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Pirelli flying Qatar F1 tyres back to HQ as hunt for answers begins

Pirelli is flying Formula 1’s Qatar Grand Prix tyres back to its Milan headquarters for further investigation, as focus shifts to the communication failures that triggered last weekend’s problems.

Pirelli tyres

Pirelli tyres

Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

F1’s official tyre supplier was forced to take action along with the FIA after microscopic analysis of tyres used in Qatar revealed a sidewall separation that could have led to failures.

Pirelli suspected the problem was caused by the battering that tyres were taking at high loads from the pyramid kerbs that had been installed around the revamped Losail circuit.

To avoid the risk of any danger to drivers in the grand prix, it was eventually agreed that tyres could run for no more than 18 laps, which effectively turned the Qatar race in to a three-stopper.

Pirelli now plans to transports its tyres for more forensic detailed analysis in Milan to see what further understanding can be found.

However, Pirelli head of car racing and F1 Mario Isola thinks that the biggest takeaway from the event of Qatar is nothing to do with the technical aspects of its products.

Instead, he suggests that there should have been better lines of communication between F1, the FIA and Pirelli over the Qatar revamp which ended up with the controversial kerbs being there in the first place.

Asked by Autosport what could and should have been to prevent the problems, Isola said: “We need to improve the communication, to have a system where, when there are changes to the circuit, there is an involvement of different stakeholders in order to understand if there is an impact on any of them.

“I'm not just talking about Pirelli and F1, because when you design a circuit, obviously, you plan to run different categories like F1, and MotoGP, for example.

“So why not involve also the motorcycle federation, or Michelin, or maybe a couple of tyre manufacturers, and the people that are designing the track? We need to improve the communication in order to anticipate the issues.”

Autosport understands that one of the key factors that needs to be better understood by all parties is why, after Pirelli submitted a report to the FIA highlighting kerb problems at the 2021 grand prix being a trigger for punctures, its advice was not heeded.

And in fact, the changes made to the Qatar track for this year actually resulted in the problem kerbs for 2021, which are 50mm high, being brought even closer to the track rather than being the second row as before - so putting them even more in the firing line for cars.

Pushed on if the problem kerbs had been highlighted in any recent dialogue, Pirelli said: “Yes, we had exchanges with the FIA.

Jacques Villeneuve on the grid with Mario Isola, Racing Manager, Pirelli Motorsport

Jacques Villeneuve on the grid with Mario Isola, Racing Manager, Pirelli Motorsport

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Obviously we had an issue two years ago that was quite similar. And after that, we provided the reports. But we learned quite late about these kerbs here, and obviously it was too late to take action.”

Pirelli says the tyre problems that emerged in Qatar was unprecedented in single seaters, with Isola suggesting that his staff had only ever seen it once before in rallying.

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Isola said: “A colleague told me that 25 years ago we had a similar problem on gravel tyres in a rally.

“We cannot compare gravel tyres from 25 years ago to F1 now, but we had a similar problem due to hitting stones with the sidewall and creating this kind of small separation.”

The opportunity to analyse the tyres in Milan will help Pirelli better understand if there were any problems with the sets used in the Qatar Grand Prix itself.

“We prefer to send them back to Italy and to make a proper analysis,” added Isola. “What we can do now here [at the track] is something not very accurate, because we don't have the time, and we have to dismount the fitting area and everything.

“That's why it's better to take the right time to run the analysis.”

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