Thoughts from Spa on Monday morning

After the race at Spa on Sunday the rains fell heavily over the region in the course of the evening while Sebastian Vettel rather foolishly decided to attack Pirelli over its tyres, rather than accepting that perhaps trying for a one-stop race at Spa, while pushing hard over kerbs was probably not the best thing to do. One might suggest that the idea was a sign of Ferrari’s desperation on Sunday when the red cars were clearly outclassed for speed by the Mercedes runners. It is unlikely that Vettel would have got to the flag in third place because the inspired Romain Grosjean was lining up to pass him when the tyre failure occurred. It was a shame that he reacted as he did as it rather undermined the heroics of the afternoon when we saw a number of super drivers, notably Grosjean but also Vettel and the amazing Max Verstappen, who pulled off the most spectacular move by going around the outside of Felipe Nasr at 190mph in the Blanchimont curve. That was not only ballsy, but also a sign of a class racing driver. Verstappen may not yet be 18 years of age, but with each passing race, his name moves higher on the wish lists of the big teams. Grosjean’s race was astonishingly accomplished and sure-footed. The Lotus team is in deep deep trouble, with the likelihood of administration in the next few days, and Grosjean knew that the team needed a boost. He had the car to deliver the goods and used it, while Maldonado (as usual) messed things up and failed to make the most of his opportunities.

In the course of the night there came the bad news of the death of Guy Ligier, a colossus in French motorsport, and the dreadful news from Pocono of Justin Wilson’s accident in the IndyCar race there. Wilson is currently in a critical conditions at the Lehigh Valley Health Network Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown. The debris that Wilson hit came from Sage Karam’s car which spun into the wall at high speed. Wilson was unconscious and non-responsive after the accident and was airlifted to the hospital. His wife Julia was later flown in from the family home in Colorado.

The 37-year-old from Sheffield went to IndyCar after being unable to raise the money needed to race in F1, despite some promising performances. He has become a popular member of the IndyCar scene although a couple of previous injuries meant that he has never achieved the results that he might have done.

Let us hope that there is good news in the course of the next few days.

152 thoughts on “Thoughts from Spa on Monday morning

  1. Pirelli’s reaction was just as foolish as imho tyre wear wasn’t the problem because Vettel’s lap times were still respectable and no sign of a sudden drop off. Besides, according to Vettel, Pirelli claimed the tyre could have lasted around 40 laps.

  2. Is it really that bad at Lotus then Joe, are they looking at administration?. Is the Renault buy-out not happening anymore to your knowledge, as I read that they are now talking to Force India?.

      1. The administration thing put to one side though Joe, do you think Renault are ruling out buying Lotus now, or is a smoke screen?. This was really question I was asking, in your opinion which is a very much valued one?.

      2. Maybe Andrew Ruhan should invest a bit more in Lotus rather than blowing it on spraying 2200 bottles of Champagne; as he did at Nikki Beach in St Tropez a few weeks back.

        I imagine any of Lotus’ creditors who heard about it might be feeling a bit pissy right now.

        1. If every one of those bottles were 2006 Cristal, the bill would have come to a little under £300k, retail. I suspect he got a rather better deal than that, or used cheaper fizz, or both.

          I doubt that £0.3m here or there is going to make a whole lot of difference to Lotus, or anyone else in F1 (even though I wouldn’t mind if it came my way, either).

          If on the other hand your actual point is the iniquities of the limited liability system, I’m actually inclined to agree with you; it allows profits to be privatised whist losses are socialised. Mitt Romney’s antics at Bain Capital provide a great illustration of how cheap capital, high gearing and sophisticated financial markets combine to make a mockery of the original rationale behind the limited liability concept. But AFAIK, Ruhan only got involved with Lotus initially as a lender who called in security, I believe that the major debts were incurred before he arrived. If the law had required him to take unlimited personal liability for the team as a condition of getting involved, I imagine he’d have walked away in the first place. Happy to be corrected if I’m wrong on this; I thought Ruhan was the guy who came in and insisted on financial discipline and cutting costs to meet income.

          1. The deal was that the day was ‘all about Andy’, which was rather tedious for everyone else there and the mechanics of Nikki Beach’s pricing means the relationship between ‘retail’ and the club price is similar to the difference between the cost of the Engine in a Mercedes E Class and the cost of the Engine that sits behind Lewis every Sunday night.
            If I was one of Lotus’ smaller suppliers being hurt by the delay in getting Paris, I’d certainly feel aggrieved.

        1. It’s not their first contact, that was several months ago with at least 2 factory visits from Renault so this is old news It’s possible VJ is trying to flush out something from another potential bidder as I understand the Renault deal fell through on the issue of VJ’s future role.

    1. Is it as simple as Renault would prefer to buy the assets from the administrator for buttons, rather than pay off the large debts to acquire the enterprise?

      BTW welcome back, it seems to have been a long break.

  3. You are rather foolishly decided to attack Vettel before you read more about what Pirreli said about tyre life of 40laps.

    1. You are rather foolishly attacking someone who has access to more information than you do, who Knowles exactly what Pirelli has said and who writes a blog to which you are invited to read my opinions.

      1. And you, Joe, foolishly attack Vettel, who I guarantee knows WAY MORE THAN YOU. So what’s your point?

  4. How do you know that Lotus F1 is facing administration?
    They are obviously in a lot of financial difficulty and owe a lot of money to many people. But there is no reason to write something like administration in a blog as widely read as yours.
    Is this just sensationalism or based on actual facts?

    1. You obviously don’t read this blog much. Come back when you have developed a little more knowledge on the subject of how I operate

      1. Again, no disrespect and I am not discounting your ability to get information from the paddock. But there has been zero evidence of the team going into adminsitration and its just fear mongering at best.
        Imagine the 400 odd employees who will be out of jobs. I would rather read stuff based on actual evidence and comments by senior management at the team.

