“If drivers respect track limits there’s no problem” – Spa responds to Pirelli over ‘debris’

2015 Belgian Grand Prix

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The track safety representative at Spa-Francorchamps has responded to Pirelli’s claim that the spate of tyre failures seen during the F1 race weekend was caused by the amount of debris on the circuit.

According to Pirelli “an anomalous amount of detritus on the track in Spa” caused a large number of cuts and contributed to Sebastian Vettel’s blow-out on the penultimate lap of the race.

However Spa track safety chief Johan Aerts insisted the Belgian circuit is “fast and safe”.

“Pirelli suffers from their tyre problems,” Aerts told F1 Fanatic. “In fact, in the supporting races there were no troubles. In fact, the FIA is controlling in the morning and midday the track. Also the [Safety Car] drivers and Medical [Car] drivers are reporting.”

“Each morning with a track day or a racing day, the track is fully clean,” Aerts added. “The track is always in a good shape. The marshals are also cleaning if necessary on the spot of an incident.”

F1 race director Charlie Whiting has the option of using a track brushing machine during Safety Car periods at Spa. According to Aerts the device is already used during World Endurance Championship events but, he said, “until now it wasn’t used with a Safety Car” in F1.

However Aerts believes the problems Pirelli experienced at Spa was related to the drivers going beyond the boundaries of the circuit.

“If the drivers respect the track limits – between the white lines – there’s no problem,” Aerts added. “Probably, if you go to far on or even over the kerbs, there’s a possibility to get tyre problems.”

For the F1 weekend a new kerb was installed at Raidillon to discourage drivers from cutting the corner. However it was removed on Friday evening following complaints from drivers.

Following the change drivers were warned they would be reported to the stewards if they were suspected to have gained an advantage by cutting the corner or exceeding track limits at turn 15. During the race Daniil Kvyat was heard being given such a warning on the team radio.

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    Keith Collantine
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    72 comments on ““If drivers respect track limits there’s no problem” – Spa responds to Pirelli over ‘debris’”

    1. After so many drivers went over the same racing line outside of white lines, that area wouldn’t remain dirty with debris or anything. Also I heard the part at Raidillon where drivers cut the corner, it was paint more than curb.

      1. kerbs have sharp edges, and they are beaten up specially in tracks where there’s a lot of activity during the year. I remember in 2013, there were a lot of pictures of kerbs, which were believed to be the main cause of the tyre blow out that infamous day, and they were a mess.

        Also, at Spa, the gutters run alongside some kerbs. They ran alongside the kerbs at Raidillion in fact.

        In any case, Raidillon itself might not have broken the tyre and might not be the problem itself, but maybe it was the continuos abuse of track limits that weakened the structure of the tyre and it let go after another moment of high demand.

        I’m with this theory. It’s logical that pushing at places where the tracks were not designed to have cars going over at racing speed could lead to problems. Tyres were not designed to go over gutters and sharp edges lap after lap either.

        1. @fer-no65 But they should be, this has never been a very serious issue with other tyres.

          1. @strontium they should be in short periods. They shouldn’t be designed to go on kerbs, hard, lap after lap after lap.

            Pirelli might not be designing the tyre well, but some danger factors are purely made by drivers (and teams, when they set the cars wrongly, but that’s more strictly mandated).

      2. Yup. More PR media spin from the irresponsible and inculpable Pirelli.

      3. Didn’t they knock out the sausage kerb at the top of Eau Rouge after Friday practices? I remember seeing it for FP1 and FP2 but it wasn’t there for the rest of the weekend.

        1. If you actually read the article above, you’d know.

          1. Exactly, don’t reply if you haven’t read the article.

    2. Don’t you just love the merry-go-round that is Formula 1.

      Drivers blame Pirelli.
      Pirelli blame the circuit.
      The circuit blames the Drivers.

      1. Then there is the other one:

        Fans blame media.
        Media blame fans.

