Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve described the tyre failures which struck during last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix as “embarrassing”.Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll early this week.
Verstappen was leading the race when his left-rear hard C3 compound tyre failed with six laps to go. Stroll retired 16 laps earlier with a similar failure, while running in fourth place. Both had covered around 30 laps on the sets.
“Tyres should not explode like that,” said Villeneuve, who raced in F1 between 1996 and 2006. “They did not even have that many laps. It’s embarrassing.
“And too bad – Stroll was having a good race and Max had it under control.”
Both teams said they had no indication the tyres were at risk of failing. Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase was in the process of telling his driver their “traction metrics are sensible” at the very moment his failed tyre pitched him into a barrier at around 300kph.
Verstappen’s two laps prior to his crash were the fastest of any driver during the race. “Max was just doing best lap after best lap and he had a big lead so he didn’t need to drive so fast,” said Villeneuve. “But I’m not sure what else he could have done because he wasn’t sliding around, there was nothing major. So bad luck there.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner insisted Verstappen had not “abused” his tyres prior to the failure.
Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola said their preliminary inspection of the tyres indicated an external factor such as debris or a kerb may have contributed to the failures. However he does not believe the cause was unique to the Baku circuit.
“I don’t want to point the finger at Baku and the circuit,” said Isola. “I saw that they were cleaning the circuit many times during the weekend. Debris and carbon parts are always very sharp.
“The point is that on a street circuit you have much less run [off] and so the debris stays on-track. But this is quite normal in any street circuit, it’s not just Baku. I believe it’s the same in Singapore, it’s the same in Monte-Carlo, because the debris is there.
“If you have a crash, any damage part of a car because maybe a driver is jumping on a kerb and breaking a part of the wing or whatever, it stays on track so it’s much easier to pick it up.”
Pirelli brought the softest tyres in its range – the C3, C4 and C5 compounds – to last week’s race. The C3 compound is being used at every round this year, and will be the medium tyre for this weekend’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, alongside the C4 soft and C2 hard tyre.
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