          1. Joe – it seems you may be privy to information on the topic of Lotus and its potential ‘situation’ that you’re unable to disclose. Would this be a fair presumption or wide of the mark?

  5. In my opinion any driver who elects to do a on-stopper should be able to do it safely on any track with any combination of tyre provided by supplier. Simple as that.

      1. It seems Coulthard feels that Vettel was right to make the comments he did. Coulthard also says that Hamilton & Alonso feel the same but are not expressing things as a result of being more PR surpressed…..and another point made by Coulthard was that apparently the Pirelli Engineer embedded at Ferrari had no problems with their strategy??

        Basic point is that it is absurd to race on tyres that have a life factor that is less than the race distance…..the problems cropping up today may have been the same as in Grand Prix of a hundred years ago…but the tyre of 2015 should not be such a piece of deliberately engineered rubbish…..if one wants to spark up the races, do so sensibly, but using the narrow band of chemically contrived materials that are called F1 tyres, is not really a sensible move.

        1. You might be right that it’s “not really a sensible move” to spark up races by using tyres, but this is exactly what Pirelli have been asked to do by everyone within F1. And they have been delivering what has been asked.

      2. Rock hard tyres and lots less downforce/aero would bring us the ‘more power than grip-scenario’. Which should lead to more mistakes and thus more overtaking on track without buttons.
        I wonder what rock hard tyres + ground effect would give us in overtaking.

        Maybe these scenario’s – and every scenario for that matter – are obsolete, because F1 is such an industry that the best drivers and teams will excell – and not be overtaken(!) – no matter what.

  6. Joe, do you think there is a problem in that Pirelli can only ‘advise’ teams what to do but cannot make them? Thinking back to the Silverstone fiasco, IIRC many teams were running tyres on the wrong sides and with lower than advised pressures and very agressive camber angle but despite Pirelli making it clear this was not how the tyres were designed to run (and thus not a good idea) there was no way for them to enforce their advice. I can’t recall if any changes where made to the regs at that time but if this still the situation, would it not be a good idea to amend the regs?

    1. IIRC the FIA did change rules and enforced a pressure and maximum camber angle regulation after the Silverstone mess.

      1. Wasn’t the Silverstone mess caused by the teams running the right tyre on the left side of the car and vice versa, because they found it gave better durability?

  7. I have no doubt that Max V will partner Sebo when Kimi decides to devote himself to fatherhood full time. Why do I think that? Ferrari bosses are not totally dim, and they’ve probably already got this signed and sealed on their own terms.
    While busy arranging this, they were also playing with the hopes and sentiments of V Bottas and destabilising him and his team

  8. I think the attack on Pirelli was well placed and they deserve it. If they cannot make tyres that allow a 1 stop strategy, then they should not be supplying the sport full stop. And to fail after only 28 laps is completely unacceptable. Why should everyone be pushed to run the same strategy because of a spec component?

      1. The big unknown is, if it is actually possible for Bridgestone, or Michelin, etc. to use the same brief and yet have tyres that do not suffer catastrophic failures without any prior deflation warning. Basically a bulletproof carcass with a race compound on its outer surface.

        After Jules’s accident, everyone seemed keen to put safety at the very top of the agenda. This seems to be one of those recurring issues which gets deflected all too easily.

        Nico’s failure was the one that bothered me, Seb is just airing the genuine concerns of other top drivers (very badly)

        1. > Nico’s failure was the one that bothered me,


          > Seb is just airing the genuine concerns of other top drivers


          > (very badly)


        2. > have tyres that do not suffer catastrophic failures without any prior deflation warning. Basically a bulletproof carcass with a race compound on its outer surface.

          Rosberg needed that, and didn’t have it.

          Vettel got that, or as close to it as anyone needs. He got the warning (when the tread came off but the tyre carcass stayed inflated), then took no notice. And then threw his toys out of the pram and screamed ‘safety’ when the tyre blew because he was too Gilles Villeneuve to take any notice of the warning and park the car.

          Villeneuve would have driven on, too.

          And Villeneuve wouldn’t have whined about it not working out.

    1. “only 28 laps” of the longest circuit on the current F1 calendar.

      This is the equivalent of 56 laps of Monaco, but at Monaco you don’t put nearly so much energy through the tyre, and at Monaco you can’t exceed the track limits and drive over the backs of the kerbs like Vettel was constantly doing at Raidillon and elsewhere.

      Vettel & Ferrari took a risk to run 3/5ths of the race on a single set of tyres which Vettel then systematically abused. That gamble didn’t pay off.

      Pirelli were asked by Bernie/FOM/FIA to make the tyre to the specification we currently have. If you remember, some years back we had tyres that lasted the entire race, and that proved to be extraordinarily dull…

      Pirelli also suffered abuse from the teams when some blow-outs occurred at Silverstone two years ago. It turned out that the teams were running the tyres backwards and under-pressure. As a result, Pirelli demanded that the teams be forced to observe the stated direction, and min/max pressure/toe-in/camber for each race. However, when they asked that for the max distance for a set of tyres, the teams pushed back, and it was not enforced.

      Anyway, rant over but, to summarise: Vettel gambled, lost, blamed everybody else. It must be something to do with now having a red romper-suit.

      1. Well it clearly doesn’t work, and anyone over the age of 45 can tell you that, as it used to work without gimmicks….it was just motor racing then…not the contrived Formula One….it used to be Grand Prix racing and it was damned good….it was bad that people died, but they didn’t die because they expected items like tyres to disintegrate…..hitting a tree was one thing…..the modern F1 car is superbly safe….and then some braindead individual, who wants to make the racing exciting….fits tyres to the cars that can’t take the strain of actual racing? And that stupidity puts a Champion in a “red romper suit”?? When you can drive like the guy in the romper suit, then it will be time to listen to your opinion imho!!

    2. I think expecting that at any race someone could do a competitive one stop is a bit much. But it certainly is questionable that they’d predict a 40 lap life and only get 70% of that. I understand it’s hardly an exact thing and that all kinds of variables are at work, but that’s a pretty big margin of error.