        1. Fans blame Bernie too

          1. But Bernie says: Think before you drive!

            1. And the fans say to Bernie: Think before you bribe!

      2. Vettel in his bleeping rant that he never exceeded the track limits. but here are some pictures on twitter, I’ve found by doing a little search.

        1st shows very rough spot on kerb edge at Radillion,
        2nd shows Vettel with all four wheels on kerb and right rear just about to hit that rough spot.

        Drivers should remain between the white lines and accept the consequences, without rants and raves, if it causes a failure.
        I note that there isn’t the same complaints and discussion about Maldonado’s car failure very near the same spot.

        1. Drivers should remain between the white lines

          The problem @w-k, is that this is not the rule!
          AFAIK the drivers only have to keep 1 (part of a wheel) within/on the white line. That means that the other wheel can be up to 180cm beyond the white line!

          1. PS and they are even allowed to go beyond this as long as they do not gain an advantage.
            Not saying it’s correct, or even smart – but those are the rules!

          2. To be precise, the rule actually IS to stay within the white lines @coldfly, @w-k. But currently the FIA accepts you do that as long as any part of the car does. And then it is only penalized if it gains a driver a lasting advantage and it can be proven beyond doubt. I think that gives the drivers far too much room for abuse.

            1. They could add a 1 second time penalty for each time you get all 4 wheels off….

          3. If that’s the case why have ANY lines ? The lines define the track.Use them or not but they are there for a reason………..

          4. Trenthamfolk (@)
            12th September 2015, 9:16

            I dare say there’s no specific rule about driving your car into the side of the start finish straight, but if you do it will sure hamper your race… This is not about rules, it’s about common sense. If you drive ‘off piste’ don’t be surprised when your car gets damaged. If you are the driver you only have yourself to blame. But that’s not VET’s style, is it!

        2. I think you need to distinguish between “exceeding track limits” and “going off”.

          Vettel said “I didn’t go off the track”, the drivers clearly do not consider the line that they were all regularly taking at Spa as an “off”, even if all four wheels were over the white line. They regard “going off” as an incident (different to a normal lap) such as driver missing their braking point and running really wide into the runoff area, having to rejoin the track after driving round the sleeping policemen etc.

          I think all the drivers make this distinction, e.g. Grosjean who was following Vettel also told Auto Motor und Sport “Seb was never off the track”.


          1. +1 The racing line is where they all go off the track anyway. So going out of track limits as always wouldn’t hurt you. And the curb at the top was not a particularly big and dangerous curb or anything. It looked like it was painted there.

            1. If you continuously hit/rub against a curb at 300+kmh speeds, i m sure it would be ok…

          2. I think you need to distinguish between “exceeding track limits” and “going off”.


          3. If Vettel had actually stayed on track his heavily loaded right rear tyre would not have hit that sharp bit over and over.

            Exiting Radillion going back on track there was another sharp bit of kerb sticking out. A video demonstrated the deformation of the tyre as he hit that bit.

    3. if the other side of the white line was grass then the drivers would not cross the line. it needs to be very smooth turf (for safety reasons) but this is clearly possible. i think the proliferation of tarmac run-offs has had a cumulative detrimental effect. drivers will always exploit the limits of the circuit – now it’s normal for them to be able to use the run-off – the effect builds up, hence the current problem.

    4. Drivers will always drive the straightest line through a corner. If that is made possible by a flat kerb and a tarmac runoff, than the circuit must be altered. It’s very unnatural to force drivers to stay within the line, when crossing it is so much faster.

      1. Oh yeah, let’s change Spa ’cause Vettel can’t follow the rules…

      2. The tarmac and low kerbs are there for safety and to keep drivers in the race. Drivers are perfectly capable to drive within the lines. They will use everything to their advantage if possible and you must tell them where the line is. Give one a penalty and see how they suddenly respect tracks limit.

