January 24, 2021

‘Biggest forces ever’: F1 tyre failures explained

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Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton all suffered late punctures at British GP

By Matt Morlidge

Last Updated: 04/08/20 3:50pm

Formula 1’s tyre manufacturer, Pirelli, have concluded that the race-altering punctures at the end of Sunday’s British GP were caused by long stints, and the 2020 cars producing the ‘biggest forces ever’.

But they are still going to press ahead with plans to bring softer tyres to this weekend’s second Silverstone race, the 70th Anniversary GP.

There was a dramatic conclusion to the British GP due to three big tyre failures, with Valtteri Bottas, who was second, Carlos Sainz (fifth) and then race-leader Lewis Hamilton suffering front-left blowouts.

Bottas and Sainz finished outside of the points, while Hamilton crawled across the line with three inflated tyres to hold off Max Verstappen.

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It was a dramatic final lap for Lewis Hamilton as he limped home to victory with a puncture at the British Grand Prix.

It was a dramatic final lap for Lewis Hamilton as he limped home to victory with a puncture at the British Grand Prix.

Those punctures led to an inquest from Pirelli – with some wondering if they were caused by debris – but F1’s tyre provider has confirmed that they were due to heavy wear from “extremely long use” on a high-speed track.

Pirelli also noted that the 2020 F1 cars are around a second-per-lap faster than last year’s, leading to “the biggest forces ever seen on tyres”.

“The key reason is down to a set of individual race circumstances that led to an extremely long use of the second set of tyres,” a Pirelli statement read.

“The second safety car period prompted nearly all the teams to anticipate their planned pit stop and so carry out a particularly long final stint: around 40 laps, which is more than three-quarters the total race length on one of the most demanding tracks of the calendar.

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There was an incredible end to the British Grand Prix as Valtteri Bottas’ puncture allowed Max Verstappen to take second position at Silverstone.

There was an incredible end to the British Grand Prix as Valtteri Bottas’ puncture allowed Max Verstappen to take second position at Silverstone.

“Combined with the notably increased pace of the 2020 Formula 1 cars (pole position was 1.2 seconds faster compared to 2019) this made the final laps of the British Grand Prix especially tough, as a consequence of the biggest forces ever seen on tyres generated by the fastest Formula 1 cars in history.

“The overall result was the most challenging operating conditions for tyres. These led to the front-left tyre (which is well-known for working hardest at Silverstone) being placed under maximum stress after a very high number of laps, with the resulting high wear meaning that it was less protected from the extreme forces in play.”

F1 is returning to Silverstone this weekend and it was previously confirmed that Pirelli would be using a ‘step’ softer tyres for the second race – with drivers able to use the C2, C3 and C4 tyres rather than the British GP’s C1, C2 and C3.

Those plans are sticking for the 70th Anniversary GP despite the punctures on Sunday, although Pirelli will be “increasing the minimum tyre pressures to reduce the stress”.