Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Losail International Circuit, 2021

Pirelli suspect kerbs played a role in “sudden” punctures for four drivers

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s official tyre supplier Pirelli has begun an investigation into the tyre failures which struck four drivers during the Qatar Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Williams team mates George Russell and Nicholas Latifi all suffered front-left tyre failures during the race.

F1 was racing at the Losail International Circuit for the first time. Pirelli’s head of F1 Mario Isola said the track was “a very high energy circuit, especially on the front left, that is clear.

Even on cars that did not suffer punctures, Pirelli discovered “tyres that were completely worn, both front left and rear left.”

Bottas was the first to suffer a puncture on lap 34, having run the medium compound since the start of the race. Russell, Latifi and Norris had punctures later in the race on hard tyres they switched to for their second stints.

Isola said that the cause of the punctures was “something we have to investigate” and the early suspicion had fallen on the kerbs at the Losail circuit.

“I believe that part of the cause of that was the high-speed impact on kerbs because here we have a lot of run-off areas with kerbs they were hitting,” he explained.

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“It’s not a secret, I believe that some cars have damage to the floor, to the chassis, to the wings. So to understand what happened, we need to send them back to Milan and investigate them. We have some cuts that are visible on the sidewall, that is the weaker part of the tyre and we have to understand.”

Isola described the failures as “sudden but not immediate”. The drivers “have been able to go back to the pit and change the tyre”, he continued, “so it was still controllable, even if losing pressure, obviously, you don’t have the same direction that you have when a tyre is inflated, but it was possible for them to come to the pit.”

He pointed out other cars had finished the race with “tyres still in good condition” which would prove useful to studying the cause of the failures. “I would say they are not destroyed, we can investigate on those tyres. And as usual, we will also make an investigation on the tyres used for long runs.”

Fernando Alonso was able to complete the race on a one-top strategy work, which Isola said was because he exercised caution with the kerbs. “Fernando was avoiding kerbs and his tyres are still in [good condition] – what we have to understand [is] that if the cuts were the cause, if we had the puncture due to other elements or what caused this.”

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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15 comments on “Pirelli suspect kerbs played a role in “sudden” punctures for four drivers”

  1. With Latifi’s onboard in particular it did look like the tyre blew going over one of those kerbs, so it is plausible. No doubt the armchair experts will be along in a minute to tell us that it’s because Pirelli are terrible at making tyres, though.

    1. @red-andy
      Pirelli are indeed terrible at making tyres :)

      1. After further investigation, as per normal it will be put down to DEBRIS.

        Reply moderated
        1. I can write the report for Pirelli if they want: very low fees and no access to data necessary !

    2. I think they don’t use the C1 too much and are just faulty designed!

  2. YEah, I can see how the seemingly quite sharp kerbs did a lot of hurt to those tyres. Both Alpines staying off the kerbs for quite a bit of the race seemed to do the job for them.

  3. My thinking was the kerbs also which were designed for bikes and have been damaging floor’s and wings all weekend. I dare say some of the impacts have probably created a few sharp edges in places.

  4. Norris merely got a slow one, if anything, as nothing was obvious from the outside like with Bottas & Williamses. Nevertheless, these situations are always unideal.

  5. The question i’ve not seen asked is Why was Bottas left out as long as he was. His tires failed on lap 34, well over half way, so how much longer had Mercedes been planing to leave him out there? Why wasn’t in brought in on lap 30 when Perez was being held up?

    1. Yes… Pirelli Said the yellows were safe for about 24 laps. Bottas were 10 laps over that (don’t forget that these tires were used on quali). The kerbs and debris that Bottas brought to the track helps to explain other punctures.
      And I think Bottas would finish ahead Perez had he stopped arround lap 30. Maybe even avoid Max to stop for red and FL.

    2. Yeah I don’t get that. Surely way past the point when it would’ve been quicker to switch to hards?

  6. Kudos to Pirelli. Seems to me teams and drivers were pushing to the very edge (and beyond) of design spec and some got punished for it. All looked like relatively manageable failures too.

    As far as kerbs go, I think the ones used at Losail are a decent compromise for tracks where massive run-off areas are required. I can imagine Paul Ricard would be much improved by kerbs such as these.

  7. White kerb 100%. Pirelli is cleared of anything.

  8. Don’t get me wrong, I think Pirelli make a crap tire. With that said, I think the drivers clobbering curbs likes its no ones business caused a lot of the punctures in this race. The amount of debris coming off cars after hitting the apex curb too hard or running too wide is the likely cause of all those deflations. Drivers need to do a better job at staying “on” track. I’ll be curious to see how the drivers adjust to the thin wall tires for next season. They will not be able to clobber curbs the way they do now. They will need to ride the apex curb properly using the inside front tire and staying off the high points of it otherwise they will be launching cars off track.

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