Pirelli say tyre failure did not cause Vettel retirement

2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Start, Abu Dhabi, 2011
Vettel retired moments after the start in Abu Dhabi

Pirelli say Sebastian Vettel’s tyre did not fail of its own accord when he retired from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

A statement release by the tyre manufacturer said: “Following an extensive investigation of the circumstances that led to Sebastian Vettel’s right-rear tyre suddenly deflating on the opening lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, a structural failure of the tyre has been ruled out as the cause by Pirelli’s engineers.”

“The tyre in question was a part of a set of P Zero Yellow softs that the Red Bull driver had used to qualify on pole the day before.

“Following the incident at the first corner, Vettel completed a lap in order to return to the pits, during which the flapping rubber caused damage to the bodywork and running gear, forcing the world champion into his first retirement of the year.

“Although not much remained of the tyre afterwards, there was enough for Pirelli?s engineers to carry out a full investigation, in collaboration with Red Bull. Having subjected the tyre to minute analysis, structural failure of the tyre or valve has been ruled out as a cause of the incident. Track debris or other outside circumstances cannot be excluded as a possible cause.”

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery added: “We can confirm that a structural failure was not the cause of Sebastian Vettel’s deflation in Abu Dhabi, a conclusion that we have arrived at together with Red Bull Racing following a detailed examination and analysis of the remains of the tyre.

“We cannot rule out debris on the track causing damage to the tyre, which then provoked a deflation, but having looked at the track closely there is no direct evidence of this.”

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    70 comments on “Pirelli say tyre failure did not cause Vettel retirement”

    1. “We don’t know what happened either (but it wasn’t our fault).”

      I’m sure Pirelli is relieved that their tyres weren’t the problem, but for the rest of us who are just incorrigibly curious, this doesn’t really answer any questions.

      1. Maybe it was fate! I have been praying for Hamilton to find his smile again and enjoy doing what he is doing – he is incredibly talented and should be loving every minute of what he does. Maybe it was an answer to a prayer… Either way, I am thrilled for him and it was lovely to see him smiling and happy!

        1. Deus ex machina was my first thought when I saw Vettel spin off.

          1. My first thought was that Hamilton wanted the win so badly that he willed the tyre off the rim with the powder of his mind!

            1. Red Bull tend to need to under pressure their tyres before a race because they produce so much downforce. The massive downforce leads to higher tyre temps and of course higher tyre pressures as the temp expands the gases in the tyres. The higher the tyre pressure, the less grip because you are presenting less compliant rubber to the track surface. Less grip means graining/high deg due to sliding. In this instance, after sitting on the grid the tyres were cold and under pressured so when the lateral load built up as he entered the quick left hander the tyre deformed abnormally and simply peeled off the rim which is why we see the tyre move inboard as the car slides laterally away from the apex.

              Its no surprise to see Newey going too far on certain aspects of car set up.

            2. Or, maybe Hamilton snook into parc ferme at night and swapped his tyre for one made of sausage meat.

            3. @coefficient Sounds all good; except the tyre is actually bonded onto the rim. It would take a hell of a lot to actually tear it right off the rim. Even standard procedure for Pirelli to deal with tyres that have been used over a race weekend is to cut it up rather than “peel” it off the rim.

              Also less grip would lead to more graining (correct) but less degradation. The less grip you have the less speed you’re carrying through the corner; and that means less degradation. A tyre sliding wouldn’t really cause degradation; it would cause wear and/or graining

            4. @coefficient

              Tyres are measured to see if they conform to the maximum contact patch allowed. If Red Bull is running dangerously low tyre pressure as you suggest, then the contact patch would also be an issue, and you may see some FIA officials having something to say about such scenarios, which would at the very least be a disqualification from race results. So while your theory is interesting, but it doesn’t add up.

            5. sorry coefficient… the above answer is meant for raymondu999

            6. @raymondu999 Actually, as has been seen with pretty much every tyre failure in history, running on an under inflated or flat tyre easily puts the bonding under enough stress to fail. This is amplified by the burnouts on the parade lap. The bonding would have been past it before the lights went out.

              Also, you’ve misunderstood the part about tyre wear in relation to tyre pressures/wear in conjunction with downforce. The higher the downforce, the hotter the tyre. The hotter the tyre, the higher the pressures. The higher the pressures the less grip is achieved. Therefore, higher tyre wear due to sliding. This is why Red Bull need to under pressure the tyres, to prevent the pressures from exceeding the operating window. Simples!

            7. @coefficient yes it would mean higher tyre wear. But it would probably mean less degradation rather than more (your comment says more degradation)

            8. Well, clearly the tyre degraded sufficiently to come off the rim. I think you’re splitting hairs now.

            9. @coefficient Wear, and degradation, are very different things. And they’re different again from blistering and graining. I’m an engineer. Well I was anyways. It’s in my nature to be pedantic.

