Both teams denied racing with lower pressure than recommended by the supplier
By Yuri Coghe
“No production or quality defect” was found on Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen’s rear left tires, which failed during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last Sunday leading to both drivers crashing, said Pirelli on Tuesday.
The tire supplier conducted and has now finished an investigation into both accidents, as the drivers couldn’t do much other than hit a wall and retire as their lids suddenly malfunctioned with no apparent reason. Stroll was running in fourth place on lap 31 — and Verstappen was leading the race with four laps to go — when the respective tire failures happened.
Pirelli’s learnings point to Red Bull and Aston Martin as the ones to blame for the unusual accidents, something both outfits were quick to deny.
“The causes of the two left-rear tire failures on the Aston Martin and Red Bull cars have been clearly identified,” said Pirelli in a statement. “In each case, this was down to a circumferential break on the inner sidewall, which can be related to the running conditions of the tire, in spite of the prescribed starting parameters (minimum pressure and maximum blanket temperature) having been followed.”
The findings will result in the FIA and Pirelli introducing a new set of protocols to prevent tire failures like those from happening again, “including an upgraded technical directive already distributed, for monitoring operating conditions during a race weekend and they will consider any other appropriate actions.”
Both teams reacted to the tire supplier statement on the same day.
“We adhered to Pirelli’s tire parameters at all times and will continue to follow their guidance,” said Red Bull. “We are grateful that following the weekend’s high-speed impacts no drivers were injured.”
“We can confirm there was no car fault that caused the tire to fail,” said Aston Martin. “The team has always operated its tires within the Pirelli prescribed parameters and will continue to do so.”
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The ones most affected by the tires failures, Stroll and Verstappen, also commented on the new developments. The Canadian driver mentioned the safety concern an occurrence like that represents.
“We are running our pressures at the legal, prescribed pressures from Pirelli and there was nothing wrong with our car during the race that we could see,” Stroll said. “And Pirelli now are just going to bump up the pressures and yeah, they believe that’s going to be a better solution for the safety this weekend.
“I just hope we don’t see more blowouts for whatever reason that might be. It’s not fun at high speed to have unexpected punctures, whatever you want to call it.”
Verstappen, who leads the championship after six races, admitted the failure might have been related to the tire pressure his Red Bull car was running with but said it was still within the accepted limit recommended by Pirelli.
“The only thing I can say is from our side, the team did everything like they should have done. They followed all the guidelines with tire pressures and stuff, it was nothing to be found there,” said the Dutchman. “For sure we’ll go up on pressures here for this weekend, I’m 100% sure we will. It probably had something to do with that, what happened in Baku but it would also be nice to know if it was tire pressure related.
“They (Pirelli) explained they don’t have measurement tools during the race, we gave them our tire pressures and they were within the limits they set. If those limits are not correct, there’s nothing we can do about it, we just follow what is possible within the rules. If that means we have to go up on pressures, we will, everyone will go up on pressures.”
Mario Isola, Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing, then stepped into the conversation. He toned it down from the supplier’s first statement and said Red Bull and Aston Martin weren’t doing anything but “looking for performance”.
“What happened in Baku is simply that the running conditions expected were different compared to the actual running conditions, and that created the failures. The failures were a circumferential cut on the inside shoulder,” Isola said.
“In this case, we didn’t achieve the conditions not because teams were doing something against the regulations, but because they were looking, as usual, for performance, and that created a different scenario compared to what we were expecting. We didn’t say that the teams did something that is not permitted in the regulations.”