Red Bull Racing thinks it may never have a definitive explanation for what caused Sebastian Vettel's puncture in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, after post-race analysis failed to uncover a firm answer.
Although investigations have ruled out a structural failure of the tire or valve, and Pirelli says it has discovered no proof that debris was to blame, Red Bull Racing suspects that the most likely cause of the tire deflating was a piece of carbon fiber from another car that Vettel ran over at the first exit curb.
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner said that analysis work with Pirelli had failed to uncover a definite cause.
"We have worked hard with the full assistance of Pirelli to find an answer, but, unfortunately, when you are presented with a bag of bits it is almost impossible to come up with a firm answer," he said. "There is nothing in the data to suggest there was anything wrong with the tire before the start, but when he ran across the curb on the exit of Turn 1 there was an instant deflation. We believe the most likely cause of this was a foreign object penetrating the tire, but we may never find the true answer."
Horner dismissed suggestions that the tire failure was caused by the inner sidewall getting overheated from exhaust gasses blown on it at the rear of the car. He also said that on-board footage from Jenson Button's car on the grid, that showed smoke emerging from Vettel's right-rear tire at the start, was not actually rubber but was, in fact, burning bodywork.
"There was some worn bodywork that got burned, and that gave the appearance of smoke from the tire after the start," he said. "Sebastian's start procedure was the same as Mark's, and the same as it had been all season. We were also running in the same configuration as before, so there is no reason why we should suddenly suffer a problem."