        2. Vettel doesnt have to retire for Hamilton to smile again+!!!

    2. What’s really bizarre about all this is that Vettel had a similar episode at the Pirelli tests in Abu Dhabi last year.

      1. Really? I don´t remember…

        1. Found it

          However, the cause of a left-rear problem is still being investigated by Pirelli technicians, with it not being known at present whether the tyre failed or if a puncture was picked up on-track.

      2. I hadn’t thought about that – very true. And very odd. I wonder if there’s something in the Red Bull RB6/7 + Vettel’s setup + his driving style + his line in Abu Dhabi that somehow clicks together to cause such a failure.

    3. Now this really is getting strange. Perhaps some small shard of bodywork or something fell off another car on the warm up lap – it’s possible that a mechanic left something on a sidepod of one of the other cars or something.

      Otherwise the only other explanation is that Schumi told one of his pit crew to load up an air rifle, hide behind the armco, take aim and fire!

      1. Or as I said before, it was just Hamilton’s time to win again! The Red Bulls are so strong, it would take something like this to knock them off the podium!

        1. So your theory was that Vettel’s puncture was caused by … divine intervention? The universe correcting a karmic injustice by subtly manipulating fate and chance?

          1. Well when you put it like that…

          2. Isn’t that the way life works…co-incidence, fate, luck or paryer, different names for the same thing.

            1. there is a difference between fate and luck. fate presumes that there is a “predetermined course of events”. That is a big difference to random events (luck, co-incidence)

              If you believe in fate/destiny, or that the universe somehow acts in your favor, than that is something completely different to believing that you were lucky.

              so when you say “isnt that the way life works” then you cannot use those words interchangeably.

              those that believe that Vettel’s tyre burst because of fate or divine intervention then all i can say is: wow

          3. OmarR-Pepper (@)
            16th November 2011, 15:55

            why injustice? He deserves this championship even more than the last one

          4. Must ‘ve been it @prisoner-monkeys :-D

      2. One of my mates that I was watching the race with suggested that if you watched the replay carefully you’d see a blue tortoise shell fired from Hamilton’s car.


        2. So that means it was probably Hamilton who dropped the banana skin that caused Massa’s spin.

      3. Otherwise the only other explanation is that Schumi told one of his pit crew to load up an air rifle, hide behind the armco, take aim and fire!

        Do we have any footage of what was happening on the grassy knoll?

        1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
          16th November 2011, 15:57

          Yes of course it was one of Lee Harvey Oswald’s followers ho did it LOL

      4. Schumi ? maybe Hamilton would be more likely to want to sabotage Vettel’s car. Based on recent years the most likely team to try to do that kind of stuff is McLaren (stealing other team R&D material and lying to FIA about a race insident).

        1. What about Alonso? He was involved in the SpyGate, and was also involved in CrashGate – which IMO is worse than lying about a race incident…

        2. I think this was a work form the Toro Rosso guys and Riccardo…

    4. Italy’s Autosprint reports that the damage to the back to back world champion’s rear Pirelli tyre on the second corner of the race could be related to Red Bull’s blown exhaust solution for its RB7 car.


      1. …other outside circumstances cannot be excluded as a possible cause

        seems to point in that direction. Because what ‘other outside circumstances’ are possible, apart from blowing the tyre too hot? And it’s fully imaginable that RB wants to keep it hidden from the public.

        Then again, Vettel went looking at the track according to the story from the link @Noura provided. So at that time they apparantly had no clue. Or Vettel went looking to make it look like it must have been some debris…

        …Hmmmmm, my comment is starting to sound a bit conspiracy-theory-like, but tsill, I think the story in the link is a plausible explanation. Thanks for sharing.

        1. From Autosport:

          [Christian] Horner dismissed theories that the tyre failure was caused by the inner sidewall getting overheated from exhaust gasses blown on it at the rear of the car: “Sebastian’s start procedure was the same as Mark’s, and the same it had been all season. We were also running in the same configuration as before, so there is no reason why we should suddenly suffer a problem.”

        2. “Then again, Vettel went looking at the track according to the story from the link @Noura provided. So at that time they apparantly had no clue. Or Vettel went looking to make it look like it must have been some debris…”

          smoke and mirrors.

          1. Don´t think so, unless Vettel is a terrific actor… the guy looked so puzzle in the interview, and no matter what Jake told him, he looked determined to know what happened…

            If the cause was the exhaust system, he would had said and do nothing and move on, so the team wouldn´t have had to said nothing about the system…

    5. How Strange, it’s definitely a freak incident, from all the theories, the one regarding to Red Bull’s blown exhaust solution for its RB7 car is most convincing.
      All i know is we missed a cracker of a race thanks to this wierd occurance, it would have been fun to seen Hamilton and Vettel fighting hard for victory.

      I’m praying for a wet race in Sau Paulo, i want an epic end to a truly brilliant season.

