silverstone is one of the most demanding circuits of the year in terms of energy loads, with cars subjected to forces in excess of 5g.
This track could not be more different than the next race at the Hungaroring in Budapest in two weeks, one of F1’s tighter and more slower circuits.