Ferrari and Pirelli are investigating what caused the team’s “sudden” and costly tyre blow-outs in the dramatic closing stages of the British GP.
But Sebastian Vettel denied the failures were a consequence of them pushing the limits in their tight title duel with Mercedes.
What had been on course to be second and fourth-place finishes for Ferrari at Silverstone became third and seventh after Kimi Raikkonen and championship leader Vettel suffered front-tyre punctures inside the final three laps.
Vettel lost four places while he slowly made his way back to the pits for repairs and said the blow-up had come completely out of the blue.
“In the end, we were lucky that we could get back [to the pits] and still see the chequered flag,” Vettel told reporters after seeing his title lead over Lewis Hamilton, the race winner, cut to just one point.
“It was very sudden. Obviously once Valtteri [Bottas] passed I dropped the pace and tried to get the car home, turning everything down. For sure we lost a bit of pace because the tyres were going down [in performance] but nothing out of the ordinary. So it was quite sudden when the tyre decided not to take me to the end of the race.”
Vettel’s soft tyres had been on his car for 30 laps, over half the race distance, but the German says this should not have caused a problem.
“Kimi had something similar with the tyre that was six laps fresher,” he said. “For sure the tyres were not brand new. They were on the tyre for 30-odd laps, but from what we predicted in terms of wear it should have been no problem to carry on.”
Pirelli say they will examine the failures with Ferrari to get to the bottom of what happened.
Mario Isola, Pirelli’s head of car racing, said: “The British Grand Prix contained a sting in the tail for the two Ferrari drivers, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both unfortunately experiencing a tyre issue close to the hard-fought finish; that’s a real pity and we’ll obviously now look into exactly why this happened together with the team.”
However, Vettel denied suggestions Ferrari pushed the tyres further than they should have gone.
“I don’t think that had anything to do with today’s outcome,” he added. “The fact is that the tyre blow-ups came by surprise. It’s not like we were gambling and jeopardising our race result.
One theory after the race was that Vettel damaged his tyres in a big lock-up while defending from Bottas in the closing stages before the Mercedes driver eventually got ahead.
Asked for his opinion, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “In high speed with a high load you are working the tyres very hard. And when you push very hard, as Seb did from Valtteri, it just doesn’t help the tyre.
“I think we have pushed them to the extreme now in terms of load, speed and pushing hard because of the race circumstances. We didn’t have any problems.”