F1 Winter Break
Pirelli get tough on tyre rules, Red Bull under pressure in Monza?
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Sep 2011   |  5:49 pm GMT  |  72 comments

After the stand-off in Spa over the way Red Bull were using the Pirelli tyres beyond the manufacturer’s recommended limits, here at Monza Pirelli have got tough, setting lower than expected limits, which potentially gives Red Bull and others a headache.

The issue revolves around camber angle, the degree to which the tyres lean inwards at the top, relative to the bottom. Pirelli sets a recommended camber angle at each Grand Prix. Normally with plenty of dry running in practice they can evaluate their limits and set them appropriately for the race. However for some time they have been uneasy that Red Bull and others were pushing beyond the limits. The teams do this to help get heat into the tyres and to improve front grip on turn-in to corners. But Pirelli say they set the camber limits for safety reasons.

In Spa the matter came to a head when practice was wet and then in qualifying several teams experienced severe blistering, with Red Bull the most extreme. Mark Webber had to stop after just three laps of the race, Sebastian Vettel after five.

What happened then is very interesting and is the untold story behind Vettel’s Spa victory.

When Webber stopped early, the engineers immediately cut open the tyre to see if the blistering had been likely to reach the point at which it threatened the integrity of the tyre. Was a failure imminent?

Quick analysis showed that the blistering was moving towards the outside, unlike Vettel’s and others’ tyres. This was communicated immediately to the strategists working on Vettel’s race and then formed the basis of how he planned the race, opting to do a long third stint on the soft tyre. It won him the race and is a great example of the kind of calm, winning teamwork they are exhibiting this season. They had the confidence to do that because of analysis of Webber’s “test” tyre.

Back to this weekend, Pirelli have set the camber limits at 3.25 degrees, which is lower than was being mooted following Spa. There had been talk of 3.5 degrees. This means that for some teams, there will be a little less grip on turn-in, with the possibility of some understeer.

But it will also be tougher for some to get heat into the tyres. Pirelli has brought a special batch of soft tyres with thinner treads. This is to avoid blistering with the very high wheel rotation speeds here at Monza. Blistering has always been an issue at Monza. It’s normally the rear tyres that suffer the most here.

The medium tyre has fewer problems with blistering and is there as a fall-back in the race, as Webber found to his relief in Spa.

“I’m sure that Pirelli will see how it is after Friday practice and review,” said Lewis Hamilton this evening. “But it will be interesting; understeer could be an issue for some people.”

What is perhaps not appreciated by outsiders is the huge increase in downforce from the floor this year – and therefore loading on the tyres – due to the blown diffusers. It’s some 15-20% higher than last year, far more than Pirelli could have expected when they designed and engineered the tyres for this year. Luckily the construction is quite conservative and can handle it.

Next year blown diffusers will be banned, so the downforce levels will drop significantly.

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“Next year blown diffusers will be banned, so the downforce levels will drop significantly.”

James, what are the chances that my the end of next year engineers will have made the downforce deficit back?

This year’s car is supposed to have less downforce at the rear than last year but that does not seem to be the case if my understanding is correct?


Always high, but I asked that question and was told that it will take some time to get that much back


Thanks for the article, really enjoyed reading it. As for Red Bull not paying attention to manufacturer limits, either you risk premature wear and a blow out to win the race, or you make sure you have the best driver. I’ll stick to the second option.


Could Pirelli divide the cars in two or even three group? giving different chamber limits for cars being kind to the tires and those who isn’t, and give them e.g. 0.25-0.5 or some like that degree deviation between them. It will be a pity if fast car’s speed and potential will be hampered in case safety issue is ok for this particular car.


I could see that causing huge issues regarding favoritism and manipulation.


It was my understanding that the three belonged to Pirelli and the teams weren’t supposed to do much with them. Are they allowed to open the tyres up? Is this another reason why Pirelli were so unhappy with Red Bull?


Can somebody explain to me how blisters are formed? Is it trapped air inside the moulded rubber or just an effect of the rotational force that allow the same trapped air to become unstable?


