Bizarre quirk of Qatar kerbs caused F1 problems, reckons Mercedes

The brutal car damage dished out by the kerbs at Formula 1's Losail circuit was a result of them not being aggressive enough, reckons Mercedes.

A number of drivers hit trouble over the Qatar weekend as they suffered car and tyre damage throughout the event.

Charles Leclerc and Nikita Mazepin both had to swap chassis following damage caused by kerb strikes, while Pierre Gasly smashed a front wing that triggered a puncture at the end of qualifying.

In the race, it is suspected that the repeated running over the kerbs played a part in the tyre failures that were suffered by Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Williams duo George Russell and Nicholas Latifi.

Rather than the issue being that the kerbs were too rough, Mercedes head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin says the situation was so difficult because the kerbs were actually too low – so there was no deterrent to running over them.

"It is strange because the issue is that they are actually quite smooth, so therefore you can run all over them," he explained.

"When you run all over them, the front wings are very low to the ground and they are being clipped, plus the tyres are being hit pretty hard by them.

"In a bizarre way, if they were more aggressive it would probably be easier for the cars and the tyres.

"But the fact that you can get on them, and the quickest thing is to get on them as well, means you have got to do it here, and therein lies the risk."

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

F1 race director Michael Masi said that there was nothing unique about the kerb design at Losail, which are regularly in place at both MotoGP and F1 venues.

He cited the fact that the exit same kerb concepts are used without complaint at the final sequence of the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

"They're the standard FIA / FIM kerbs that we've seen at the last two corners at Austria forever," he said.

"I think one of the things is that drivers were trying to use everything to their full advantage."

Pirelli has opened an investigation in to what caused the tyre failures in the Qatar race, and will examine whether drivers abusing the kerbs was a key factor in the punctures.

The Italian tyre manufacturer's head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola said: "Any small debris, any kerb, can cause a small puncture.

"Then, losing air, the tyre when it's broken is not able to sustain the high level of energy that these cars are putting on the tyres."

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