    5. Do any other tyre manufacturers have problems at Spa, in WEC, or even club racing?

      1. @splittimes Not that i’m aware of.

        After the F1 weekend I was also told there were no cuts of any sort on any of the Porsche Supercup cars which run Michelin tyres.

        F1, GP2 & GP3 all run Pirelli tyres & all 3 categories suffered a substantial amount of cuts.

        1. ding ding ding!

          It really must be the curbs and debris that get sharp and dangerous only when F1, GP2 go on track (one of Bernie’s spice up the show ideas???) ……………………………..

      2. There was a blowout that affected a Radical in Eau Rouge. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyIQNM-1hUc

        1. That was in 2014. What tyres were they? – I don’t think they were controlled by the manufacturer.

    6. Maybe I’m becoming too old school here, but in the 70’s or 80’s for example, if a driver over-reved their engines or abused their tires, it used to be considered the driver’s fault to have abused them. And the drivers that were more savvy in keeping the cars in good shape were also praised. I recall that Nelson Piquet and Alain Prost were very good on that for example. When it didn’t work nobody blamed the tyres supplier, it was up to the drivers. From my point of view, it was clear during the whole weekend that Vettel was pushing hard to close the gap to the Mercedes (he was one of the drivers that went off track several times during the weekend), so in my oppinion he just suffered the consequences. All the drivers had the same tires, it’s up to them to manage this aspect too. Vettel stayed longer with the same tires and abused of them, but he was aware of the risks. It’s easy to blame the supplier, but I think it’s easier to blame than to accept our accontability for our decisions.

      1. @mmertens Its not just about the failures you saw with Vettel & Rosberg, Suffering 63 cut tyres over a race weekend is almost unheard of & its frankly completely unacceptable.

        Just as unacceptable as Pirelli claiming that the average has been 1.2cuts until Spa when I have been told by people from 3 separate teams now that not including Spa there has well over 80 cut tyres this year & thats its been a trend with these tyres since 2011.

        Apparently in 2010 (The last year of the Bridgestones) there was less than 20 cut tyres throughout the whole season & whenever a tyre did suffer a cut Bridgestone were always able to find a clear reason for it & shared all there data with the FIA, teams & drivers so there was always full confidence in those tyres.

        Pirelli don’t always find answers to there cuts & they don’t usually share any of there data with anyone & that is why there is distrust & dissatisfaction with them from teams & drivers.

        1. Good point there, but I still think it’s up to the drivers to manage this issues. I for one think that if we had grass outside the track and not just lines, the tires woudn’t be showing that quantity of cuts on them. For sure if you look for the Bridgestone tires they will show a better resistance, they weren’t “designed to degrade” which is the silliest thing in the sport right (ops, sorry, in fact the silliest thing is DRS).

        2. @gt-racer
          I’ve always felt the team hated and did not trust the Pirelli tyres.

          What can you tell us about what is said in private about how they actually feel. I’ve always thought they thought the tyres are poor, no grip, too temperature senstive & their rain tyres? It looks like rally racing when it rains a little bit. Absolutely no traction at all.

          1. @s2g-unit The wets & especially the intermediates are nowhere near as good as the Bridgestones were mainly because of how often they run in the wet in Japan where a lot of the local categories use Bridgestones.

            As to what teams say in private, I obviously don’t know everything in full detail but I know that there has been a lot of discontent with not just how the tyres react but also how Pirelli communicate problems & concerns.
            There is also annoyance that whenever an issue arises its always the teams that are forced to change rather than Pirelli making changes to the tyres which is what previous suppliers would do.

            Take Spa as an example, If Bridgestone, Michelin, GoodYear or others from the past had a weekend like that then they would make changes to the tyres & make them less susceptible to picking up cuts. Pirelli’s answer was to force teams to change pressures, cambers etc.. while making zero changes to the tyres.

