PIRELLI BATTLE RAGES ON
Contrary opinions from the teams and Pirelli after the dramatic end in Baku, so what have the FIA implemented to try and help?
After the dramatic end to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix nearly a fortnight ago, I wouldn’t be surprised to have seen an impressive drop of Pirelli sales somewhere in western Europe where people tend to favour the colour orange. Nevertheless, Pirelli’s investigation found that the issue with Max Verstappen’s tyre was not a result of running over any debris, and they also concluded that there were no production or quality defects in the manufacturing of their tyres (though that’ll be little comfort to his high-vis-attired army of followers). One interesting point that came from the investigation was Pirelli’s inclusion that Red Bull had provided data proving that they were racing within the recommended tyre pressure limits. This seemingly contrary joint statement from both parties therefore left the door open to even more speculation as to what caused the blowout in the first place.
However, in a turn of events, the response this week from both the FIA & Pirelli does not suggest full responsibility for the incidents in Baku should lie solely with the tyre manufacturer. Starting this weekend at the French Grand Prix, the FIA have enforced an Emergency Technical Directive aimed specifically at how the teams set the tyre pressures for the following races. This will impose even stricter measures for teams to comply with when it comes to setting type pressures, whilst also including the length of time engineers can keep tyres in blankets before sessions and also setting minimum times that drivers need to leave the garage after the blankets have been removed.
Pirelli’s Head of Racing stated in interviews that they “do not control the running conditions” of the cars...
One of the main reasons this has been introduced is because of the huge number of variables that affect tyre pressure at any given race. In fact, the pressures, even after being set by the team before a race, can change during the course of it. This is primarily due to force and heat and when controlled by the drivers on warm up laps or even behind the safety car, can seriously change the air balance. And as with any other element on a F1 car, pushing these tyre conditions to the limit to which they can last a session or a stint within a race is considered normality. Pirelli & the FIA refer to these as “running conditions”. Today, Pirelli’s Head of Racing stated in interviews that they “do not control the running conditions” of the cars and that this new move to introduce an emergency regulation is the FIA’s attempt to try and control some of those conditions. Verstappen has already responded by calling them “vague” and echoed his team’s statement that they were running the conditions recommended by Pirelli.
This new regulation feels like a move by the FIA who likely felt as though they had to make some sort a change this weekend or face even more scrutiny. Drivers on the other hand appear to me more sceptical about the durability of the Pirelli tyres. With the FIA's bold move to isolate a relatively "vague" condition like "running conditions" can also backfire if more blowouts continue even with the new regulations. One upcoming track to keep an eye on will be Silverstone with it's high speed corners and recent history of blowouts (just look at Hamilton crawling to the line last year). One thing remains certain, is that the tyre debate is not over yet.