Pirelli urge against speculating ahead of Sunday’s strategy call

Michelle Foster
Tyre blankets in use. United States, October 2022.

Tyre blankets in use heating up Pirelli tyres in the paddock.

Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola says it’s not worth speculating about their Qatar Grand Prix strategy call as that will only be decided on Sunday.

Formula 1 returned to the Lusail circuit on Friday for the second running of the Qatar Grand Prix where, as back in 2021, Pirelli found the kerbs were damaging the tyres.

Repeated, high-speed impact with the pyramid kerbs at Turns 11 and 12 led to widespread sidewall damage with the tyre manufacturer voicing safety corners.

Pirelli raised safety concerns after Friday’s running

This led to the FIA tweaking the Turn 11 and 12 kerbs on Saturday, the track limits for those brought in by some 80cm, while additional lines were painted to make that clearly visible for the drivers.

And yet many of them still lost lap times in Saturday’s Sprint shootout for exceeding the track limits at those two turns, meaning they continued to hit those kerbs.

That continued in Saturday’s Sprint race, an event won by Oscar Piastri, with Pirelli set to examine the tyres overnight before making a call on limiting the number of laps the drivers can do on a set in Sunday’s grand prix.

But while a three-stop strategy was touted in an FIA press release on Saturday morning, Isola says Formula 1’s tyre manufacturer will only make that call on Sunday.

“It was a particularly busy day for Pirelli,” Isola said on Saturday night.

“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.

“Looking ahead to tomorrow [Sunday], 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.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 fastest lap: Which drivers have won the most fastest lap points in F1 2023?

F1 penalty points: Which drivers are closing in on race bans

Drivers annoyed with Pirelli’s late communication

With the drivers already annoyed with Pirelli’s late communication that led to the track alterations, GPDA director George Russell says he’s not in favour of the tyre manufacturer determining the number of pitstops drivers can make.

Conceding a lack of track time is a downside to a Sprint weekend, the Mercedes driver said the situation was not “ideal”.

He added: “This weekend we had no data. Had we had the three sessions we would have learned that the tyres were wearing and we’d have to do a three-stop.

“I think what the FIA did with the small modifications of the track was good. I was a bit skeptical, but I thought I was a good step.

“But I don’t think they need to intervene to say it needs to be a mandatory three-stop. I think give us the data, see how much wear there was on the soft, the medium. And we should all be smart enough to make a decision based on that.”

Read next: Qatar Grand Prix: Oscar Piastri wins Sprint, Max Verstappen crowned three-time World Champion