As the F1 paddock gathered for the Qatar Grand Prix and its sprint race, the FIA dropped a bombshell announcement regarding the potential for dramatic tyre punctures during the main race. The analysis conducted by Pirelli, the official tyre supplier of Formula 1, after Friday’s FP1 session exposed a serious risk that required immediate attention. This article aims to delve into the details of this issue and its potential impact on the upcoming race.
According to the FIA’s communication, Pirelli found a concerning problem with the tyre sidewalls. The analysis revealed that tyres used in Friday’s FP1 session, which had completed over 20 laps, exhibited sidewall separation between the topping compound and the carcass cords. This issue stemmed from the high-speed corners and raised pyramid-shaped kerbs at the Losail track, which subjected the tyres to significant strain. The revelation prompted Pirelli to examine the state of the tyres used in Saturday’s 19-lap sprint race, held with revised track limits.
To address the issue, the FIA enforced track limit changes at the troublesome corners and organized an additional free practice session before the sprint race. The intent was to allow the drivers to familiarize themselves with the modified track layout and assess the impact of the changes on tyre performance. However, the three safety car periods during the sprint race prevented the tyres from experiencing the full green flag race stint length strain, further complicating Pirelli’s analysis.
The late announcement of the tyre issue to the media on Saturday morning frustrated some drivers, including Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. The drivers and team engineers had not encountered any tyre problems during Friday’s action, and learning about the issue through media reports added to their frustrations. This dissatisfaction likely played a role in the FIA’s decision to postpone revealing the outcomes of Pirelli’s investigation until after the team managers’ meeting on Sunday.
In a press release following the sprint race, Pirelli’s motorsport boss, Mario Isola, acknowledged the busy day for the tyre manufacturer. He confirmed the discovery of micro lacerations in the sidewalls of tyres used for 20 or more laps. Isola attributed these lacerations to the impact generated by repeatedly going over the kerbs at specific corners, notably turns 12 and 13. Pirelli promptly informed the FIA, leading to track limit revisions and an additional free practice session.
From this point, Pirelli is engaged in analyzing the tyres returned at the end of the day, which involves cutting open the tyres to assess the extent of the damage to the sidewalls. The objective is to provide the FIA with comprehensive results and any necessary measures to safeguard against tyre punctures in the upcoming grand prix. The outcome of this analysis will be shared with the teams at 2 pm local time in Qatar on Sunday.
The potential risk of dramatic tyre punctures in the Qatar Grand Prix has cast a veil of uncertainty over the upcoming race. Pirelli’s discovery prompted immediate action from the FIA, with track limit revisions and an additional practice session. However, the true extent of the damage sustained to the tyre sidewalls and the effectiveness of the measures implemented remain uncertain. As Formula 1 enthusiasts eagerly await the outcomes of Pirelli’s investigation, the outcome of the grand prix hangs in the balance, with the potential for mandated stint length caps and multiple pit stops to mitigate risk.