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Pirelli cites kerbs as cause of punctures in Qatar

NEWS STORY
22/11/2021

Pirelli boss, Mario Isola, cites Losail's unforgiving kerbs as the cause of late spate of punctures in Qatar Grand Prix.

As Lewis Hamilton headed towards another commanding victory a spate of late punctures brought the final stages of the Qatar Grand Prix back to life.

First off was Valtteri Bottas, who, despite slipping back down the field and out of the top ten following a poor start, looked set to make a late stop for fresh rubber and thereby deprive Max Verstappen of the fastest lap.

Running twelfth, on Lap 49, the Finn, who had started the race on mediums before switching to (new) hards, suffered a sudden puncture. To make matters worse he had just passed the pitlane entrance which meant completing another lap in order to get back to the pits for fresh rubber.

However, such was the damage, the Finn was unable to complete the lap and thereby became the first retirement of the afternoon.

Moments before, Lando Norris had made a late stop, and it was subsequently revealed that the McLaren driver had also suffered a puncture, as had George Russell.

In the other Williams, no sooner had Nicholas Latifi assured his team that his tyres were "fine" than he too suffered a puncture, and unable to get back to the pits parked by the side of the track thereby causing the late deployment of the VSC.

From the outset, Pirelli saw Qatar as one of the most demanding tracks on the 2021 schedule, and so it proved to be.

"With Losail being a new and relatively unknown track, featuring some high energy corners, the teams headed into the race lacking all the information they would ideally want, with only one representative practice session," said Mario Isola, the Italian manufacturer's head of F1.

"However, it became clear during the race that a one-stopper was very marginal in terms of tyre wear, requiring a high degree of management.

"Some drivers encountered tyre problems towards the finish," he continued, "this was probably due to a combination of very high wear as a result of long stints, and impacts at high speed against some aggressive kerbs.

"We will obviously find out specifically what happened with a full laboratory analysis back at base in Milan," he added.

Asked specifically about Bottas, Norris and the Williams pair, he said: "I believe that part of the cause of that was the high-speed impact on kerbs because here we have a lot of run-off areas with kerbs they were hitting. It's not a secret, I believe that some cars have damage to the floor, to the chassis, to the wings.

"So to understand what happened, we need to send them back to Milan and investigate them. We have some cuts that are visible on the sidewall, that is the weaker part of the tyre and we have to understand."

Isola was keen to make clear that all four punctures were "sudden but not immediate".

"The drivers have been able to go back to the pit and change the tyre, so it was still controllable, even if losing pressure, obviously, you don't have the same direction that you have when a tyre is inflated. But it was possible for them to come to the pit."

Isola pointed to Fernando Alonso, who, on a one-stop strategy, had been instructed to avoid the kerbs in the closing stages of the race whilst being pursued by Sergio Perez.

"Fernando was avoiding kerbs and his tyres are still in good condition," he said. "What we have to understand is that if the cuts were the cause, or if we had the puncture due to other elements or what caused this.

"By contrast, Hamilton and Verstappen were able to push to the limit with the strategy that they had selected, finishing more than half a minute ahead of Alonso in third, who made the one-stopper work for him."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Qatar, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 22/11/2021 10:50

"@ Spindsoctor...all tyres should be robust. All tyres should be able to be 'leant on', with varying degrees in the length of time that that can be done. The new 18's may be better suited..."

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2. Posted by Spindoctor, 22/11/2021 10:36

"I understand Pirelli's position - they are explicitly instructed to make "fragile" tyres in order to "spice up" the "racing". But given the characteristics of this track they maybe should have erred a little more on the side of caution with their recommendations.

Maybe the powers that be might consider making the next generation of tyres a bit more robust?"

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3. Posted by VC10-1103, 22/11/2021 7:49

"Good, let's have those kerbs everywhere then perhaps it will keep the cars on track with no track limits issues."

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