Start, Monza, 2014

Tyres under scrutiny ahead of F1’s fastest race

2015 Italian Grand Prix preview

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Tyre, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, 2015Formula One’s official tyre supplier Pirelli is in the spotlight as Formula One heads to Italy for the final European race of the year.

The precise cause of Sebastian Vettel’s tyre blow-out late in the Belgian Grand Prix remains unknown, though Pirelli has vowed to reveal the findings of its investigation in the run-up to the race.

This is an uncomfortable but not unfamiliar situation for F1. Four years ago at Spa Pirelli was forced to act after teams noticed blisters developing on their tyres after just a few laps.

It was discovered that some had been running the tyres beyond their recommended camber angles – Red Bull were using -4.35 degrees at the front compared to the advised -4 degrees. Ahead of the following race at Monza teams were told Pirelli’s pressure limits would now be enforced via the regulations, and lower limits were stipulated.

Pirelli took similar action in the wake of the spate of tyre failures during the 2013 British Grand Prix and also gave teams minimum tyre pressures to adhere to. They are understood to be planning to do the same at Monza this weekend.

With hindsight, Pirelli may regret making this the first race of the season where they are bringing a softer tyre mix than what was selected 12 months ago. This is the first time since the events of 2011 that the tyre manufacturer has brought the soft rubber to Monza.

Track data: Monza

Lap length5.793km (3.6 miles)
Grand prix distance306.72km (190.587 miles)
Lap record (in a race)1’21.046 (Rubens Barrichello, 2004)
Fastest lap (any session)1’19.525 (Juan Pablo Montoya, 2004, qualifying one)
Tyre compoundsMedium and Soft
2014 Rate the Race7.42/10
2014 Driver of the WeekendLewis Hamilton

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Monza track data in full

Monza places an unusual combination of demands on tyres which are punished by kerbs and long braking zones in the chicanes and subject to high lateral loadings at Ascari and Parabolica. They also experience the highest speeds of the year: Daniel Ricciardo hit 362.1kph (224.9mph) during last year’s race.

But despite Monza’s unique contribution to Formula One’s heritage and its status as the only true high-speed, low-downforce venue left on the calendar, we may not have much longer left to enjoy it. Bernie Ecclestone insists he is offering the race organisers no more than anyone else pays to continue holding the race, but that minimum level is rising every year.

If the Italian Grand Prix organisers cannot afford it, the unthinkable will happen as surely as it has already happened in France and, this year, Germany.

Italian Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg is now more than a win behind Lewis Hamilton in the championship fight, and has identified two ways to raise his game.

“My start was not good so I need to work on that and also on finding those extra tenths in qualifying to get back on top there. I know I have the car underneath me to get pole and the win every time with this incredible machine the team have built, so nothing less will do.”

Red Bull

While Monza’s classic layout makes it a favourite with the drivers, Daniil Kvyat’s rues the “unfortunate” replacement of the gravel trap at Parabolica with an asphalt run-off.

“The changes there do make a difference,” he said. “It isn’t quite the same experience any more. You still have to push a lot and it still requires a lot of technique, but the problem is that even if you make a mistake you get forgiven. It’s not the same.”

Williams

Felipe Massa, Williams, Spa-Francorchamps, 2015Surprisingly, Williams were the least competitive of the four Mercedes-powered teams at Spa. That surprising development was aggravated by an error during the team’s first pit stop for Valtteri Bottas, leaving them with much to improve on this weekend.

Ferrari

Ferrari suffered one of the worst results of their dismal 2014 campaign on home ground last year: Kimi Raikkonen limped home ninth while Fernando Alonso retired with an ERS fault.

Their 2015 campaign has been a vast improvement, though most of their success has come courtesy of a driver who was booed by the crowd when he won this race two years ago. A repeat of either the victory or the booing both seem unlikely.

McLaren

There’s no two ways about it: Monza will be “tough” for McLaren, Alonso readily admits. However Jenson Button did take some encouragement from the upgrades brought to their Honda power unit at the last race.

