Newly crowned two-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel rolled up his sleeves for a different kind of motorsport race when took on a tyres-changing challenge.
The Red Bull racer lined up against Paul Hembery, motorsport director for Pirelli tyres, for the unique tyre fitting contest at the Buddh International Circuit in India yesterday afternoon ahead of the weekends inaugural Indian Grand Prix
Vettel and Hembery both had to fit a P Zero tyre from scratch: involving mounting the tyre on the rim, inflating it to the right pressure and balancing it to the correct weight – all in front of an audience of TV crews from all over the world.
The question everyone wanted answered was could Hembery’s years of experience in the tyre industry could outdo the competitive instinct of a world champion…especially one who admits he’s never changed a tyre before.
With the help of a Pirelli ‘instructor’ each, Vettel and Hembery successfully completed the challenge – but they both took a little longer than the professional fitters.
Vettel completed the P Zero challenge in 5m13s, whereas Hembery took 5m44s: meaning that the Red Bull Racing driver was once again declared a winner. Afterwards, Vettel met Pirelli’s team of fitters and spent some time talking to them about their jobs.
“We’re getting used to seeing Sebastian winning everything!” said Hembery afterwards. “It was tough actually: I’ve not fitted a tyre for about 15 years and Sebastian had never done it at all. Well done to him: you can see that he’s got a real competitive spirit and exact attention to detail in absolutely everything he does.
“I don’t think that either of us got the pressure or the balancing exactly right: Sebastian still had 65 PSI in his tyre but I didn’t want to try and ruin his winning streak… The main thing is that it was a lot of fun and it made us appreciate once again the essential contribution of all our fitters to the sport.”
Sebastian Vettel added: “It was good fun and interesting to have the duel against Paul. Last time I did something similar was in karting. When the Pirelli boys explained it to us it looked much easier than it actually was. Paul and I were pretty close timewise and then towards the end my tyre decided to jump a bit earlier onto the rim, so I was controlling the lead until the chequered flag.”
Alex Kapadia, Operations Team