Race Weekend Central

The Pit Straight: A Narrowly Averted Tire Disaster

Well, it finally happened. Max Verstappen claimed the third Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship that he first appeared destined for in March. Six races before the end of the season, in Saturday’s (Oct. 7) Sprint at the Lusail Circuit in Qatar, the Dutchman locked up the title when his teammate, Sergio Perez, crashed out. It is the culmination of an incredible season for Verstappen and his Red Bull Racing team, but as we’ve come to expect in a year when we expect the Dutch and Austrian national anthems to play on the podium, it wasn’t the biggest story of the weekend.

Instead, after the Sprint format weekend’s lone scheduled practice session, the FIA discovered that the frequency at which the curbs were vibrating the tires would cause catastrophic sidewall separation after not much more than 20 laps. Acting quickly, the FIA and track officials made minor changes to the track layout overnight, adding an additional 10-minute practice session Saturday morning, and changing the sporting regulations to require 18-lap-maximum tire stints throughout the Grand Prix.

The last-minute track layout changes, tire stint limits, and specter of tire failures reminded Pit Straight hosts Jack Swansey and Alex Gintz of the ill-fated 2005 United States Grand Prix, a race that embarrassed F1 and set the sport back decades in the U.S. market due to tire-based bureaucratic gridlock causing only six cars to take the green flag. Has F1 learned from its mistakes?

NOTE: This episode was recorded prior to additional details around the extreme heat and dehydration experienced by drivers in Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix were publicized, and before the FIA announced its investigation.

See also
F1 Review: With Championship Already in Hand, Max Verstappen Cruises to Win in Qatar Grand Prix

The Pit Straight is Frontstretch‘s F1 podcast, available weekly on Tuesdays on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and right here on the web

About the author

Jack Swansey primarily covers open-wheel racing for Frontstretch and co-hosts The Pit Straight Podcast, but you can also catch him writing about NASCAR, sports cars, and anything else with four wheels and a motor. Originally from North Carolina and now residing in Los Angeles, he joined the site as Sunday news writer midway through 2022 and is an avid collector (some would say hoarder) of die-cast cars.

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Alex Curits

Pirelli brings crap tire and embarrasses F1. Also in the news Pirelli given another lucrative contact for bringing great tires…


Maybe Goodyear should replace Pirelli.


Unless the track conditions for the test are the same for the race the test doesn’t mean anything and they have to react to the race conditions.

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