“Despite the issues, the car was well balanced in Spa and felt good to drive, particularly in qualifying,” said Button. “We’ll aim to make the most of that in Monza, too, before we head to the fly-aways where there’ll be circuits that’ll suit our car’s strengths much better.”

Force India

Sergio Perez, Force India, Spa-Francorchamps, 2015Team principal Vijay Mallya is setting his sights high after Sergio Perez took the team’s first top-five finish of the year at Spa. “We go there aiming to get both our cars in Q3 on Saturday and in the points on Sunday,” he said, “that must be our target for all the races to come.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Toro Rosso, Spa-Francorchamps, 2015Carlos Sainz Jnr has retired from the last four races in a row due to technical problems and faces a further setback this weekend as he requires an engine change, which will mean a ten-place grid penalty.

Team mate Max Verstappen, meanwhile, will have his first experience of racing at Monza, having previously only tested an F3 car at the track.

Lotus

Spa was bittersweet for Lotus as Romain Grosjean overcame a gearbox change penalty to give the team their first podium finish since 2013. However ongoing financial problems led to the team’s trucks being detained at the track after the race.

Question marks remain over the team’s future but they will make it at least as far as Monza and are confident of another strong showing – potentially even better than they managed in Belgium. It couldn’t come at a better time as Renault is rumoured to be considering a takeover of the team.

Sauber

Felipe Nasr has fond memories of Monza. “I know the circuit well from every series I have come through,” he said. “It reminds me a lot of the time when I moved to Italy in 2009. Back then I lived just 40 minutes away from Monza.”

“It is a unique circuit for me. The flow is really nice, with Parabolica being my favourite corner.”

Manor

Roberto Merhi, Manor, Spa-Francorchamps, 2015Roberto Merhi will forego an appearance in the Formula Renault 3.5 meeting at Silverstone to continue his F1 duties at Manor this weekend. However the team will continue to labour with a year-old version of Ferrari’s power unit.

2015 driver form

DriverG avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Lewis Hamilton1.091.911611/11Form guide
Nico Rosberg2.092.451811/11Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo7.647.673139/11Form guide
Daniil Kvyat9.827.222129/10Form guide
Felipe Massa7.007.0031511/11Form guide
Valtteri Bottas6.096.8031410/11Form guide
Sebastian Vettel5.003.8211211/11Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen7.455.00288/11Form guide
Fernando Alonso16.0010.205135/10Form guide
Jenson Button17.0012.008166/10Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg11.0010.136158/11Form guide
Sergio Perez11.829.6051310/11Form guide
Max Verstappen11.4510.004177/11Form guide
Carlos Sainz Jnr11.1810.178136/11Form guide
Romain Grosjean9.738.133128/11Form guide
Pastor Maldonado10.8210.757154/11Form guide
Marcus Ericsson13.4511.7081410/11Form guide
Felipe Nasr13.2710.7051610/10Form guide
Will Stevens18.2015.8813178/9Form guide
Roberto Merhi18.5015.3312189/10Form guide
Kevin Magnussen17.000/0Form guide

Are you going to the Italian Grand Prix?

Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Monza, 2014If you’re heading to Italy for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Italian Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

Start, Monza, 2014

2015 Italian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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34 comments on “Tyres under scrutiny ahead of F1’s fastest race”

  1. Really looking forward to what Force India can do now. Expecting Williams to be back towards the front because their monster-truck of a rear wing in Spa surely has no benefit here. Not expecting a Ferrari on the podium but I also didn’t at Spa…

    1. I love the talk of the Italian GP not being on the calendar as if it’s something that Ferrari would ever allow to have happen!

      1. *Oops – that wasn’t supposed to be a response to the comment above!

      2. Thing is, it’s not up to Ferrari, it’s up to Ecclestone

        1. Fudge Ahmed (@)
          2nd September 2015, 16:03

          And even Ecclestone isn’t dumb enough to do over F1’s premier team. It’s all just posturing and negotiation, nothing more.

          1. Bernie has a long, long history of not bluffing @offdutyrockstar. He always pulls the trigger, it’s a vital part of his authority. Ask Canada, Indy, India, Korea, Turkey, France, Germany… or pretty much anyone who’s not Monaco.

