DOHA, Qatar — Formula One’s 10 teams will find out if the Qatar Grand Prix will be a mandatory three-stop race several hours before it starts.
The FIA and F1’s tyre supplier Pirelli will use Saturday night to analyse tyre data from the day’s sprint shootout and sprint race, following concerns raised from the first day of track running in Losail.
Tyre analysis from Friday’s one and only practice session found that any set of tyres used for approximately 20 laps were displaying signs of structural fatigue.
That prompted fears of failures for any tyres used for longer spells, an obvious safety concern ahead of Sunday’s 57-lap grand prix.
Tweaks were made to some of Losail’s 50mm ‘pyramid kerbs’ ahead of Saturday’s slate of track action, with track limits moved 80cm closer to the centre line of the circuit at Turns 12 and13 to dissuade drivers from riding the kerbs at high speed.
Drivers could still be forced to pit three times on Sunday — with no longer than 20 laps on a set of new tyres and 22 laps on a set of used tyres — if the data is still a concern.
The teams will meet with Pirelli and the FIA at 2pm local time on Sunday, six hours before the race, to discover the findings and the next steps.
While drivers appeared to agree with the safety measures taken, it prompted a mixture of responses. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was upset drivers found out through the media reports on Saturday rather than through the FIA.
“If it’s necessary for safety then we have to do it,” Sainz said. “What I don’t appreciate and don’t like is that we were here in 2021, in the meantime there’s been two years to react to these bad curbs, there’s been a resurface, there’s been a redone of the curbs, and for some reason the FIA persisted with this design of curbs that are killing Pirelli tyres. I’m not blaming Pirelli but clearly there is something going on there.
“And at the same time we arrived today in the morning and we see the news in the press. No-one informs us that there’s going to be track limits, then no-one tells us that the tire is delaminating or anything like that and we have to learn things from the press which is clearly not how things should be done.
“As the GPDA [Grand Prix Drivers’ Association] we were not happy with the situation and we hope that the collaboration starts getting better because if not reading things in the press when our safety is involved and our input should be considered is not good enough.”
Max Verstappen, who was crowned a three-time champion in the sprint on Saturday evening, saying it was frustrating the FIA would make changes this week but are less ready to do so when drivers have concerns at other events.
“I think it’s never of course a good look for the sport,” he said. “But let’s first wait and see what they come up with, what the analysis after the sprint race, what their findings are. For sure, even in the sprint race, you could see there was a lot of deg in the front tires, especially the front left was wearing a lot. So yeah, it’s very tough around here.
“Of course they already changed two corners in the high speed corners, which I find quite interesting, how quickly these things can be changed, but when we speak about we want to have track limits changed here and there with the white line or whatever, it’s all very hard.
“I think that’s also something for the future that we need to speak about, because I think we need to be heard a lot more, and in general, I think tomorrow it’s important that safety is foremost, and that we don’t get any punctures or worse accidents. So let’s see what happens tonight.”