      It’s also absurd that the tyre would catastrophically fail due to “wear” well before the grip has gone. People keep saying Grosjean was going to get Vettel, but I wasn’t seeing any sign of it. The best chance he had was down at Les Combes, but Vettel was getting a much better exit out of La Source every time; enough that by the end of the Kemmel straight, even with the overpowered DRS he still couldn’t pull it off, lap after lap. If his rear right went simply due to wear, how was he getting such great traction out of turn 1?

      On the other hand of course, Pirelli don’t have an easy job of making tyres that can withstand F1’s loads at circuits across the world, while degrading at a certain rate but not exploding… all while F1 continues to cut testing time further and further. People keep bringing up Bridgestone and Michelin, but aside from the fact that they were competing to make the fastest, grippiest, most durable tyres, rather than being a sole manufacturer supplying a particular kind of degrading tyre, they also got to do it with as much testing as they wanted to throw money at. Pirelli will no doubt test the hell out of their road tyres on actual cars in all kinds of conditions before they get anywhere near hitting the market, yet their F1 tyres are basically I guess factory tested with replicated loads on a test rig, and then it’s whack ’em on the cars, go racing and hope for the best.

  9. I’m more on Vettel’s side. There was no sign of drop off and Pirelli had said that it thought the medium could do 40 laps.

    Is it right to have such a potentially catastrophic failure? Also, how many laps had Nico done in practice was he pushing the limits? I’m not sure?

    Finally, if the end is the tyres going pop how do any of the teams actually find out where the limit is? Which of course is what they will do.

      1. Grossjean wasn’t going to pass. I can’t agree with your analysis of the situation. Vettel held him at bay for several laps. Grossjean wasn’t exiting the corner with sufficient speed to catch up to Vettel.

        I can’t also agree with your implied assertion that Ferrari shouldn’t have gone for a one stop strategy. I do agree that Ferrari were truly outclassed by Mercedes. Their only hope for a decent result was a one stopper.

        Vettel’s behavior was not acceptable but I somewhat understandable in the heat of the moment. Multiple tire blow ups during the weekend is certainly not acceptable. Perhaps if you were driving at high speed, your views of tire standards would be somewhat different if it was your safety that was on the line.

        1. It is a waste of energy to argue over something that never happened. I think he would have passed. You do not.

      2. There was no significant drop off. I am also reminded of what Max Mosely said about race drivers in the 1970s and why they needed to be protected. Give a driver the choice between 2 cars. One that is safe and one that is not safe but is a second a lap quicker and the driver will always choose the un-safe option.

        This is essentially the risk Vettel took. He should not be put in this position and if he was killed along with other spectators the outcry has the potential to destory the sport.

      3. Grosjean was just marginally faster than Vettel. After the VSC Vettel’s laptimes were between 1:55.3 and 1:56.4 until the tyre exploded. That is no drop off because of excessive tyre wear. You would expect laptimes gradually getting slower every lap, which didn’t happen
        Grosjean’s laptimes were between 1:54.7 and 1.56.1, almost every lap just a few tenths faster than Vettel. That’s why he gained on Vettel,

        1. against tyre deg, you also have diminishing fuel loads, so it shouldn’t drop off all too much. So that it did drop off, does support relative tyre degradation. But I agree that we can’t slag off Pirelli for building the tyres to a specification they were asked to. Mr. Hembery said it well just after the race, that Vettel should not be faulted just after the race with adrenaline running through his body. But I can see why people would say Pirelli might wait with comments until the tyres have been analysed. But I understand they are protecting their brand as well.

      4. Because his tyres where much newer. On autosport forum they showed a graphic and vettels last 12 laps or so where all in the 55’s. If his tyres where to worn why did his laptimes where still competitive and constant? Pirelli messed up and they know it. if it happend a few seconds earlyer we would be reading a obituary on vettel right now..

          1. Ah, yes: the once-mighty Autosport forum; now sadly inhabited only by rabid fan-boys, “experts” who’ve completed the latest F1 console game on medium difficulty and where the moderators gently coo that everyone’s opinion is welcome and valid, even when the opinion being offered is so breath-takingly stupid or slanderous that you have to read it three times over to ensure that you’re not hallucinating.

            It’s a bloody awful place! Is the magazine still any good? It’s been years since I’ve read an issue and the quality was becoming more miss than hit.

      5. Vettel lap times post safety car were all in the 115 second bracket save for lap 39 when he did 116.407. No drop off.

        Grosjean on the other hand did some great faster laps in particular lap 23 {114.957, 4 tenths faster that Vettel) and L37 where he was 0.7 faster than Vettel.

        That’s why Grosjean was catching Vettel, Joe.

  10. Joe, Sad news both. Do I remember Justin Wilson selling shares in himself to get a drive many years ago. Wonder how that worked out for his investors?

      1. I hope Justin recovers completely, as he is a decent man as well as a competent driver. I was one of many fans who invested in the crowd source arrangement that Jonathan Palmer set up for Justin. I didn’t do it to make a fortune, but because it was a means of assisting a talent, much as Racing For Britain did many years ago…anyone remember that?
        Anyway, I think I got back most of my money, but more than that I put it where my mouth was, and JW won several Indy races as well as getting well up in championships too. So, for me, it was money well spent. I really hope that he gets on his feet again, and prayers for him and his family at this point.

        As to Pirelli, well I’m not the only person who has wondered these several years, as to what possible sales benefits accrue to that company, for providing tyres that wear out before even 190 miles is completed???? Answers on a postcard please…..

        For me, it is another stupid aspect of modern racing, a tyre should last a whole race, should also be able to run some practice and even qualy too, of course so should an engine/gearbox/brakes etc….but then I’m just a b***** dinosaur!

        1. Depends on your definition of a good investment. As Damian says, maybe half of the money came back, but there was also a tax deduction on the original investment, so the loss wasn’t so huge, maybe 10-20% of the amount put it.