            Again using Spa as the example lets go back to 2004 where Michelin suffers a lot of cuts over that weekend (And by a lot I mean about 10). They investigated & within 2-3 days after the race found the new kurb at the newly redesigned bus-stop was the cause, They Informed the Spa organizers who saw the issue changed the kurb having been given the results of Michelin’s investigation & also beefed up the construction of the tyres to make them less prone to been cut in the same way. They also shared all the evidence from there investigation as well as the changes they were making to the tyres with the teams & Drivers which removed any concerns anyone may have had about the integrity of the tyres.
            Even if you look at the 2005 USGP, Michelin understood the problem (Extra loads from the diamond cut track surface through the banked corner tearing the sidewall) & communicated it with everyone, apologized & made changes to the tyres to prevent it happening again when they returned to Indy the next year.
            Something you don’t often hear regarding the 2005 USGP is that had Bridgestone not had data from Firestone (Who supplied tyres to Indycar for the Indy 500) about the new track surface & the extra stresses it put on the tyres its actually entirely possible Bridgestone would have suffered the same problem. Bridgestone got the data from Firestone & made changes to the tyres for that race to cope with the new loads, Michelin not having that data & not been aware of it obviously couldn’t change the tyres & by the time they found out (On Friday) it was too late to make the required changes for that weekend.

            I think something good to come out of Spa this year is that now Pirelli are saying they will communicate better with teams & drivers which should give drivers an opportunity to voice concerns which may help them have some input in the tyres going forward.
            I’m already hearing that the whole high degredation mandate could be scrapped for 2017, But sadly replaced with an extra mandatory pit stops or pit windows to ensure all races are 2-3 stops.

            1. Forcing 2-3 pit stops would turn me off F1. I know it’s a rule now, but the tires can’t take the race distance so it makes sense.

            2. The difference in the previous generations tyre suppliers is they mostly had a tyre war going on so if there was issues they had to solve them or their teams would rightly get grumpy!

              Even though bridgestone weren’t in a tyre war far 2007 onwards the development that led to those tyres were.

              In Pirellis defence they are doing what they were told to do. I personally never saw a problem with a tyre war except that one team (bridgestone-Ferrari or Renault-Mich) would get tyres to suit their cars. But with a bit of forward thinking I’m sure this could be solved with a rule to prevent ‘one off tyres’ etc

      2. I believe Pirelli gets the blame because their tires are designed to be fragile, unlike past suppliers who made tires designed to be pushed by F1 cars.

    7. Unbelievable what comes from these clowns Pirelli. It is a racing track. Drivers WILL exceed track limits occasionally – either deliberately or by mistake. And there are sanctions for that. But claiming that your tires cannot cope with drivers exceeding the track limits is a PR equivalent of foot in the mouth.
      Where does Pirelli get these guys from??? Pirelli really need to go and let a professional company do this job some justice..

      1. Exactly, if you can’t make tyres that withstand the demands of RACING (and no degrading tyres don’t have to explode and constantly get cut) then get the F out.

        They’ve had 5 years now, they are unable to provide consistent GRIPPY tyres that degrade.
        What we have now are tyres that are too hard, too cold, too temperature sensitive. That do not provide huge amounts of grip for their short life span. If their tyres last 5-10-15 laps (super soft for example). It should really be the must grippy pro-racing tyre. Not a tyre where drivers have to nurse them for the whole stint and then have 7 corners where they can attack.

      2. petebaldwin (@)
        11th September 2015, 9:43

        @kbdavies – Hold on a second… Sanctions for going off track? Who received a penalty over the Spa weekend for going off track? I mean, certain drivers went fully off track every lap but I can’t remember a single penalty.

        You’re right that it should work like that but as the FIA doesn’t police track limits, it means tyres designed have to be capable of driving over debris in the run off areas at full speed. Naturally this will have an effect on how good they are as race tyres but at least the drivers will be to leave the track as they please….

