As the F1 paddock filled up on Saturday morning ahead of the Qatar event’s sprint race action, the FIA announced that Pirelli had discovered a serious risk of potential dramatic punctures during Sunday’s main race following its post-practice analysis of tyres that had completed over 20 laps in Friday’s FP1 session.
In this communication, it was revealed that Pirelli would analyse the state of the tyres used in Saturday’s 19-lap sprint race, which took place with revised track limits at two of the corners where raised pyramid-shaped kerbs were particularly pounding the tyres.
This and the length of time and high speed the drivers were spending on kerbs around the Losail track was causing the issue of sidewall separation between the tyres’ topping compound and the carcass cords in FP1.
If Pirelli found the issue was still occurring following the track changes, Sunday’s grand prix event was set to have mandated stint length caps and three pitstops to avoid the risk of punctures occurring – particularly in one of the many high-speed corners at this venue.
Following Oscar Piastri’s win in the sprint race ahead of newly crowned 2023 world champion Max Verstappen, Pirelli is conducting this analysis.
This has been complicated by the sprint race featuring three safety car periods that meant the soft and medium tyres used were not under the expected full green flag race stint length strain.
But in any case, the FIA has decided it will not reveal the outcome of Pirelli’s investigation – which involves cutting open the tyres to see the full extent of the damage sustained to tyre sidewalls – until after it has explained the situation to all the teams at 2pm local time in Qatar on Sunday.
This follows the teams discovering the initial fears over the tyres only when it was announced to the media on Saturday morning.
Mario Isola, Racing Manager, Pirelli Motorsport
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Neither team engineers nor the drivers had encountered any potential tyre problems during Friday’s action, as the situation was only revealed when the first tyres were cut open as part of Pirelli’s typical post-practice analysis work on Friday night.
Some drivers – including Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – outlined frustrations at having to discover the tyre situation in media reports, which is understood to have been factored into the decision timing on the GP race’s tyre rules announcement following the upcoming team managers’ meeting.
In a press release sent out following the sprint race, Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola stated: “It was a particularly busy day for Pirelli.
“As previously mentioned, during our usual analysis last night after free practice, we discovered that some tyres that had done 20 or more laps were showing signs of micro lacerations in the sidewall, between the topping compound and the carcass cords, most likely caused by the impact generated by repeatedly going over the kerbs at some corners, especially Turns 12 and 13.
“We immediately informed the FIA, who proceeded to take action, by revising the track limits at these corners and instigating an additional free practice session prior to the sprint shootout, to allow the drivers to check out the new lines through this part of the track.
“Now, as is the case at every race weekend, we are analysing the sets returned to us at the end of the day.
“Once this procedure is completed, we will pass on the results of our findings to the FIA and, if necessary, further measures will be put in place for tomorrow night’s grand prix.
“Looking ahead to tomorrow, it is not worth speculating about strategies, given that we must wait for the outcome of our on-going analysis and then see if this has any regulatory effect on how the race will be run.”