If the Qatar Grand Prix runs to its full 57-lap distance, every driver will need to make at least three pit stops after the FIA capped tyre life at 18 laps per set for safety reasons.
The decision was taken amid concerns about the integrity of Pirelli’s tyres when running over the Losail circuit’s ‘pyramid’ kerbs.
Analysis of tyres used for approximately 20 laps during first practice in Qatar revealed a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and carcass cords as a result of the “high-frequency interference” between tyre sidewall and kerb.
It was deemed that extensive use of the kerbs for more than 20 laps, especially at the high-speed Turns 12 and 13, could lead to failures during the race.
Ahead of Saturday’s sprint race sessions, the FIA moved the track limit for Turns 12 and 13 inwards by simply painting the white line defining the edge of the circuit 80cm further inside, thereby moving it further away from the most aggressive part of the kerbs.
Pirelli had hoped to gather more data on the issue during Saturday’s 19-lap sprint race, but three safety car periods meant the tyres had a relatively easy life and were not subject to the same strain they could face in Sunday’s grand prix.
Despite that, the FIA reported there were some signs of the early stages of the issue on certain sets of tyres from the sprint race, leading to the decision to cap tyre life at 18 laps for Sunday’s grand prix as a precautionary measure.
There is no direct mandate for drivers to make at least three tyre changes during the race, although this will inevitably be a consequence of the guidelines if the race runs to its full distance.
Any car found to exceed the tyre life limit will be reported to the stewards for running in an unsafe condition.