Pirelli, the pressure is mounting

The Italian manufacturer and the FIA ​​have updated the procedures governing the operation of tires after the incidents in Baku. 

Published on 17/06/2021 à 10:58


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Pirelli, the pressure is mounting

The tire supplier finds itself in the crosshairs again / © DPPI

En Formula 1, one controversy chases the other. While the wings, and their potentially problematic flexibility, were still agitating the microcosm of the paddock in Azerbaijan, it is now the tires which find themselves in the crosshairs.

Logical consequence of the spectacular accidents that occurred in Baku, where Lance stroll et Max Verstappen ended up in the wall after the sudden deflation of their rear-left rubber in a straight line and at very high speed. 

After an investigation involving Pirelli, the FIA, and the teams concerned, namely Aston Martin et Red Bull, the Milanese firm made its conclusions public Tuesday evening in a sometimes convoluted press release. 

Pirelli has thus identified a “ circumferential crack of the inner sidewall, which may be linked to the conditions of use of the tire ". The transalpine manufacturer was quick to point out that the teams had respected the usage parameters transmitted before each event but the implications are perceptible.

Although they respect the minimum pressures communicated by Pirelli, certain teams are suspected of circumventing the Italian manufacturer's recommendations by flirting with the limits, or even operating below them, for competitive purposes. Indeed, a higher pressure offers increased resistance but slightly reduced performance. 

As always in F1, the devil is in the details. The pressure levels required by Pirelli are understood at the start. Are these thresholds respected when the cars are moving? Is it even possible to control it?  

We thus find ourselves in a situation quite similar to that experienced in the recent saga around flexible fins. All the cars satisfied the various load tests mandated by the FIA ​​when stationary but certain cars were in the crosshairs of the authorities for aerodynamic appendages that were too mobile under the effect of speed. 

  • New technical directive 

Concurrently with the report submitted by Pirelli, Nikolas Tombazis, technical manager of the FIA ​​single-seater championships, distributed to the teams on Monday an ultra-detailed technical directive in which the procedures for supervising the operation of the tires were updated. 

Random checks will now be carried out on tires after use. The gums selected for federal inspection will first be left in the ambient air and protected from sunlight so that they can drop in temperature and thus be checked when cold. The FIA ​​also reserves the right to carry out measurements after the tires have been re-placed in heated blankets. 

In both cases, the rubber naturally cannot be re-inflated by the team and seals will be placed on the valves to indicate that these tires will no longer be used. 

The technical directive further specifies that all tires used during a Grand Prix or qualifying race, as well as the set used by each driver during his best attempt in the last phase of qualifying in which he participated (Q1, Q2, or Q3), will be the subject of these new tests. 

In addition to the tire pressure, the regulator wants to ensure that the temperature of the heating blankets does not exceed the set values. Tombazis points out that a temperature higher than Pirelli's recommendations contravenes article 24.4 (a) of the F1 sporting regulations, and will therefore result in a report to the meeting commissioners, who will subsequently advise. 

FIA representatives will be present in the garages during qualifying and the race to check temperatures, mainly those of the tires about to be fitted to the car. 

The technical directive finally reminds that the heating of the rubbers in the covers must be done in specific slots and is not necessary if the tires in question are not intended to be used during the following session. 

Another measure taken in the wake of Baku, the increase by 2 psi in the minimum rear tire pressure for the French Grand Prix. 

At Red Bull and Aston Martin, we had very little appreciation for Pirelli's explanations and the federal directive that accompanied them, interpreting the sequence as a questioning of their integrity. The two teams also shared a communication identical to the announcement of the report to emphasize that no fault had been committed on their side. 

It will be interesting to see if the pressure is off at Castellet (Var) this week…  


AUTOhebdo deputy editor-in-chief. The feather dipped in gall.

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