    8. Just to highlight how unprofessional Pirelli are, they agreed with the teams to measure tyre temps whilst the tyres were still in the garage and in their blankets – at a FIA mandated temp. They then agreed with the FIA in secret to spring a surprise test measurement on the teams when the cars were on the grid – when tyre blankes had been taken off, and tyres put on the car. Jo Baeur was the FIA lackey who was to spring this surprise test. Unfortunately, Pirelli neglected to inform the FIA of the relationship between the temperature, volume and pressure of a gas. I mean, that is elementary physics. Unbelievable!

      1. that is elementary physics

        So why would you expect Pirelli to warn about this? Why would you even assume they didn’t?

    9. Can we get over it and accept the fact that tyre failures happen from time to time, and that it doesn’t have to be someone’s fault, but rather a combination of factors?
      Did Mansell cry so much about the blown tyre that cost him the title in 1986? I don’t think so. I can’t shake the feeling that the single reason why there is even a discussion is Vettel’s behaviour after the race.

      1. @nase Yes tyres failed in the past, But there has been a lot more tyre related problems be it total failures or unexplained cuts the past few years.

        You also need to bear in mind with regards to driver criticism post Spa that Drivers have been voicing concerns about the high number of cuts & failures for 4½ years & they feel nothing has been done to make them any stronger.

        In the past tyres failing completely was rare & something like Mansell’s tyre blow out at Adelaide 1986 was the sort of failure you didn’t see.
        Certainly if you look at the period from 2007-2010 when Bridgestone was the sole supplier you won’t see many (if any) examples of a tyre reaching the point of complete failure, If they failed they lost pressure which gave drivers time to slow down & get back to the pits safely.

        1. Aside from Silverstone 2013, how many tyre failures have their actually been since Pirelli took over?

      2. @nase

        Did Mansell cry so much about the blown tyre that cost him the title in 1986?

        This is not very smart reasoning. “Mansell didn’t do it therefore no one ever should do it”. It’s completely bananas.

        1. So, Aytron Senna died, we shouldn’t cry for Jules Bianchi…..

          1. ?? I don’t follow….

        2. @ Albert
          Without context, I’d be inclined to agree with you. But that wasn’t my point. Mansell was just an example, a prominent one, as he lost the World Championship back then.
          There’ve been dozens, if not hundreds of punctures since then, and I can’t remember having witnessed a similar outrage. Then again, I’ve witnessed countless angry outbursts by Vettel, and I’ve stopped counting how many times he’s called something “unacceptable”. 99% of that happened whenever he or Red Bull got something wrong and failed to score a win. This time, a tyre blew up, after a 200 km stint full of aggressive kerb-hopping at 300+ kph. Tyres blow up from time to time, that’s entropy.
          This whole discussion reeks of Vettel having had a bad day and finding a scapegoat that caught on with the media.

    10. I don’t believe that telling drivers that tyres won’t explode if they don’t go off the track is the right thing to say at all. Running off the circuit is not always the fault of the driver. And it is no excuse for tyres to be exploding as we saw at Spa. Whilst I do believe that drivers should not be taking too many liberties with corner cutting, making their tyres explode suddenly and randomly is not a sensible solution to the problem because they will still take liberties at the end of the day. Also what happens in the case of a driver losing control of their car or with a driver being forced off by another? What happens at that point if a tyre suddenly shreds and the car suffers a significant impact as a result of that? Tough luck? No. It should not be like that.

      Also, I can recall drivers going off numerous times in World Series by Renault, in Formula 3, in WEC and in Blancpain recently, but I cannot recall any sudden tyre deflations.

      1. The point is that Vettel was going off track about twice per lap, every lap. I’ll agree with you that it should not be like that.

        Esecially since Pirelli warned FIA before the race that going off track would pose a risk to cut tyres and FIA itself warned drivers that going beyond the track limits would be punished.

    11. Racing cars run over curbs. Hell at some circuits it’s how we can see who’s chassis and suspension is working best as it’s INTEGRAL to getting the best lap times. That IS F1.

