Having changed their tyres after the series of explosive failures that were a feature of the British GP in July, Pirelli found themselves under fire again in Sunday’s race in Korea.
As Sebastian Vettel scored his fourth consecutive victory, McLaren’s Sergio Perez suffered a front tyre failure that brought out the safety car so that the debris could be cleared up. And after he picked up a puncture himself as a result, Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber lambasted the Italian company’s philosophy.
“The drivers aren't super important – it’s what other people want," Webber said, having made a fiery exit from the race after being hit by Adrian Sutil’s Force India which punctured his Red Bull’s oil radiator and caused a blaze that destroyed his car. "The tyres are wearing a lot and they also explode a bit - but that is for Pirelli to sort out."
The tyre manufacturer brought its medium and supersoft compound tyres to the race, and the latter were marginal given the stresses involved, particularly on the right front tyre. It was that one which failed on Perez’s car.
"Pirelli will put the puncture of Perez down to a lock-up, but the reason the drivers are locking up is because there's no tread left," Webber said.
Pirelli were also criticised by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso which led to some exchanges on Saturday. In one, Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembrey suggested that the Spaniard should consult Vettel, “to ask the soon-to-be four-times champion how to get the best from the same tyres." Hembery later apologised. But he defended Pirelli’s aggressive tyre choice, and reiterated that the company have been producing exactly what they have always been asked by the teams to produce: tyres that degrade quickly in order to make sure that the show put on for the public remains interesting. He suggested that instead of blaming Pirelli, the drivers should discuss the matter with their teams who made the request for high-degradation tyres in the first place.
"Their frustrations are no different to Michael Schumacher's last year,” he said. "It is maybe a different input if you are having to manage the tyres and you don't want to do it. Then you have a different point of view. And there is nothing wrong with a different point of view. It’s just not what we've been asked to do at the time.
"If we had been asked to make tyres that didn’t degrade because nobody wanted pit stops, then that’s what we would have done. As it is, we just did what we were asked to do."
Hembrey said that Perez’s problem was a result of very heavy braking which caused the tyre to lock up momentarily.
"From the telemetry it was a big flat spot," he said. "That put a huge hole right the way through the tread block, which then failed. There is not a lot we can do about that one."
Pirelli will be taking their medium and hard-compound tyres to the high-speed Suzuka circuit for next weekend’s Japanese GP.