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NOVEMBER 25, 2011

Did exhaust heating cause Vettel's Abu Dhabi problem?

Autosport, the respected British weekly magazine, suggests in today's issue that Sebastian Vettel's Abu Dhabi tyre failure was caused by Red Bull using exhaust gases to generate tyre temperature.

In a story by F1 editor Edd Straw, the magazine says that blue smoke is visible from Vettel's car when the lights go out to signal the start of the race, commensurate with burning rubber rather than burning bodywork as claimed by the team.

The suggestion is that Red Bull has been using a special - legal -- throttle strategy to ensure that tyre temperature is at the optimum level on the opening lap, possibly through heating the wheel rim with exhaust gas.

Interestingly, the story points out that Vettel has often backed off significantly at the end of formation laps, causing those who have to adjust to the speed of the pole position man to lose tyre temperature.

Vettel has enjoyed significant leads at the end of opening laps throughout the season, a fact remarked upon by many race commentators, some even claiming that nobody since Ayrton Senna has driven such consistently strong first laps.

The theory is that in Abu Dhabi, either an unusually long wait on the grid or a procedural error on Vettel's part caused the right rear tyre to overheat excessively and suffer an instant deflation.

Tyre supplier Pirelli said earlier this week that it was satisfied that there was no structural explanation on its part for the failure.