F1’s official tire supplier has been forced to take action with the FIA after microscopic analysis of tires used in Qatar revealed sidewall separation that could have led to failure.
Pirelli suspected that the problem was caused by tire impact under heavy loads from the pyramid-shaped curbs that had been installed around the renovated Losail circuit.
To avoid risk to the Grand Prix drivers, it was eventually agreed that the tires could last no more than 18 laps, effectively making the Qatar race a three-stop race.
Pirelli now plans to transport its tires to Milan for more detailed forensic analysis to see what further findings can be obtained.
However, Pirelli’s head of motor racing and F1 Mario Isola believes that the most important takeaway from the Qatar event has nothing to do with the technical aspects of its products.
Instead, he suggests there should be better communication between F1, the FIA and Pirelli over Qatar’s modernization, which primarily resulted in the introduction of the controversial curbs.
Asked by Motorsport.com what could and should have prevented the problems, Isola replied: “We need to improve communication, have a system where, in case of changes on the track, the different stakeholders are involved 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 track you obviously plan to race in different categories, such as F1 and MotoGP, for example.
“So why not also involve the motorcycle federation, Michelin and maybe some of the tire manufacturers and the people designing the track? We need to improve communication to anticipate problems.
Motorsport.com understands that one of the key factors that needs to be better understood by all parties is that, after Pirelli submitted a report to the FIA in which it highlighted that curb issues at the 2021 Grand Prix could be a cause of punctures tires, his advice was not taken into account.
And in fact, changes made to the Qatar track this year have resulted in the problematic curbs for 2021, which are 50mm high, being placed even closer to the track rather than on the second row as before, further increasing their firing line for cars.
Pressed if any recent dialogue had highlighted problematic restrictions, Pirelli said: “Yes, we have talked to the FIA.
Jacques Villeneuve at the start with Mario Isola, Pirelli Motorsport race manager
Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“Of course, we had quite a similar problem two years ago. And then we presented the reports. However, we found out about these curbs quite late and of course it was too late to take action.
Pirelli said the tire problems that occurred in Qatar were unprecedented for single-seaters, and Isola suggested his staff had only seen them once in rallies.
Isola said: “A friend of mine told me that we had a similar problem with gravel tires during a rally 25 years ago.
“We can’t compare gravel tires from 25 years ago to today’s in Formula 1, but we had a similar problem with rocks hitting the sidewall and creating this kind of short distance.”
Being able to analyze the tires in Milan will help Pirelli better understand whether there have been any issues with the kits used during the Qatar Grand Prix itself.
“We prefer to send them back to Italy and conduct a proper analysis,” Isola added. “What can we do here now [at the track] it’s not very accurate because we don’t have time and we have to dismantle the fitting and everything else.
“Therefore, it is better to allocate adequate time to conduct the analysis.”
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