            And behind the scenes how much do Ferrari care, really? Does Monza GP sell more Ferraris and Marlboro than say Mexico or Azerbaijan?

            So I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find Monza disappearing, maybe just for one year or until the Italian taxpayer comes up with more dosh.

        2. but who can tell who goes out first between Mr F1 and Monza/

      3. @petebaldwin
        Unless they’re willing to put some funding towards the event I’m not sure Ferrari have the influence to do anything about it if the owners of Monza can’t afford Ecclestone’s fees.
        And given Ferrari’s involvement with other Italian circuits I’m not sure they’d be too willing to give money to Monza.
        I’m hoping this is just the normal negotiating tactics we see when circuits renew their contracts, the French and German races may be historically important, but weren’t really great circuits, Monza has the history but is also a genuinely great circuit, and is now a unique challenge compared to all of the generic circuits that host most other races.

        1. @beneboy – You could be right but I can’t imagine Ferrari keeping quiet about it and the last thing Bernie needs is Ferrari threatening to pull out!

          1. @petebaldwin
            Aren’t Ferrari (FIAT Chrysler) trying to sell off part of the company in an IPO ?
            I can’t see them threatening to pull out of F1 given that it’s their main marketing project, it’d have serious consequences for the share price they’d get which would reduce the amount they’d raise from the IPO.

  2. Pirelli needs to blow out of F1.

    1. 3 failures is my prediction, oh and for the Predictions, Merc, Williams, SFI, Lotus, Ferrari, Red Bull, all in tandem but Maldonado.

  3. The telegraph are reporting that they know the results of the investigation into Vettels blowout and that it is as a result of a cut tyre

    1. I already said over here that Pirelli’s finding will say, it wasn’t Vettel’s fault, neither FERRARI’S fault and of coarse nor that of Pirelli. but that of an outside source.

    2. @williamjones
      I think that article is in today’s roundup, but most of the quotes are from unnamed sources. There’s going to be an official announcement at Monza.

  4. It is actually quite scary to think about the fact that this could be the last race in Italy and how empty would F1 look without Monza.
    Just……….scary.

  5. I think Vettel was not classified in Spa actually.

    1. He should have been classified for completing 90%(?) of the race. I’m guessing he finished ~14th or something.

    2. Vettel was classified 12th.

    3. I think Vettel was not classified in Spa actually.

      He was.

  6. This whole Pirelli tire saga is the biggest non story/controversy ever!

    When teams are having REAL tire problems, they’re the ones calling for the manufacturers head. When there’s real tire concerns, they’re the ones threaten to not race their cars.

    In this case its the fans calling for the suppliers head. No one else is sweating it. Ferrari is milking it politically by shifting all the focus onto Pirelli. All the other teams and engineers just want to make sure Pirelli looks at the data for piece of mind. Trust me they are not worried about the tires. Fans/fans within the media that don’t like Pirelli are trying to milk to perhaps get Pirelli thrown out. That’s all this is about. This GP weekend is going to run without a single tire failure. Then the false controversy will disappear…until you know who gets a sniff of something to have a go at Pirelli again.

    1. @sudd

      Trust me they are not worried about the tyres.

      I beg to differ.

    2. Well the drivers are certainly concerned as shown by the reported discussion during the drivers briefing at the last race and by the dialogue going on between the FIA, Pirelli and the GPDA since Spa.

      1. …but then the drivers have a vested interest in getting different tyres. They’re using the recent focus on safety to influence a change that will result in tyres that perform better for longer.

        1. @optimaximal Bingo!

          This:

          …but then the drivers have a vested interest in getting different tyres. They’re using the recent focus on safety to influence a change that will result in tyres that perform better for longer.

          Everyone it seems has their own motives. We all know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the tires. This is all just political posturing.

          By two more races is this will be old news. Could even happen after Monza.

          1. @sudd

            We all know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the tires. This is all just political posturing.

            Speak for yourself and yourself only, please.

          2. @Albert, I’m OK with not joining the mob mentality that its all Pirelli’s fault. It’s all opinions so I’m fine speaking for myself. But time will prove one of us right and the other wrong :)

            I guess we’ll find out what a false controversy/danger this all is after Monza. You have until the checkers fly to inflict as much damage on Pirelli as you can. GO!!!