          Plus, for £500 investment you got the annual accounts which shed some interesting light on what these drives cost, invitation to the annual shareholder meeting which was a nice backstage Experience Day for us punters who are usually outside the exclusive zones, etc.

          And, he is a thoroughly decent chap who deserved the chance. He took his chances well and turned it into a thoroughly professional Champ Car and Indy Car career, rather than being lost to the sport through limited budget like so many others.

          I for one am very proud to have lost money on my investment in him. Let’s hope he comes though.

          1. On US broadcaster NBCSN’s “NASCAR America” motorsport programme, which often reaches into INDYCAR and F1 as necessary to promote the network’s other motorsport programme, presenter Dave Briggs interviewed sportscar driver and part-time NBCSN commentator Townsend Bell.

            “Gracious and kind. A real gentle soul outside of the car and an absolute tiger inside the car. One of the most naturally gifted drivers, and somebody who has been largely underrated for most of his career… finally getting a first class opportunity, which he deserves, with Andretti Autosport.

            Ben Waddell, a driver that Wilson is mentoring (@BenWaddell), who is Colorado-based (as is Wilson), wrote after winning an amateur Formula Barber race at Laguna Seca, “This one was for you buddy @justin_wilson,” complete with the traditional winner’s photo of the driver and the chequered flag (which is why some commentators say “capture the flag,” and why Sunoco gives the winning race team a special chequered flag with the race name to hang on the team shop).

            Even when Justin was sidelined this season, Honda worked with him on the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb near his Colorado home in Honda’s ARX-04B LMP2 prototype, but Honda couldn’t make the car work the Race to the Clouds. Would have been a great effort. No wonder the television people applauded HPD and Andretti Autosport for giving him the deal.

            Great to see the entire motorsport community fight. Wins at tracks as diverse as Belle Isle and Fort Worth (including the circuit’s winner’s circle ceremony) proved he belonged. The Fort Worth win was an example of smart driving and car setup that allowed him to pass much better funded teams where the right driver and crew chief (or engineer) combination can connect (see how NFL Films made Audi’s Howden Haynes and Leena Gade stars leading Audi’s cars in the Truth in 24 series).

  11. Joe,

    If Lotus go into administration, do they lose their F1 entry automatically? If not, buying the remains from the administrators, would seem to be a cheaper option for Renault, as they could leave much of the internal debt behind. They would realistically only need to pay off suppliers they wanted to use in future.

    Would the Mercedes engine supply contract lapse with administration also, which might be handy if Renault wanted to get a pair of their engines in the car asap? I guess Renault might have to pay any Mercedes debt off, to get a clean release from the engine supply contract or to be allowed to continue to use those engines, until such time as the chassis/electrics/cooling etc, could be re-engineered for the Renault units. As the engine mounting points are the same, the chassis might not have to be resubmitted for crash testing.

  12. Dear Joe,
    What a pleasure it is to read your superb articles connected to motor spot and the people involved. I only wish that there where more writers of your caliber as I am sure that f1 in particular would benefit.
    Yours sincerely ,
    John Ferris

  13. Joe on your comment to Max being high on the list for the top teams (for now at least) how does this relate to him actually being free to talk to other teams?
    I can imagine that Red Bull has him under a firm contract unless they are through with him (as we have seen in the past with other TR drivers)

  14. Hi Joe,

    Is there any truth to the rumour of Renault turning their attention to taking over Force India as opposed to Lotus?


  15. Joe,
    In light of Justin Wilson’s accident and looking back at Massa’s accident and the death of Henry Surtees, do you think having forward roll bars with ballistics grade acrylic in between acting as both a windscreen and a method of deflecting any debris or other foreign objects away from the driver’s head could be feasible?

    Also do you think such a setup have helped prevent Maria de Villota’s and Jules Bianchi’s deaths?

    1. I do not believe that we should abandon single seater racing and turn it into sports cars. You either accept danger or you do not

      1. “I do not believe that we should abandon single seater racing and turn it into sports cars.”

        I wasn’t meaning an enclosed cockpit, but a structure that stops forward of the existing cockpit opening. With the acrylic between to stop smaller objects and not obscure the drivers vision.

        Formula One cars have had small windscreens before so something like this wouldn’t be too much of a change.

  16. I like your blog Joe and most of the time I agree with your opinions…but I can’t help thinking that you’ve got your head in the sand regarding Pirelli’s tyres.

    Frankly, I’m sick of hearing about driver’s “managing” their tyres and fuel, as though they’re trying to be as safe, predictable and dull as possible. Once in a while you’ll get a gamble, someone starting on hards or attempting to do a one-stopper and getting punished for it, on track and in the media.

    I guess what Pirelli wanted was for Vettel to do two pit-stops and make Sunday’s race even more dull? As it was I left the race at 34 laps to watch a far less boring 9.79s sprint and came back to the most exciting thing of all – an exploding tyre.

    1. Josh, I saw something else (and not saying you see it wrong, just differently, no disrespect). I saw great battles of Grosjean and Verstappen and a funny mistake on the Bottas tyres (with very sheepishly looking Williams staff). The TV coverage was great, because they didn’t focus on 2 Mercs driving around at a great pace, but rather on the battles behind instead. I praise Pirelli too, because they make sure we don’t have ‘processional’ races, there’s stuff happening everywhere on the track, also on account of the degradation of their tyres.
      Now the blow-up of Vettel, Ferrari took a gamble/risk and it didn’t pay off. if the other teams reconed it was safe (and fast enough) to do 1 stop, one would think they’d do that too. Now while I very much admire Vettel’s driving abilities, he doesn’t come over as the nicest guy in the field. But then again, nice guys finish last, right?

  17. I think the most telling part of Vettels rant was his insistence that he wasn’t going off track. Seriously? I know lots of drivers were taking liberties with track limits and its up to the stewards to police as they see fit but you are always taking a risk when you bend race parameters. Pirelli design tyres to run on track, not smash kerbs at 150+ mph.

