The FIA will adjust track limits and add an additional 10-minute practice session to the Qatar Grand Prix weekend after Pirelli observed safety issues with its tyres on Friday.
In a statement issued by Formula 1’s governing body, it was revealed that in its standard analysis of tyres used in Free Practice 1, Pirelli discovered a separation in the sidewall between the topping compound and the carcass cords on many tyre sets.
It is believed that the affected tyres, each used for roughly 20 laps of the Lusail International Circuit, have been negatively affected by the 50mm ‘Pyramid’ kerbs introduced at the circuit.
“It is the view of the FIA and Pirelli that a significant number of additional laps on these tyres could result in circumferential damage of the tyres with subsequent air loss, and tyres analysed with lower lap numbers showed a much-reduced extent of the issue,” the FIA said on Saturday.
It is understood that the high speed nature of the circuit between Turns 12 and 14 has contributed to the problem. Pirelli has spotted ‘micro cuts’, not visible with the naked eye, on all compounds which pose a risk of opening up with further running.
In an attempt to address the issue, the FIA has revised track limits at Turns 12 and 13 where drivers were frequently seen riding the kerbs.
The track will be narrowed by 80cm between Turns 12 and 13 with a white and red painted ‘non-kerb’ in place before the actual kerb.
A 10-minute Practice Familiarisation Session has also been added to Saturday’s schedule. The extra session, which will start at 16:00 local time, will allow drivers to grow accustomed to the track limit changes.
The Sprint Shootout will start 20 minutes later than planned (16:20 local time) to accommodate the session.
The FIA and Pirelli are also committed to conducting an extensive tyre analysis following this evening’s Sprint Race.
Should the tyre issues continue to be evidenced following the 19-lap race, the FIA will mandate a three-stop race for all competitors on safety grounds.
In that event, a fresh set of tyres will only be allowed to be used for 20 laps, rising to 22 laps for any used tyres fitted in the race to account for in-laps and out-laps during qualifying.
Pirelli and the FIA have also pledged to carry out ‘extensive research and simulations’ in order to fully understand the cause of the issue and work on solutions to avoid a repeat in the future.