Mika Hakkinen says the right-hand kink in Baku’s start/finish straight could have contributed to the worrying tyre failures there.
Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen were involved in frightening crashes during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after suffering identical rear-left tyre failures down the pits straight. Verstappen’s occurred while he was leading the race in the closing stages.
Fortunately both drivers were unhurt, thanks to the nose-first angle at which they hit the wall, but already Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg among others have spoken out about how the situation could have been far worse.
Pirelli believe debris was to blame, although their investigations are ongoing.
Two-time former World Champion Hakkinen will wait for the official word but did highlight the right kink in the main straight, arguing it puts the left-rear tyre under stress and this could therefore have been a contributing factor.
Either way, he shares the view that these failures could have been very damaging indeed, speaking from his own experiences, and stressed the need for Pirelli, the FIA and the teams to work together to provide answers.
“I have to feel sorry for Max Verstappen. He drove such a strong race from P3 on the grid only to suffer that terrible tyre failure on the main straight at maximum speed,” Hakkinen wrote in his Unibet column.
“There is a right-hand kink in the straight, which will have put load on the left rear tyre, and that’s the one which failed.
“We need to wait for the result of Pirelli’s investigation, to see whether there was an actual problem with the tyre itself or a puncture caused by debris. Either way, it is a worry for F1.
“I have experienced tyre blowouts and it’s never a nice experience. It’s very sudden, violent and leaves you a passenger at 300kph. It was a tyre failure which put me in hospital at the Australian Grand Prix in 1995, and in 1999 I had a tyre fail while driving flat out in Germany.
“When you feel the car go, you instantly start to try and correct the steering, but at maximum speed there is really nothing you can do.
“What makes Max’s tyre failure more worrying is that it was the second one of the day, Lance Stroll having suffered the same fate in his Aston Martin. The fact both incidents took place at the same location, at maximum speed, means the FIA, together with the teams and Pirelli, will need to look carefully at all the data and really try to understand the reasons.
“In Baku, both drivers were on their own with no car alongside. They were also fortunate to spin and hit the wall with the nose section. At other circuits, this kind of failure could lead to a more catastrophic accident.”