Formula 1 drivers preparing to race at Paul Ricard Circuit in France this week had more than just podiums and points on their minds after drivers Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll both were victims of high-speed tire failures at the most recent F1 race in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Tire supplier Pirelli’s initial report after the race in Baku blamed debris for the tire failures. A follow-up report that was sent to the teams earlier this week changed that tune.
“The causes of the two left-rear tire failures on the Aston Martin and Red Bull cars have been clearly identified,” the Pirelli report said. “In each case, this was down to a circumferential break on the inner sidewall, which can be related to the running conditions of the tire, in spite of the prescribed starting parameters (minimum pressure and maximum blanket temperature) having been followed.
“This analysis also took in the tires used by other cars in the race, which had the same or a higher number of laps on them compared to the ones that were damaged. The process established that there was no production or quality defect on any of the tires; nor was there any sign of fatigue or delamination.”
Pirelli said that the teams did nothing wrong. The explanation that was really not much of an explanation didn’t sit all that well with Verstappen.
“Personally not,” Verstappen said today when asked if he was OK with the Pirelli report. “For me, it was just a bit vague what came out. The only thing I can say is from our side, I think the team did everything like they should have done. They followed all the guidelines with tire pressures and stuff, so there was nothing to be found there.
“We’ll go up on pressures this weekend. I’m 100 percent sure we will. Probably it had something to do with that, what happened in Baku, but it would be nice to now if it was tire-pressure related. Just speak out. That would be I thnk easier to understand than the explanation we got so far, because the team didn’t do anything wrong.”
Stroll said that he was just fortunate that his spin early in the race only resulted in slight contact to the wall.
“It’s never fun having a blowout at those speeds,” Stroll said. “It’s always scary. It’s happened to me twice now in Formula 1 at a high speed unexpected—at Mugello back in September and again last weekend (at Baku). Yeah, it’s not fun. I think it’s one of those things you’ve just got put it behind you.”
According to drivers at the Paul Ricard Circuit—site of this weekend’s French Grand Prix–Pirelli is asking teams to raise tire pressures for this week’s race. Teams are given a range of mandated tire pressures, and it has been suggested that Red Bull and Aston Martin may have gotten a little too close to the lower end of the range at Baku.
Regardless, both teams say they were within parameters put in place by Pirelli.
“Obviously, it happened on our team to Lance, he had a failure, and we’ve been doing what Pirelli asked us to do,” Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel said today in France. “The bottom line is that I think everybody gets controlled in the grid, whether they are final pressures or not, and I know that were. That’s the most important thing. We don’t need to debate. There’s a prescription in place. We stick to those in order to run the tires in a safe window. When the tire fails, we need to understand why that is.
“From our side, there’ nothing to add, but it’s also clear that the first priority should be that the tires are safe. Obviously, in a race you have many different scenarios that a tire needs to withstand. It’s not real news that this can be quite challenging.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said he’d like the sport to do a better job of making sure teams adhere to the tire pressure mandates.
“At the end of the day, safety is always the priority,” Hamilton said. “And for me and my team, there have been clear rules and guidelines as to where we have to operate. So I was very surprised, naturally, to see that (Pirelli) had to clarify those which obviously you can can take what you want from that.
“I’m happy that they have acknowledged that they need to clarify it. What’s really, really important from now is how they police it, because they’ve not been policing how the tires are being used—tire pressures, tire temperatures. And we need to better. It’s the action now, we need to see them really follow through and be really vigilant to make sure that it’s equal across the field.”
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