Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi speak on tyre failure in F1 Qatar GP as Pirelli shares its initial thoughts.
Already on Friday, Pirelli thought the tyre wear was high and the load on the front-left seemed more than any other tyres on the car for F1 Qatar GP. The Italian manufacturer felt two-stop strategy was the best one to go with despite smoother tarmac and the hardest three compounds for the grand prix.
The strategy predictions from Pirelli is more like a guideline than an instruction and it is on F1 teams to go around it. The first failure happened for Mercedes’ Bottas who was on his first stint still on the medium compound with more than 30 laps done – taking into account that the tyre was also used during qualifying on Saturday.
McLaren’s Norris pitted next when he found a puncture on his hard compound. He had done 24 laps in his stint. The puncture for Williams pair of Russell and Latifi followed right after that. They were on the hard compound too, having done 32 laps each. Despite the failures, most of the F1 drivers were pretty surprised by how much they could push.
The general consensus was that the tyres worked well all-through where the rear seemingly never degraded, but agreed that the front-left took the bulk of the load all weekend long. Pirelli will investigate the tyres at their Milan base, but the damage for the likes of Norris and Bottas is done as they lost crucial points in their championship battle.
Here’s what the F1 drivers and Pirelli stated:
Bottas: “I don’t know really what happened. There was no warning, no vibration, pace was still consistent. The grip was feeling OK. It just happened. Initially I thought the wind was getting stronger on the main straight because I felt that the car was sideways. Then it was a puncture in the first corner, and obviously in the most unlucky point as well, just after the pit exit. I think it was different with Gasly, it was related to front wing, we knew that it is high stress for the tyres but normally you get the vibrations before and then you can at least monitor a bit. I think I was about three laps from stopping before puncture.”
Norris: “I guess you don’t expect the tyre to blow up, especially not on the hard tyre. We weren’t even that far into the stint, 20 laps or something, and the tyre should do a lot more than 20 laps. Every track, you look after the tyres because the tyres wear out a bit but you don’t expect it to suddenly let go completely. It was quite dangerous for a lot of people today. It shouldn’t happen. No, there was no vibrations. It just went around Turn 14 or Turn 15, yeah, nothing. It is obvious what it is (cause), but I just can’t say. As I said, it just shouldn’t happen. If there’s a wall there or something, it could’ve been a lot more dangerous. I don’t know, they should make the tyres better.
“It’s dangerous for us as drivers. We risk a lot every time and if we can’t just drive a Formula 1 car around the circuit, what can you do? I didn’t even do a very long stint, 20 laps, 25 laps, whatever. I should still be able to drive the circuit. I was managing the tyres still quite a bit, I was pushing of course like every race. There’s always a period where you can push. In the first stint, there was a lot of saving to go so far on the soft tyre, we did 25 laps or something on it, maybe a little bit more. And that’s a soft tyre which wears out quicker than hard. When we were on the hard tyres, we expected to be quite easy to get to the end, but I mean, I was pushing a bit, I had the tyres in nicely to try and make it to the end but couldn’t.”
Russell: “No warning, but to be honest we actually anticipated that prior to the race. It was literally just the outside shoulder of that front-left that was a limitation, probably a 10cm on the outside of the front left, and it would literally just go at some point if we kept pushing it. The reason for it is that we didn’t have enough pace today. The high-speed corners where you need to manage, the corners leading onto the straights, and the guys were already right behind me in the high-speed corners, so if I manage any more, they would have just overtaken me regardless. So nothing to be disappointed about regarding the puncture. It was just a factor of just not having enough speed around the rest of the lap.
“These Formula 1 cars are so fast, tyres wear. You go through those right-hand corners, you’re almost flat out in seventh gear, I don’t know what the exact speed is, it’s probably 270, 280 km/h, it’s going to happen and for whatever the reason, it was impressive how hard we could push, it was relatively smooth which allowed the drivers to really-really push flat-out and probably from my whole F1 experience, this was the race where it was the highest tempo – if I made sense – how much you could push and that was really enjoyable. Obviously, it didn’t help in the end.
“I think it was a factor of the wind direction of the tarmac and nature of the corners, a lot of medium speed, but a lot down to tarmac. I think it is literally more the load and the speed that goes through, you have got lot of steered angle and that outside front is just..probably taking half the tyre taking the actual pounding, so you see the wear, everybody out of the pitlane really struggling but what was needed today was lot of high-speed management and unfortunately for us, the lack pace you couldn’t have manage because the guys would have naturally overtaken.”
Latifi: “It was quite surprising, I mean we knew if we are trying to make the one-stop work, the tyres are going to be taken to the limit, and at the same time if we rewind and look at Silverstone two years ago, the issues with the tyres you could really feel it coming on, like laps and laps of vibrations getting worse and worse where you feel like the tyre is going to explode, and this was not the case here, the tyres felt fine. When I saw George slow down, I asked ‘is that the tyre or is that something else?’ because I was like ‘could the same thing be for me?’ And I heard it was the tyre, I was like ‘okay, mine feels fine, I don’t even feel front-left limited, I feel more rear-left limited, because I felt I had been looking after it’. But obviously the last few laps, just pushing flat out to keep the Alfas behind. I think we had nothing to lose trying to make that strategy work, especially with the Alfas behind us. They were our race and it just wasn’t to be.”
Pirelli – Mario Isola: “I don’t know because I don’t want to anticipate any conclusion when I don’t have all the elements. Obviously we have done preliminary investigation done on the tyres to understand if there is any clear cut or any element. What we know more information collected from the teams and so on, they were not experiencing high vibrations and I believe that the wear was quite high, close to 100% but this doesn’t mean that the cause of the puncture was the wear. So I want to investigate four tyres separately to understand if there is a common reason for that or if for example there was a different causes because of the puncture. It was sudden but not immediate because the drivers were able to go back to the pit, so you can see in many cases a strong impact on the kerb at high-speed because you can see the sparks from the front wing and so on.
“And then the tyres were going on a long run, high mileage, high wear, tyres that is less protected, you hit a kerb, you start losing pressure, the tyres are still in one piece, so we can investigate them, not only the four tyres that failed but also the other tyres that are coming from the race as we usually do. We said that two-stop strategy was right for several reasons, one of that was the wear that we measured on Friday was quite high after the 20 laps, so clearly if you run a 30 laps stint, especially at the beginning of the race, it is quite clear that you reach 100% wear. And when you reach there, you don’t have anymore thread left and the protection is lower and also the impact on tyre is different. At the moment, for example, the Latifi’s tyres are gone as he was running a complete lap before coming in. That tyre is heavily damage for running flat for one lap. While Norris, he had a puncture just the corner before pitlane and when he came in, we found a cut on the sidewall, it can be the cause but we need to investigate.
Here’s what happened with Valtteri Bottas: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-qatar-grand-prix-bottas-picks-up-puncture-and-damages-front-wing.1717051397502767918.html
Here’s the puncture for George Russell and Nicholas Latifi: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-qatar-grand-prix-russell-and-latifi-suffer-late-punctures.1717052871582583822.html
Here’s how F1 Qatar GP panned out