Vet­tel’s ex­plo­sion of emo­tion

F1 Racing - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

The Fer­rari racer fumes af­ter a high-speed Pirelli punc­ture ru­ins his chances of a podium fin­ish

It was a week­end of con­trasts. Af­ter a lengthy sum­mer break, F1 rolled into the lush Ar­dennes for­est to com­mence the sec­ond half of the cham­pi­onship. Twinned with Monza, Spa sig­nals the end of the Euro­pean sea­son, be­fore the seven long-haul trips that nish the year.

While the pad­dock shared tales of their hol­i­days, it was the two Mercedes driv­ers whose breaks had taken them in the most di­ver­gent di­rec­tions. Lewis Hamil­ton had been pho­tographed en­joy­ing him­self at a Caribbean car­ni­val, danc­ing and smok­ing cigars, while meet­ing Hol­ly­wood stars at var­i­ous celebrity bashes State­side. In con­trast, Nico Ros­berg had re­mained at home with his preg­nant wife, Vi­vian, as they pre­pared for the birth of their rst child.

Clearly the sum­mer break had no detri­men­tal ef­fect on per­for­mance, as Hamil­ton com­fort­ably won the Bel­gian GP, his sixth vic­tory of the year, to ex­tend his world cham­pi­onship lead. Ros­berg re­cov­ered from a poor start (the rst with­out any ra­dio ad­vice from engi­neers) to nish in his team-mate’s wheel tracks, 2.058s be­hind.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, watch­ing from the out­side of Pouhon, it was clear that Mercedes, run­ning with a new, dis­tinc­tive, low-down­force bowed rear wing, were once again the class of the eld, with both driv­ers hug­ging the in­side of the rst apex kerb with ease.

On an un­typ­i­cally hot and sunny af­ter­noon at Spa, FP2 was sud­denly brought to a halt with the ap­pear­ance of a red ag. Nico Ros­berg had spun vi­o­lently while head­ing up­hill at al­most 200mph to­wards the awe­somely quick Blanchi­mont cor­ner. His Mercedes suf­fered a right-rear punc­ture and thank­fully he came to a halt be­fore he hit the bar­ri­ers.

Back in the pits, watch­ing on a mon­i­tor while strapped into his McLaren, Jen­son But­ton coolly re­marked over his team ra­dio “Very Mansel­lesque,” as he watched the replay show rub­ber y up into the air in an ex­plo­sion rem­i­nis­cent of the ti­tle-de­cid­ing tyre fail­ure from Ade­laide 1986.

Af­ter a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Pirelli re­vealed there were “no signs of a struc­tural in­tegrity is­sue” with Ros­berg’s right-rear and that an “ex­ter­nal cut” had been the root cause of the prob­lem. What caused the cut was not known and de­spite Ros­berg’s de­nials, the spec­u­la­tion was that he’d run wide and inicted kerb dam­age.

Fast-for­ward 48 hours and another right-rear fail­ure was to cause even greater con­tro­versy. Af­ter qual­i­fy­ing eighth, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel was on a dam­age-lim­i­ta­tion ex­er­cise, driv­ing a one-stop strat­egy – the only driver in the eld to at­tempt such a feat – and af­ter pit­ting to re­place his softs on lap 14, he was plan­ning to run to the nish on medium tyres. On lap 42, run­ning third, his race ended as his right-rear ex­ploded head­ing

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