Formula 1: Vettel Continues His Leadership with Pirelli in Belgium
After an action-packed race that was dominated by tyre strategy, Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel converted pole position to another race win this year, the 17th of his career, over 44 laps around the epic Spa-Francorchamps circuit. By winning in Belgium, Vettel exceeded the points total of his championship-winning 2010 season.
For the first time all weekend, conditions remained consistently dry, following rain throughout the free practice and qualifying sessions. Vettel used a three-stop strategy to win the race, having started on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre before using the harder P Zero White medium tyre to finish the race.
His team mate Mark Webber stopped twice to finish runner-up, making excellent use of the P Zero White medium tyre to claim second place with nine laps to go.
All the drivers apart from McLaren’s Jenson Button and Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher started the race on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre. Both Button and Schumacher, who started further down the grid than they had hoped due to problems in qualifying, used a different tyre strategy to their rivals, starting on the medium tyre and finishing on the soft.
Before the start of the race, a number of discussions were held due to some blistering issues during qualifying. Blistering occurs when the compound overheats, causing parts of the tread pattern to degrade. Following a comprehensive review of the situation overnight, the conclusion was drawn that this was a consequence of some car set-ups, affecting compound life rather than structural rigidity. As it was, the blistering did not cause any of the frontrunners significant problems during the race. None of the leaders stopped after lap 32, ensuring an exciting run to the finish after four changes of lead in the first eight laps.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Spa-Francorchamps always provides a thrilling race, although it was unusual not to see any rain at all during the grand prix this year. Heading into the race, all the teams had very little information about dry running in Spa, and this clearly increased the challenge. There was an issue with the front tyre blistering but we are confident that a similar scenario will not arise again, provided that our usage recommendations are followed. Of course, if any team had been concerned about their situation, they had the option to change their set-up and start from the pit lane. However, the majority of teams felt that no change was necessary. The problem was seemingly a consequence of some cars placing an excessive load on the inner shoulder of the front tyre due to their set-up and so overheating the compound, but it did not at all affect the structural integrity of the tyre. As there was no safety issue and because it would have been unfair to the teams that were unaffected, the decision was taken to start with the qualifying tyres as per the usual regulations. Although we did have the capacity to substitute the soft tyres after qualifying it turned out not be necessary. The harder tyres performed with no problems at all throughout the weekend. Both Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button started the race on the P Zero White medium, which formed an integral part of their great fight back up the field.”
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