    1. Agree with your point. The footage immediately prior to the blow out suggests he wasn’t concerned with preserving his tyres!

      1. This x 1000.
        I watched it recorded on BBC HD and there was numerous slow motion shots of the cars going WAY over the kerbs at the top of Eau Rouge, Seb shown more than once.
        There was also plenty of gravel on the right hander before the near hair pin of Rivage, being flung across the track, could this debris have caused a blowout ?

  18. Justin Wilson’s collision adds yet another argument for closing the cockpits. If only the solution were simple.

    Maybe something can even be done about Vettel’s salty language, vielleicht?

  19. As far as i know tyres are not immune to defects and variablity in raw material quality. No matter how hard Pirelli try there will be failures, from a relaibility engineering perspective thjis is to be expected. just Google, Bathtub curves.

    I actually think Pirelli are doing a resonable job given the confl;icting demands placed on them,

    Vettle should have also pulled off the track much earlier, he was shedding bits all over the racing line with no credible opportunity to recover the situation due to the late time in the race. H’mm punish a ferarri driver….. maybe not ?

    Final point ask Nigel mansell about pushing tyre life and carcass failures…..

    1. When Gilles did something similar, everybody thought it showed determination and the degree of his hunger to win: when Seb does it, suddenly, he is wrong…

  20. It would be a tragedy for F1 to lose the Enstone team!!! World Champions as Benetton and also as Renault they always seem to push above their weight to add some extra excitement.

    1. Perhaps true however the same was said when Team Lotus (the original one) went to the wall. Brabham’s demise was also sad to see and the disappearance of the Tyrell name from F1 was a blow too.

    2. > they always seem to push above their weight

      You’re right, of course.

      It’s no mistake that Christopher Hilton’s excellent book on Toleman (the team’s original incarnation before the Benetton buy out) is subtitled ‘The Last Romantics in Formula 1’.

      They were then, and they still are.

  21. Hi Joe,

    Great to see F1 racing at a traditional circuit like Spa, however with rumours of oligarchs and oil barons lining up yet more races in obsure places do you see the likes of Spa retaining their place on the calendar in future years?

  22. I may be wrong on this, but isn’t Pirelli producing the type of tires they are being asked to produce? If that is the case, how can anyone fault Pirelli over the tire failures this weekend. I’m sure if Pirelli were asked to produce a rock hard tire that would last the entire race they could do it. If they were asked to produce a tire that would last only a few laps I’m sure they could do that as well. Pirelli have a bunch of very smart individuals on their payroll and are a world class tire producer. From the way I see it, Ferrari’s strategy just didn’t pay off this time. Simple as that.

    I have no idea what Pirelli are getting out of the sport via their participation, but I have got to imagine that they are getting somewhat tired of this type of criticism.

  23. Ted Kravitz was again (as when talking to you in Monaco) very dismissive about bailiffs at Lotus on his notebook.

    Then an hour later the cars were covered in police netting!

    I get he is protective of the gravy train but looked a bit silly.

  24. I was at the IndyCar race in the Poconos yesterday. The whole second half of the 500 mile race was a series of caution flags because of a string of accidents.
    The weather was beautiful so that wasn’t a factor. The 500 miles may have been a factor as 3 1/2 hours may just be too long for drivers to maintain their crispness. The parity of this mostly spec series may increase accidents keeping drivers close and increasing ill-advised passing attempts such as Tristan Vautier taking out title-contending Graham Rahal (Tristan obviously was sleeping in the pre race drivers meeting where back markers like him were told to avoid title contenders). But series the series finale has the idiotic “double points” system that F1 wisely dropped, Rahal can still catch Montoya. I don’t know why IndyCar
    refuses to use tire warmers-are they that expensive?

    At least the SAFER walls in turn 2 helped prevent a serious injury to Marco Andretti earlier.

    The LED displays for track position on in air intake are fairly readable, considering they go by at 220 mph.

    Helio Castroneves: 16 years in the series and he still can’t execute the rolling start properly.

    Most importantly: prayers for Justin Wilson. It’s always been a bit of a mystery why someone so highly regarded has never made it to a top team permanently. Finances? Height? He has won races with Dale Coyne cars. That’s equivalent to podiums were Manor Maruissa.

  25. Obviously, Joe, you have access to sources which a sofa-bound punter like me doesn’t, but we got some pretty mixed messages from the post-race analysis with regard to the tyres. We were initially told that Pirelli had advised against a one-stop race, this coming immediately after the interview with der Fingerflingenkind, but later we were told the tyres should have been OK.

    Vettel might better have taken a while to calm down, consider his choice of words and watch the footage of his car coming through Raidillon not only a foot outside the white line but bouncing over the kerbs like a bipolar jack-in-the-box.

  26. Joe,

    any word on whether or not Lotus have been able to get everything out of Spa and safely shipped back to Enstone (yet)?

  27. Michelin were asked to provide a very specific set of tyres, which they did. You can’t request quick wearing tyres, then complain when they wear quickly! Doing 40 laps around a track like Spa is really just asking for a failure of this type, surely? Ferrari took a chance and it didn’t work out, Seb needs to look closer to home and not point at Michelin.

    I’m sure had they been requested to supply tyres that were made from iron and could last all day, they would have done so but then they would have had the drivers complaining that there was no grip. As the saying goes ‘be careful what you wish for’.

    Michelin are at fault only of providing what was requested.

  28. Pirelli should consider themselves very lucky that they’re not having to explain two dead racing drivers after this weekend… their defense that we asked for rules to be changed 3 years ago regarding maximum distance per set is ridiculous… are they now admitting the tires have been dangerous for three years and they have said nothing? Tire degradation should not lead to these catastrophic failures.

    1. Tyres, like anything else, are subject to physics. So, by the way, are suspension parts, aero parts, engines (sorry Power Units) etc.

      They are designed for a particular task, and there are limits to which Formula One teams will always push.

