Two different crashes occurred during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as a result of the same left-rear Pirelli tire failure. Both Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and erstwhile leader Red Bull’s Max Verstappen suffered extreme high-speed tire deflations with zero warning. Both resulted in scary crashes which saw both drivers smash into the wall near 200 miles per hour. If the cars weren’t built as strong as they are, the result might have been far more dangerous.
Within minutes of the end of the Grand Prix, Pirelli was already sowing doubt that they were guilty of anything, claiming it was possible debris caused both crashes. The tiremaker frantically searched all of the other tires for debris damage and found one of Lewis Hamilton’s bearing small cuts. Pirelli then flew the affected tires back to its headquarters in Milan to determine what caused the rapid deflations.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Pirelli has placed the blame with Red Bull and Aston Martin, absolving itself of any wrongdoing. Pirelli says the tire failures affecting both Verstappen and Stroll were likely caused by the “running condition of the tire.” This could be related to pressures, degrees of camber, or temperatures, but in any case, job done, Pirelli didn’t do anything wrong, right?
The tiremaker specifically noted that the failures were not related to delamination, any kind of production issue, or wear. Both incidents were caused by a circumferential break of the inner sidewall of the tire. The issues weren’t debris related, as they had initially wild-ass-guessed.
Pirelli - “This analysis also took in the tires used by other cars in the race, which had the same or a higher number of laps on them compared to the ones that were damaged,” it said.
“The process established that there was no production or quality defect on any of the tyres; nor was there any sign of fatigue or delamination. The causes of the two left-rear tyre failures on the Aston Martin and Red Bull cars have been clearly identified. In each case, this was down to a circumferential break on the inner sidewall, which can be related to the running conditions of the tyre, in spite of the prescribed starting parameters (minimum pressure and maximum blanket temperature) having been followed.”
F1 teams are required to run their tires at a minimum tire pressure when they are installed on the car. I don’t know how possible it is, but motorsport.com is speculating that teams have found a way to reduce tire pressures once the cars exit the pit lane. This seems like a wildly improbable accusation to me, as there are hundreds of ways an onboard tire pressure regulating system could fail. Would any team risk such a thing? And if so, why hasn’t the series already outlawed it?
As a result of the crashes in Baku, Pirelli and the FIA have unveiled new tire pressure and tire blanket protocols.
Pirelli - “As a result of this analysis, Pirelli have submitted their report to the FIA and the Teams. The FIA and Pirelli have agreed a new set of the protocols, including an upgraded technical directive already distributed, for monitoring operating conditions during a race weekend and they will consider any other appropriate actions.”
So Pirelli has passed the buck to the teams, and Red Bull is calling its bluff. The current championship points leaders have issued a counter-statement indicating that the team followed all of Pirelli’s meticulous tire care recommendations.
Red Bull - “We have worked closely with Pirelli and the FIA during their investigation into Max’s tire failure on lap 47 of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and can confirm that no car fault was found. We adhered to Pirelli’s tire parameters at all times and will continue to follow their guidance.
“We are grateful that following the weekend’s high speed impacts no drivers were injured.
Whatever the cause, I’m glad these fucking garbage tires will be retired at the end of this season. Bring on the 18" wheels and tires, because these 13s are bullshit. Someone is going to get hurt. Or worse.