      Pirelli are a joke. They’ve done nothing to improve F1. Hell they haven’t even been able to match their predecessors for grip and reliability.

      Bring in tyre suppliers that care!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. there is a difference between running over kerbs with one side of the car with 2 wheels, and running completely outside the White line marking the track with both wheels over the Kerb – maybe we need to go back to street circuits with walls to prevent this, or bring back sand at the edges of tracks. at the moment it is a worthy discussion, because as seen in Spa, some drivers are trying to adhere to the rules, and as such lose time to the other drivers who are not adhering to the rules and driving off track for a time advantage – and then no action was taken anyway, so it gives conflicting views to the drivers about what is allowed in future races. Spa is a precedent that can be used in court that driving off track is allowed, If I was an f1 driver in F1 and did an overtake offtrack at Singapore and then got penalized, I would refuse the penalty and finish the race, then use Spa as a precedent and take the FIA to court as they are not applying the rules to the sport.

    12. I hope we eventually return to a tyre war. Each driver would have to use each manufacturers tyre – so at least one pit stop. They would do the longest stint on the tyre they thought the best (fastest). I would also bring back refueling. I know the powers that be suggest this means less not more overtaking, but anything that mixes things up is good for the show. Combine this with more ground effect and less complex wings we could have the best of all worlds. Have a fairer share of revenues for all involved, limit driver selection to those who have at least won a race in a feeder series, and find a fair way of limiting costs. I would be excited to watch the races.

    13. It is all very well sweeping the track, but I have never seen sweepers on the kerbs and runoffs. We saw a Lotus losing a load of carbon fiber at Radillon earlier in the weekend, and I am sure other cars did too.

      Just because runoffs are safer than gravel for cars which are out of control does not make them 100% safe. Drivers should stick to the swept area of the track if they do not want to risk damage from debris. (But you would never be a racing driver unless you thought disaster could never happen to you!)

    14. That’s still not a good excuse. Exceeding track limits and using the curbs and run-off area should NOT result in a tyre exploding. Drivers were every bit as aggressive in the Bridgestone days, if not more, and random tyre explosions didn’t happen back then.

      1. that was just lucky then, for the drivers on bridgestone, they shouldn’t be off track full stop – the Pirellis work fine ON the track, so the drivers should stay on the track shouldn’t they? the tyre company should not be punished for drivers driving off track.

    15. or you put grass/gravel next to Radillon and the drivers won’t risk driving over the kerbs in the first place. Problem solved.

    16. How about my powers of prediction?

      But I guess it was almost as easy as predicting the sun would rise in the morning.

      1. Oops. Bad link. Should be this.

        Kazihno (@kazinho) said on 27th August 2015, 1:43

        I’ll do a pre-emptive PR response on Pirelli’s behalf to “Drivers demand end of blow-outs”: Pirelli demand to drivers to keep within track limits.

        How can you seriously claim to have done nothing wrong when you consistently exceed the track limits, especially at Stavelot and Radillon?

      2. Lewisham Milton
        11th September 2015, 8:31

        How about them? You’re 1232nd in the Predictions Championship…

        1. Aren’t you the snide detective.
          Seems like you spent more time investigating than I have submitting entries.

      3. Pirelli said this already after Rosbergs tyre blew. So what did you predict exactly?

    17. can the FIA make a rule like on public roads, do not cross the unbroken white line. I was watching Hamilton in qualifying taking the shortcuts up eue roug, and I thought how is this still allowed after all the talk of track limits over the past years. it is essentially cheating, on a street circuit they would hit a wall. the worst case of this for me was Michael Shumacher in 2003 or 2004 overtaking drivers off the track in hockenheim after the hairpin… that was dreadful to watch and he got away with it.

    18. No one at FOM sent the gag email to the track promoters.

    19. Stay between the white lines!!! I find it very frustrating to see them riding the kerbs all of the time.

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