      Drivers will always bang the cars over kerbs – it’s the nature of what they do, but sometimes, suspension parts fail, even though teams have a strict lifing policy. Sometimes, banging the car over kerbs will affect other things; Maldonado’s power unit failed after he went over the same kerbing that Vettel went over later on.

      The point I’m trying to make is; when you push to and sometimes beyond the limits of what a piece of engineering is designed to do, it may fail.

      Teams’ lifing policies on things such as suspension parts are generally quite conservative, but I suspect this is only because the performance of a piece of suspension remains consistent and therefore does not come into play in a race; if it did you can bet your life that some teams would push the life of the parts to the absolute limit. It’s called taking a calculated risk.

      Pirelli are perfectly capable of designing tyres which would be close to bomb proof, but they would have to have less grip; it’s the nature of the physics involved. They have designed the tyres they weere asked to design. The tyres are not “dangerous”, Motor Racing is dangerous. Tot up how many tyres were used this year which did not fail, then how many which did, then consider the use (and sometimes, abuse) they get, then decide whether Pirelli know what they’re doing or not.

      1. Exactly. The amount of tyres used versus the number that failed must be huge. Failure rate of less than 0.1% ?

  29. Justin is an absolute gentleman. I’ve interviewed him twice at Sonoma and he shows none of the brooding moodiness that can afflict drivers. He’s missed out on some top-flight drives that probably kept him from being a champion. Either way, he is a class act in the paddock and I hope he will recover from this crash as he has with others in the past.

  30. I felt it was a bit foolish for Pirelli to suggest their tire exploded because it was overused. As a safety device (as the only part of a car that touches the road, a tire is arguably the most important safety device) a tire should not suffer catastrophic failure with zero warning.

    Seb got it right when he said he understands if it loses grip, but not complete failure.

    1. > a tire should not suffer catastrophic failure with zero warning.

      Rosberg’s did, and shouldn’t have.

      Vettel’s did *not*. He had warning, and he chose to ignore it and drive on.

      Watch the video. Coulthard’s BBC commentary absolutely nailed this.

      Vettel suffered a tread delamination, but *the tyre carcass stayed intact* and *the tyre stayed inflated*.

      Because Vettel (having had this warning) responded by pushing to get back to the pits instead of pulling over, and because the tyre is not designed to run without tread, the tyre carcass did explode – but only several seconds after the tread delamination. Vettel had plenty of time to retire the car and chose not to.

      1. He had warning? At what point did he have warning? Interesting to read Coulthard’s follow up that the Pirelli criticism was justified. I was watching the rearward on-board footage of the car going through Radillion and up to the point of failure. The tread had not yet delaminated, and when it did it only took a moment for the entirety of the tread to come off, rapid loss of all pressure, and instant disintegration of the carcass. It was all as sudden as it could be.

        Seriously though, at what point did he have an indication that his tire would fail completely in the laps leading up to the failure?

      2. Re-reading your comment, I realize that you seem to think he was oblivious that his tire failed.

        “Because Vettel (having had this warning) responded by pushing to get back to the pits instead of pulling over, and because the tyre is not designed to run without tread,”

        The tire failure happened at once. The moment that you are referring to as “the warning” in which his tire de-laminated just past Radillion on the Kemmel Straight, was actually “THE failure”. THAT was the moment that he is angry about. THAT was the moment that had the potential to send him into a wall if his car was not tracking in a straight line. At THAT point, the carcass was already destroyed, and all the pressure was gone.

        He was then driving back to the pits without a RR tire, as MANY drivers have done after failure.

        The de-lamination that you are calling the “warning” was actually the “event” that we are discussing.

  31. >while Maldonado (as usual) messed things up and failed to make the most of his opportunities.

    Didn’t he have a technical problem?

  32. Vettel seemed to be hitting the curbs pretty hard, and if his suspension settings were on the unforgiving side – which, visually, they seemed to be – I’m not too surprised his tyres gave out ‘early’. Frustration is an ever present element in F1. Consider this: Seb is not really catching Nico, and Kimi is starting to put his season together and has secured his seat for next year. I’d be frustrated too if I were Vettel, but his outburst against Pirelli was not well reasoned, well timed nor well worded.

  33. Joe

    Pirelli do not seem to be able to win. They are producing tyres to degrade in order to force more pit stops as required.

    Had the Ferrari strategy worked, and it very nearly did, the praise would have been for Vettel and Ferrari for a masterstroke in strategy.

    Pirelli would probably have been pilloried for being too conservative whilst on Friday there were thoughts they had been too bold and should have gone for mediums and hards after the Rosberg incident.

    Ferrari were quite possibly factoring in that there were very high chance there would be a forced change to wets at the end of the race.

    Pirelli were, in hind sight, wrong to indicate that there was a ‘possible’ life of 40 laps but they probably thought nobody would chance their arm to that extent.

    The outcome will almost certainly be that there will now be a mandatory maximum number of laps for each tyre. Some of the complainers will now moan that it is taking away choice from teams. If it leads to better racing, good.

    There was some brilliant racing in Spa yesterday. It was not enhanced by Ferrari.

    A great racing team should ‘race’ not go for tyre endurance.

    I am pleased that Vettel escaped unscathed, however his driving after the incident was not good. He could have jeopardised some great battles in his attitude.

    The Vettel gift to F1 today is, probably, that there will now have to be more pits stops with fresher tyres to ensure the brilliant racing we saw in the mid field will continue and probably increase.

    Pirelli should be congratulated for what they have, and are trying to achieve rather than castigated. They are working to a directive although many seem to forget that.

      1. +1.

        Loses tread on tyre (which does *not* deflate, the carcass is intact at this point & he is in good control of the car – completely different from & much less serious than Rosberg’s previous failure, because he had the option to pull over, he just chose not to).

        Keeps pushing as hard as he can to get to the pits instead of retiring, with the result that the tyre does subsequently blow.

