After the worrying accidents of Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll caused by tire failures during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Alpine team principal Marcin Budkowski admitted that teams playing with tire pressure is a “worrying” matter for the drivers’ safety.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was full of twists and turns and saw a good amount of fans consider it as the most interesting Grand Prix in the 2021 season so far. Nonetheless, the pleasure of an eventful race was spoiled by the disturbing matter of tires exploding in the middle of the main straight, forcing the FIA to raise obvious questions about the safety of the drivers.
Pirelli has recently revealed the conclusions of their investigation, raising some questions about the interpretation possibilities of the minimal tire pressures imposed by the Italian tire manufacturer. No team was judged guilty of the incident they suffered but stricter tire checks will be implemented with immediate effect.
The main flaw in Pirelli’s old tire verification system was that tire pressures are different in hot and cold environments. Indeed, filled with the same amount of air, a tire’s pressure is higher at hotter temperatures, making it possible for the teams to bring some tweaks to their tire’s pressures by simply letting them cool down by removing the heating blankets early. The new checks should cover this matter by allowing the teams to only remove the heating blankets right when the car is about to exit the garage.
Alpine team principal Budkowski spoke his mind about the matter and although he did not want to point the finger on any competitor, the 44-year-old thinks it is ethically questionable for a team to play with the pressure of the tires as it is putting the drivers’ safety on the line to gain performance.
“Certainly it was important to get to the bottom of it because it’s a safety-critical matter,” Budkowski told Motorsport.com.
“The reaction of increasing the rear pressures, and the conclusion, seem to indicate it’s a failure of the tire.”
“If Pirelli gives a minimum prescription, there’s a reason for it. And if it’s not respected, then it can lead to failures.”
“Whether that suggests that some people were taking some freedoms with operational procedures, that’s a step I won’t make, because I don’t know. But if that’s the case, it’s quite worrying, because it’s a safety-critical matter.”
“The reaction of the FIA really is actually not a significant change in the operating procedures, it’s a lot more clarity and a lot more tightening of the operational procedures.”
“Sometimes playing with blankets temperatures or early removal is just getting the best balance front to rear.”
“But the way the TD is written, it seems that it could have been abused to lower the pressures, and therefore the FIA is becoming stricter on it.”