Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

Hamilton and Vettel warn tyres are contributing to “dangerous” out-lap incidents

2019 Belgian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have warned the need to keep F1 tyres in the correct operating window is contributing to “dangerous” situations during qualifying.

At some circuits drivers are having to balance the need to prepare their tyres carefully while ensuring they stay close enough to the cars ahead to benefit from a slipstream. There have been several occasions this year when drivers have failed to start laps on time in Q3 or had laps spoiled because of this.

Hamilton was involved in a near-miss with his own team mate yesterday during his preparation lap before his first run in Q3. Vettel complained that his Q3 session had been “a mess” after struggling to keep his tyres at the correct temperature while also running close enough to a rival to benefit from a slipstream.

However Vettel believes the problem shouldn’t be addressed through a rules change. “What should change, what we should take from this, is that tyre-wise we shouldn’t be so much on the limit,” he said in the press conference immediately after qualifying.

“Obviously you’re fighting for a tow and so on but you’re also fighting to get into the optimum window, which years ago it wasn’t that critical, whereas now it is.”

The severity of the problem has varied from track to track. Vettel expects it will be a bigger problem at the Italian Grand Prix next week.

“You’re fighting for the best spot on the track which will hit the peak next week in Monza for finding the right tow because it does make a difference. It has also been part of those type of track, let’s say, but I feel if we had better tyres we could play with probably a bit more speed and so on.”

Hamilton said the minimum tyre pressures set by Pirelli is also contributing to the problem. Pirelli increased the minimum pressures for rear slick tyres to 21psi after second practice at Spa.

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“I agree with Seb,” said Hamilton. “Every weekend they put the pressures up so high it’s crazy, which again makes it a little bit harder for us. The tyres are so hard so getting them working.”

The world championship leader said the problem has got worse since last season.

“I think this year is definitely the slowest we’ve been. Today felt a little bit dangerous at one point because we were going round turn 15 on the kerb and there was a car coming and I couldn’t move, go on the grass. I was stuck behind Valtteri and I think the next – Hulkenberg or whatever.

“I can imagine if I was on a lap and I was coming round that everyone was crawling around at five miles per hour it would be a bit of a worry and a bit of a distraction.”

“You shouldn’t be able to go five miles an hour or two or whatever we were doing,” he added, “because we were literally going as slow as possible to let people past. I did it in Austria, I think, to let everyone by because I was the first car out there and the tow is so strong this year with this car.

Hamilton believes the draggy nature of the 2019 cars has made the problem worse.

“They talk about the front wing [making it] easier to follow, it’s just caused a lot more drag. This is a draggier car this year so the slipstream is even more powerful or the tow is more powerful than we’ve ever experienced.”

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Keith Collantine
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12 comments on “Hamilton and Vettel warn tyres are contributing to “dangerous” out-lap incidents”

  1. A simple solution: Go out earlier rather than let it go tight with the time left.

    1. Agreed! I know track evo plays a role but I dont think it’s[track evo] that significant most of the time unless there are rapid weather changes.

      1. Though Leclerc seems to have had the fastest car, especially on the straights, which meant he might have had less need of a tow anyway, I still find it a ‘hero’ move by Leclerc that he decided to forego all the last out, with a good position behind a towing car, and tyres in right condition with enough space ahead of me stuff, and told the team he wanted to go as soon as they were ready, and then got pole, so far ahead of a teammate that complained of suffering from all that stuff Leclerc purposely avoided.

        1. Agree there @bosyber, it shows Leclerc knew what he was doing and was just doing his thing, evidently achieving a great result.

          We’ve seen time and again, that teams / drivers fiddling too much with attempts to ensure a slipstream only managed to make stuff more complicated to them.

        2. @bosyber But then in Baku, Vettel did exactly the same and lost big time with a potentially faster car. Although then he didn’t have a 1 second gap over the Mercedes.

  2. Yes, these 1 lap wonder type tires have always led to dangerous situations in racing. F1 needs to totally change their tire philosophy. Get away from the high deg tires and switch to a tire that can last the entire race being pushed hard the entire way. That will get away from the 1 lap wonder nonsense and will also lower the number of tires they need to ship around the world drastically.

  3. also the lap to charge the battery, the cars are slow. but for the FIA this is perfectly safe.

  4. Was the issue really the tyres or was it that no one wanted to be at the front and not get a tow on the straights.

    1. @emu55
      It feels this way!
      Reminds me of the WTCC qualifying at Monza one year where the whole pack was going so slow trying not to be the leader (ie: the one without the slipstream), resulting in no one starting the lap before the clock ran out.
      We’re getting close to farse.

  5. The Hubert crash shows the consequence of a fast car hitting a slow one, so they really need to address this issue, which is becoming the most dangerous part of F1 right now, even compared to each race’s lap 1. Obviously every race has a first lap, so that is an unavoidable risk. But not every motor race’s qualifying session has in-laps… For its qualifying, Indycar move the start finish line to before the last corner, so drivers can dive into the pits immediately after their lap is complete.

    The in lap is not as slow as the out lap, so wouldn’t quite halve this massive risk, but is clearly a worthy improvement. One issue is that the cars would have halve the time to charge their hybrid battery. But perhaps they can quickly do this in the pits already, I’m not sure.

    To resolve the remaining out lap risk, perhaps a *maximum* sector delta time needs to be put in place, but that is maybe not the best idea, as the drivers have enough of a headache managing temperatures whilst they watch their mirrors, so it would be simpler and therefore better to just have a maximum out lap time, and let the drivers manage how to stay inside that.

    Changing the tyre compound will take time, and hopefully they are aiming to address this for 2022’s 18″ tyres. But that is too long to just rely on hope and luck. Whilst the link is not obvious, I hope that Hubert’s crash makes them consider Indycar’s offset timing line approach, rather than considering butchering Eau Rouge. I think Indycar do it not for safety, but to allow more density of track action, which is a useful byproduct. F1 could maybe fit in an additional Q4 session with the extra time it allows.

  6. I’ve noticed that this year it’s gotten ridiculous with all the bunching up at the end of an out lap just prior to starting a hot lap.

    There’s even been a couple of incidents where cars on hot laps have had to take avoiding action to miss the mess of cars bunched up.

    Even spreading out the time that they leave pit lane doesn’t seem to work because the cars leaving later ( by a good margin) still seem to run into a pack bunching up at the end of the out lap.

    Either The FIA has to set a delta that drivers have to adhere to or Pirelli need to fix the problem that has been there all through the season being the tiny working range window that this year’s tyres have.

    No doubt though they’ll wait until there is a serious crash before doing anything about it.

  7. This is an honest question. I am curious if the operating window is the issue, or if Vettel’s summary of the difference (“Obviously you’re fighting for a tow and so on but you’re also fighting to get into the optimum window, which years ago it wasn’t that critical, whereas now it is.”) is too simplified.

    Specifically, is it really the issue that the tires have a very narrow window now, but didn’t before? Or might it be that with advancements in sensors and technology they know the absolute optimal window now, whereas before they did not know the exact temperatures and it was a less-informed guess? Maybe both?

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