        Responds by plonking himself in the middle of the circuit with his blown tyre, so that the guys behind him are overtaking him on -both sides at once-. (Was he staying on the racing line there?)

        Comes back to pits to complain about how someone could have been hurt by an exploding tyre.

        Words fail.

        [This is -not- to say that I completely buy the Pirelli version either; I haven’t heard particularly credible responses to the ’40 lap’ thing, Permane’s comments about considering a one-stopper viable, or the claim by Ferrari that Pirelli’s rep with the team was a party to the call. More fundamentally, Vettel’s lap times were pretty solid, and Grosjean was having a harder time getting past him than he had passing Ricciardo or Perez (with Merc power) earlier in the race. If there was -that- much wear, I’d have expected Vettel’s lap time to disintegrate before the tyre. And none of this is definitive, I’m pretty agnostic about the actual tyre].

  34. Perhaps Vettel should be forcibly (a la clockwork orange) shown the footage of him going off track repeatedly and hammering over the kerbs.
    Only McLarens used to be able to do that and that was way back when the suspension had springs and actually moved.

    Everyone was going off track repeatedly throughout the race and it is a wonder there were not many more failures.

    It is also somewhat relevant that Pirelli have repeatedly asked to be allowed to specify the maximum laps/percentage of the race distance their tyres should be used for as part of the tyre spec, and regs but have been refused.

    The infra red camera showing tyre temperature was very revealing and revealed that the inner 50mm of the tread did all the work, so much so that one had to think that setup was on the limit of camber and toe-in.

    The tyre could possibly last 50 laps under some conditions which would not include cross country and motocross use.

    Some times I wonder why Pirelli put up with all the slagging off and just walk away. Contracts mean nothing in F1 after all.

  35. It seems I rarely agree with Ferrari (or at least the old Ferrari), but this time I do. This is a quote from Arrivabene and to me it sums the entire situation up — “We have an engineer from Pirelli — what do you think he is for?” He’s not there to chew gum but to follow all the runs. We had zero warning. I can show you the paper.”

    Regardless of who was at fault, hopefully they figure out what caused these failures before the next race.

  36. I would credit Pirelli’s justifications more were it not for Rosberg’s near identical failure with the same tire (R rear) at similar speed, in practice.

    There is a difference between pure failure, and wear related failure. Nico’s was clearly not overuse or wear, and Seb’s lap times were consistent and not falling off. Roman was catching him on fresher tires, not being conservative by necessity.

    I cannot claim your insight Joe, but objectively looking at the facts available indicate Pirelli has a problem. I acknowledge they are, and have been, in a no win situation, and have valiantly delivered what they have been tasked with developing, despite the dubious effect on their reputation as non-F1 customer tire maker. Personally, their Trofeo R is the best track tire I’ve driven. Superb.

    But, if one blew on me at speed, I wouldn’t buy another set… IF I were able. I think Seb has every right to be furious, and Pirelli’s excuses sound lamentable. I have difficulty comprehending why they continue in such a thankless position.

  37. I’ll deliberately stay away from the Ferrari tyre issue as both pro and anti Seb issues have been fully vented above, but let’s all keep our fingers crossed for Justin Wilson who apparently remains critical tonight. A lovely guy when I met him many years ago as a Jonathan Palmer protege just before his short F1 career.

    For me open wheel open cockpit racing like F1 should definitely remain with all concerned taking the associated risks through choice. I suspect most if not all of the current F1 grid would agree with that. Live your dreams rather than dream to live them.

  38. i watched the pre race programme on the BBC ; i was amazed when i was shown the degree to which the track was cut in the start area to drain the normal Spa deluges …surely this can produce damage in the tread area at the sort of speeds F1 cars travel at !
    and as was evident to all , the cars were constantly exceeding the track limits with no response from the stewards …i can only think that this is because of the calls to spice up the racing
    so much for improving safety …not if it endangers the bottom line it seems

    1. There is no consistency about the enforcement of track limits – at Silverstone the stewards were constantly deleting quali lap times for drivers going over the line at Copse, but at Spa almost everyone was doing it in multiple places and not a word about it (except from M. Brundle…).

      Not that we need any more penalties, but the white lines are there to make everyone race on the same track and allowing them to be breached arbitrarily is not good. It may also be unsafe though we will never know how much of Vettel’s tyre failure was due to driving on kerbs and dirt.

    2. Vettel said on Sunday on Sky he “didn’t leave the track.” I saw him regularly off track. The track is the bit between the two white lines. Not kerbs or run off area. So hus argument holds no water.

      More importantly this morning, my thoughts go to the family of Justin Wilson. Sleep well, my friend.

  39. I disagree about Vettel’s excoriation of Pirelli: I think it entirely appropriate that someone whose life depends on the tyres passes comment on their durability. Reading other reports of the comments it seems he was voicing widely held concerns amongst other drivers.

    e. g. :

  40. Hi Joe
    It would be great to get some insight from you on Lotus’s performance over the weekend – perhaps a separate blog post.

    It seems to me that given the lack of funding, they must have something very special on which the car is based. I would love to hear more (perhaps an interview) from an engineer or two about how on earth they’ve managed this, especially given the departure of a lot of personnel over this time.

    Perhaps the next Adrian Newey is beavering away in the Lotus Design office and has come up with a real gem.

  41. Just heard the bloody awful news about Justin Wilson. Was privileged enough to have (briefly) made his acquaintance some years ago. A nicer chap you couldn’t meet. It’s going to take a lot to cheer me up today. RIP fella. 😦

  42. Joe, I was about to send a note about F1 becoming overly safety conscious in the light of Vettel’s attack on Pirelli but then read the sad news of Justin Wilson’s passing. Terrible news and a real tragedy for everyone involved. Condolences to his family and Andretti Motorsport.

  43. RIP Justin Wilson 1978-2015. He died after following a passion so many of us share. My thoughts are with his wife, two daughters and wider family.

