FIA issue response to driver frustration with Qatar Grand Prix track safety changes

Oliver Harden
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc kicks up sparks at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc kicks up sparks.

Nikolas Tombazis, the FIA’s single-seater director, has acknowledged that the F1 drivers’ frustration to emergency track changes at the Qatar Grand Prix is “understandable.”

The FIA announced on Saturday morning in Lusail that analysis by F1 tyre manufacturer Pirelli had revealed major safety concerns at the Qatar GP, with a separation in the sidewall of tyres discovered and likely caused by “high-frequency interference” from the 50mm pyramid kerbs used at the circuit.

The governing body announced drivers will be forced to make three pit stops over the course of Sunday’s grand prix if the situation does not improve, with track limits revised at the troublesome Turns 12/13 section.

Qatar Grand Prix safety concerns prompt emergency measures

The drivers were left frustrated by the lack of consultation and little notice they were given before the FIA statement was published, with Grand Prix Drivers’ Association chairman Alex Wurz said to be leading complaints.

Appearing on Sky F1’s coverage of the sprint shootout in Qatar, Tombazis said he understood the drivers’ discontent.

He said: “It is understandable, they drive the cars and they want to make sure they’re safe and safety is absolutely our number one priority.

“We did consider modifying the kerbs but from the time we had last night, very late at night, to today, it would not have been possible.

“There were not one or two single kerbs, it was quite an extent – they would have had to have been filed off and that’s very hard concrete, that would not have been possible.

“So on that basis, the next thing we got was to actually get the cars to stay a bit further away from the kerbs, which is what we’ve done by changing the white line.”

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Tombazis insisted the changes did not reflect poorly on Lusail as an F1-standard facility, adding: “To be clear, the kerb used is of an FIA specification.

“The track has done a good job of putting together everything, so we have got no complaints against the track, they have used all the guidelines.

“These interactions between tyres and kerbs can be very complicated and can depend on a lot of relatively subtle details, which obviously, indicate that we need to do more research there to improve the situation further, both from a tyre and kerb point of view.”

The concerns about tyre failures comes after F1’s previous visit to Qatar was blighted by a number of late-race punctures, which affected the likes of Lando Norris, George Russell and Valtteri Bottas.

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