    6. I wonder if it had anything to do with under inflating the tyre. Pirelli give the teams a minimum inflation pressure (I believe Rubens once said it was 18psi) but in the commentary it was mentioned that the teams have been known to ignore that. If the pressure was a bit low and Seb had to wait on the grid for ages before the lights went out. Maybe it got so low that it came off the rim when he rode the exit kerb at turn one. That could also explain why Red Bull are acting so confused about the whole thing. If they didn’t follow Pirelli’s instructions they aren’t going to publicly admit that that’s what caused the failure.

      1. Hmm, I see what you mean. I wonder whether Red Bull would have shared all their telemetry with Pirelli engineers during the course of trying to figure this all out? I’m not sure how all that works.

    7. I reckon McLaren hired a sniper :p

    8. It was Hamilton’s fault. Evidence:


      “Hey Jenson, I’ve got a good feeling about the race tomorrow, I think we could finally beat Sebastian.”

      And Seb’s reaction:


      Courtesy of WTF1. :)

      1. Comedy gold

    9. Didn’t he ride up over the kerb at turn 1? It kinda looked like the sidewall of the tyre came into contact with the outside edge of the kerb. Maybe that didn’t cause the failure initally but for the next corner it could have caused any load on the sidewall to then cause the deflation.
      That’s my conspiracy theory even though I have no idea if that’s even possible.Blind speculation! YAY!

      1. That could be what caused the puncture, but the tyres are designed to take a much harder punishing then using a lot of curb, especially the relatively nice ones around Abu Dhabi.
        If it was the curb that made the tyre go, there must have been some sort of tyre/suspension failure, structural, pressure wise, etc. to make it possible for a sightly high curb like that to cause a puncture.
        And if there were that sort of damage, not using the curb would only have delayed his puncture for a few corners.

    10. Don’t we have that backwars onboard camera from Vettel’s car? It would really help.

    11. I may be wrong, I am not an expert on the matter, but I just cannot see how anyone can ascertain if it was Pirelli`s fault or not, with the state of what was left of that tyre by the time it got back to the pits.

    12. I think Red Bull know what went wrong with Vettels tyre, they seem like a team so obsessed with detail that this would not just be signed off as a “freak” incident. I recon this was a fault of the car but the do not want to admit that the retirement was their fault, i.e. running a component to the extreme to max out the performance (like the big hoo-haa about cambers back in Belgium)

    13. I bet it was some legend with a snyper rifle…

      1. Get Mansell really likes his pole record…

    14. Who cares!

      He got a puncture, these things happen. Sometimes it’s not obvious why. The kerb, a bit of debris, prior damage, tyre failure. Doesn’t matter.

      1. Signed.

        This obsession over a tire is silly.

        1. @mveilenstein and @paolo Is not an obsession, is just that it was really dangerous. This time of accident don´t happened. The way the tyre lost air was to sudden and didn´t allow the team or the driver to react. In BBC interview EJ and DC explained, normally the censor will tell them there is some presure lost and that it is dangerous that they need to change the tyre. But right now there wasn´t any signal.

          Accident don´t happened just because. This time there wasn´t another car near, but easily could have collected others, or could have happened with morfe speed… and if they donñt found out what happened how they did aboid for accidents to happened again.

          Beside if you are a sportman and you just have been deprieve from a win of course you want to now why.

          1. @celeste Couldn’t agree more. Of course questions need to be asked. We all know that anything F1 related should be pretty much everything-proof (for lack of a better term).

            1. Thanks, I also would like to apologize, I was really sleepy when I wrote the comment and I just notice how many errors I had :S… (english is not my native language)

    15. I don’t it is too much of a issue nothing is lost for Vettel but this made Schumacher a happy man.

    16. Yadayadayadayada..too much fuzz about a blown tyre, other people had tyre issues throught the year and not too much was said about them, not to mention, even Bridgestones were not immune to blowouts or deflations…

      At the end of the day, it was not a title deciding failure, give it a rest Vettel!!!

      1. Give what a rest?

        1. The whole enquiry…

      2. So, you’re driving your car and suddenly your tyre blows, forcing you to veer almost uncontrollably off the road, would you not want answers?

        1. well, things happen, he is not the first nor is he the last, but frankly am tired of hearing about Vettel’s tyre (was the race that boring??)!

    17. Of course numbskulls Vettel’s retirement was not due to tyre failure but rather due to suspension and wishbone damage caused due to tyre failure.

    18. did anyone notice horners face was more “oh no were butsted” rather than “oh no what bad luck” lol

      1. What’s the difference?

        1. the tyre going pop had something to do with there genius design on the car rather than a simple blowout?

    19. The exhaust theory does’nt make sense to me.
      I’ve always heard Christian & Adrian say that the Renault engine is cold blowing & the fuel supply is cut off during the open throttle instances & they are not igniting the gasses.
      They say this is for cooling purposes & they need to do it for engine reliability.
      I often wondered if this is what allowed them build a gap at the start of the race due to a smaller fuel load.
      The other cars being hot blowing.

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