  44. So incredibly sad to read the news about Justin Wilson’s passing this morning.

    In the light of this, folks, it might be a good idea to park the sniping at Joe about his views on Pirelli (where, I have to say, I suspect none of us know as much as Joe does, and airing ill-informed opinions does no-one any good).

  45. Verstappen going around the outside of Nasr at Blanchimont was one of those unforgettable things that keeps me watching F1. It is up there with Alonso doing likewise to Schumacher at 130R (2005?) and Webber passing Alonso through Eau Rouge a few years ago. Hair-raising stuff.

        1. did i wrote that? i love good fights. but within the rules and respect for other drivers. already 3 huge mistakes before this gp and already killed 5 engines. come on! this is f1. the absolute top. it needs topchassis, topengines and TOPdrivers, no teenagers with an attitude

  46. I wonder why no blame have been put to FIA for the Vettel incident? If they had started policing the track limit rule somewhat seriously (instead of just saying that they would) surely some risk of tire damage would have been negated?

    Well, maybe the FIA representatives would have been lynched by an angry mob of drivers and team bosses if they had started handing out punishments?

    Too bad, but at least Hamilton won the shortest ever Spa GP… 🙂

  47. Hi Joe…when Mallya openly spoke about discussion with Renault u think he wanted to indirectly say that he is ready to sell his stake in Force India?

    1. No, I don’t think he wants that at all. It is the one area in his empire that is actually working well and it gives him enormous profile (which he loves). I think he is trying to do a deal with someone else and by talking about Renault being interested in his team, it is designed to hurry them up.

  48. As great as the Verstappen move was, I am wrong in thinking that all four of his wheels went beyond the track limits i.e. the white line? I didn’t see a single replay of this move, which I found interesting in itself.

    Instantly I thought of three similar moves, Hamilton on Raikkonen at Spa at the chicane, Vettel on Button at Hockenheim at the hairpin & Grosjean on Massa at Hungary at Turn 4 that were all penalised. Even if a move is bold and beautiful it needs to be completed in the parameters laid out, as Alonso’s was through 130R. The consistency that the move needed to be queried by the stewards is still not 100% as I don’t know for sure if it was in the track or out.

    1. I had the same idea..perhaps because he was perceived not to have gained an advantage? His front wheels were still behind Nasr’s when they started braking..Although one could argue he did gain an advantage by being the one on the inside line towards the chicane? Anyway, it was a great move and I wouldn’t like it if it had been penalised. But is the ruling consistent? dunno..

  49. Joe, is it really not possible to make a tire that allows a super strong structure yet has a limited life rubber layer? Once the rubber is spend, you would end up with no grip, possibly exposing the mesh but the structure would survive the key few seconds at full speed to avoid catastrophic failures. As it stands it feels like something needs to be done or we are going to lose another driver.

    1. I guess the only people that could answer that are tyre manufacturers. I would imagine that if they were asked to make six variants of a tyre that will be guaranteed to withstand ANYTHING whilst being hammered by 10 different cars whose design they have no direct control of, driven by people who by definition seek to push the limits of everything available to them, on 20 odd circuits at a range of unpredictable temperature gradients.. they’d say that no, it’s not possible. They’d be crazy to say or sign up for anything else.

      Tyre design is a fiendishly complicated subject (more so than most will imagine). In the event of some failures, it is entirely reasonable to ask whether they are as resilient as they can be but it is a virtually impossible question to answer and certainly a quite ridiculous one for anyone other than expert engineers to attempt to answer (and even they will struggle). Vettel should have stuck simply to asking this question and would have put the right question to Pirelli in a way that is fair to them. What he actually said frankly only served to make him sound rather stupid. The result is that in addition to doing its best to get to the bottom of what happened to an incomplete mass of ripped up cloth and rubber, Pirelli now also has to engage with a conversation grounded in cloud cuckoo land.

  50. I keep reading the teams say how bad the Pirelli tyres, and they want Michelin back. It’s not like Michelin have ever produced tyres that fail during a GP weekend. Oh wait, everyone seems to have forgotten Indianapolis 2005….

    1. Sure, many if not all of the teams want rid of Pirelli, but I can’t say I’ve read anything about any of them expressly wanting Michellin back. Michellin have stated on many occasions that they want to take over from Pirelli, but that is not the same thing…

  51. Joe, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Grosjean and his career. Since he managed to pretty much match Raikkonen at Lotus I’ve thought him a driver on an upward trajectory, but no-one seems interested. He did say last week that his management had spoken recently to Ferrari but only briefly.

    I’ve been a big Raikkonen fan since he moved to McLaren but I fail to see why a team of Ferrari’s influence and funding would keep Raikkonen on for another year. All those little problems that have plagued him over the past 18 months never seem to happen to the real contenders, whether or not it’s luck. He’s clearly at the late-end of his career whereas Grosjean is probably, age-wise, in the middle. It doesn’t look like Ricciardo will be available next year either, and Bottas seems to be flattering to deceive. So who else could Ferrari have in mind for 2017? I’d have thought that they could have snapped up Grosjean pretty cheap.

  52. I don’t think Vettel’s remarks were out of place. Instant catastrophic failure at 300km/h is something nobody recieves well. Especially if it comes from a highly controled spec provided part which is developed without the pressure of a competitive rival and should be able to withold the highest safety standards possible. And then it is all made worse because there was no indication of severe wear born from abusive driving.

    Not enough facts are known, or divulged, currently so there’s no point in placing blame. But this is not the first, second of third time Pirelli tyres have been found to be extremely fragile and intolerant to some – God forbid – actual hard racing. Plus their PR mahcine has not inspired confidence over either SV’s or NR’s tyre failures.

    1. I didn’t say they were out of place. I said they were foolish. It was probably said in the heat of the moment, when the adrenaline was still flowing. He had attempted a very brave strategy and failed. You cannot blame the tyres when Pirelli is asked to build certain spec tyres.

  53. Joe,
    You read that Pirelli have a representative at each team, is this true?
    If so, would you know or think that a team would devuldge their tire strategy with them?

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