Niki Lauda has leapt to Pirelli's defence, after Sebastian Vettel launched a stinging attack on the F1 tyre supplier following the Belgian grand prix. Following the high-speed blowout that essentially ended the Ferrari driver's outside shot at the 2015 title, Vettel slammed the quality of Pirelli's tyres.
It was the second blowout of the weekend for a rear Pirelli tyre at fabled Spa-Francorchamps, following Nico Rosberg's on Friday. Vettel launched an attack on Pirelli via the media after the race, but he reportedly also accosted Paul Hembery face-to-face in the paddock. There are differing accounts of what Vettel told the Briton, but Germany's Bild newspaper claims he said to Hembery: "Your tyres are extremely dangerous".
Pirelli hit back in the form of an official statement, saying teams refused to accept a proposal in 2013 to set a maximum number of laps per tyre set. "These conditions, if applied today at Spa, would have limited the maximum number of laps on the medium compound to 22," the statement read. And Hembery told the press: "I understand Sebastian's frustration but Ferrari took a risk and it didn't come off."
While admitting Vettel's one-stop strategy was "aggressive", Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene denied that it was unreasonably risky. "We have an engineer from Pirelli -- what do you think he is for?" he said. "He's not there to chew gum but to follow all the runs. We had zero warning. I can show you the paper," added Arrivabene.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, however, hit out at Vettel for pointing the finger so accusatorily at Pirelli. "It is understandable that Ferrari tried the strategy and that Vettel is sour," he said, "but I have to defend Pirelli. It was a conscious decision by Ferrari to take a risk. We took measures after our puncture on Friday and even considered a third stop."
Lauda agreed: "Ferrari should not complain if a risky strategy does not work out. What Vettel said about his tyre partner is not right and I would not accept it from one of our drivers." Christian Danner, a former driver turned pundit for German television, added: "Basically, Niki is 100 per cent right. As it is always in motor sport, when you go to the limit, it can go wrong for you."
Not quite on his bosses' side, however, is Nico Rosberg, who had the unexplained 300kph blowout on Friday. After Vettel's race incident, the Mercedes driver said: "Somehow we need to make it safer. So if they are not able to solve the problem in the two weeks before Monza, which again is very high speed, then we need to have something in place after that."
Other teams are also concerned. Lotus engineer Alan Permane told Auto Motor und Sport: "If Pirelli tells us that the tyre lasts for 40 laps, then it should not fail after 28." (GMM)
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