The FIA has assured drivers and teams about the safety of Pirelli’s tires for the Belgian Grand Prix after overnight investigations pointed towards a piece of debris causing Friday’s punctures.
F1’s drivers had asked F1 race director Charlie Whiting to get guarantees from Pirelli about the safety of its products for the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps track after Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were hit by failures on Friday. There was some skepticism from drivers and teams that the problems had been caused by simple debris, amid questions about the structural durability of the tires.
However, following a detailed look overnight at what happened to the tires, and a thorough examination of the Spa track, Pirelli is now convinced that the failures were indeed caused by a piece of metal.
Whiting told the teams and drivers on Saturday morning that a single piece of steel which is believed to have come off Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus car at Turn 13, the left-hander of the Fagnes chicane was to blame for both incidents. The shaped piece was found by Pirelli engineers in the run-off area at Turn 13 on Friday night.
Investigations have pointed towards the piece of metal coming off the Lotus when he ran across the curb at Turn 13. Three minutes later, both Vettel and Alonso ran across the curbs at that exact point which is where they picked up the punctures.
Pirelli’s belief that this metal was to blame is backed up by the fact that the hole in Vettel’s tire exactly matches the size of the piece of metal.
To confirm the fact that the tire failures were caused by debris and not by structural issues, Pirelli also conducted detailed fatigue tests overnight on its tires as a precautionary measure. That these tests showed that no signs of fatigue were discovered.
In light of Pirelli’s investigations, it is understood that Whiting wrote to the teams and the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) on Saturday morning to say he is satisfied with the safety of the Pirelli tires and that he believes no further action needs to be taken.