            Once that flag falls, it’s off to the latest weekly talking point until the Singapore GP. Don’t squander your chance to get Pirelli dropped.

          3. @sudd If there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the tyres and they are not worried, why are Pirelli insisting on lower camber limits and higher tyre pressures this weekend? After all at Spa all the teams were using the tyres within Pirelli’s previous limits on camber and pressures, as required by the regulations. Pirelli are also still considering imposing a mandatory limit on stint lengths.

          4. @mega That was like reading a 5-year-old kid post. It was a bit cringe-worthy.

          5. If the teams have yet more restrictions for using the tires, like the mega conservation wasn’t already enough, then it is very possible there won’t be another incident at Monza like we saw at Spa, but that by no means should be mistaken for meaning everyone is perfectly fine with these current tires. Delaminating or not, these tires are not good and limit the drivers from pushing to their and their cars’ limits.

            Of course the drivers, and the teams, have a vested interest in having better tires that perform longer. They always will. Especially when they currently have garbage. If the tires were good the drivers and teams wouldn’t have a complaint. To have tires that are not only insufficient, but now have shown can be dangerous as well, is naturally going to raise complaints and concerns. Especially from those actually in the cars risking the experience of tire failure at high speed, vs those in their armchairs asking people to ‘trust them’.

            Personally I think there are not only factual, real reasons for change in the tires, as evidenced by Spa, and prior to that the race-limiting behavior of them, there is also politics in play as teams want to get away from meant to fail tires in general that are destroying the very activity of racing F1 cars in an enthralling manner. They’re a buzz kill and F1 can do better than this mandate.

  7. yeah, maybe drivers consistently going over the track limits does a lot to wreck tyres. On the one hand one can say, that this means the tyres are not quite good enough if they don’t withstand what the drivers throw at them.

    But on the other hand, isn’t it a very good safety argument for the FIA to finally start policing drivers abusing those track limits everywhere? And by that i do not mean that its fine even if you have only a smidge of tyre on the white lines and the rest outside. I think they should not be over that line with more than 2 tyres.

    1. Since the topic of track limits started to be discussed I have held my opinion back because I wasn’t sure what the best way is. Now I am understanding the way the FIA handles this much more. That doesn’t mean I agree with every single case, but on the whole I guess they are largely right.

      If like many demand track limits (and for the moment it doesn’t really matter if all 4 wheels need to be over the line or any other definition) are enforced no matter what, then there are following consequences which I think nobody would like:
      1: If you leave the track due to a mistake (which usually is punished anyway because you are leaving the track) you are punished twice. Once by the track (like on grass, or gravel (yes there still is some gravel))
      2: If you leave the track due to a fight with someone and you are only avoiding contact, you get punished as well by the FIA.
      3: It means less overtakes. If you try to overtake and you don’t make the turn and leave the track, you would be punished by the FIA as well, even if you could not finally hold the new position anyway, or even if you let the other one pass again.
      4: We would see a lot of penalties. We already don’t like the grid penalties because there are ridiculously many, why would we want even more?

      Nobody wants that, so what this means is we would need, exceptions. Like only when you have a lasting advantage due to leaving the track is it punishable, so:
      1: If you overtake and can’t make the next turn thereby leaving the track but you give your position back, no penalty.
      2: If you are going off track to avoid an accident, no penalty.
      3: If you are going off track but are already punished by the grass, gravel, or at least didn’t get a lasting advantage, then no penalty.

      This just sounds like what we have now. The only issue is discussing single cases. Could they not have said we handle Eau Rouge like the corner in Austria which they handled with Zero-tolerance? Yes, but I guess that would have meant less overtakes, because after Eau Rouge you can overtake but you will not risk that much if you get a 5 or 10 second penalty because this usually means you can lose more positions than you can gain. So they said, the infringement is not that big (I grant that this is debatable), and since all can and actually do use that line there is no lasting advantage, and we don’t risk having fewer overtakes.

      1. *Once by the track (like on grass, or gravel (yes there still is some gravel)) and once by the FIA*

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