It is the tread overheating, forming blisters in the rubber


I thought it was caused by the tyre cold tearing due to the surface of the tyre overheating before the rest of the tyre warms to operating temperature. The rubber that bursts out of the blister sticks to the surface as pickup until the whole tyre heats to operating temp & the pickup flys off & normal service returns. If the amount of rubber sticking to the tyre covers a large enough area or the contact patch overheats enough then there is no choice but to pit & change. The camber angle determines the contact patch width. The more negative camber you run the smaller the contact patch is & more localised overheating occurs. Look for black lines/rings running around the surface of the tyre.


Honestly, I do not understand how there can be the same camber limits for all the teams. It’s not like they all have an identical design! What if RB found that it’s car better performs, and at the same time safe, with an angle that exceeds the recommeded limits? Can’t it be said that Pirelli might suggest limits that are favorable to some teams?


It’s physics and tyre suppliers have always made recommendations the teams need to stick to. In the Hakkinen days Bridgestone regularly warned McLaren for running tyre pressures too low.


But the whole sport is about pushing the boundaries. Drivers, teams, cars & equipment are all pushed to the edge of failure. Compromises are made for speed. Speed is all that matters. Red bull know like everyone else that Pirelli will have a safety margin built in, every product produced on the planet has one built in. They are just doing what they are paid to do. Push. And if it dosen’t break, push a little harder.


This is racing, teams are supposed to push the limit. Those that don’t can just slow down.


If I was in a conspiratorial mood, I would say that it would be very easy for a tyre-supplier to have a hidden agenda due to relationships between that supplier and other teams/manufacturers !!

JA : Does any “third party” check that the “recommendations” by Pirelli are indeed reasonable and based-on somesort of science. Or does F1 just have to take their word for it ?


Of course the FIA’s Charlie Whiting and Pirelli talk all the time on this


James – given the nature of the Monza circuit, will the cars need to run as much camber?

Is there a way they can manipulate the suspension or tyre pressures to get around the static camber limits? Ie once the tyres get up to temperature, they go to the optimal camber angle, but when cold they comply? Much like the bendy front wing issue?


The sooner we go back to multiple tyre manufacturers and end mandated stops to run different compounds the better. Or if the FIA is adamant that only Pirelli are going to supply tyres, let the drivers outside the top ten not have to use multiple compounds. If they can run the race on one set let them.


Remember when someone would gamble on one set of tyres for the whole race? Schumacher in Belgium 1992 etc?

Back then it would be exciting to see a very different strategy lead to a strategy race.

DRS has killed this. If you’re in front and have a slower car, you’re dead meat.


Multiple tyre manufacturers = testing = cost


The question also is, if Vettel’s second pit-stop on lap 13th was just simply a result of RBR’s opportunistic reaction to deployment of the safety car to get rid of 8 laps old softs or did the engineers needed this used set of tires for further investigation of the blistering problem? Or both for that matter?


I just find it quite hard to believe, that engineers would be bold enough to express their judgement regarding safety of use of those softs, having examined only one set of Webber’s tires, after just 9 laps (6 qualifying laps in Q3 + 3 laps on race day)…?


Great stuff, James! Could you bare with me for a second, though…? By writing:

“Quick analysis showed that the blistering was moving towards the outside, unlike Vettel’s and others’ tyres”

did you mean ‘towards the outside sidewall of that particular tyre or towards the outside of the tyre’s structure (structural depth)?

Sorry about that, just wanted to get this info right. Thanks.


“Could you bare with me for a second …”

Paging Dr. Freud!!!


That was disappointing, to be honest… for a moment I thought someone tried to answer my question…

James, if this “bare with me” thing is to be blame for your silence, I am really sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude or sarcastic.


Sorry, I can’t answer everyone’s questions, I’d never get down to the paddock!


*Off Topic*

(Vettel/Red Bull stats):

No of safety cars deployed at Monza since 2001 — Three!

Sebastian Vettel has nine poles from 12 races this season, five shy of the 1992 record set by Nigel Mansell, and one short of his best from last year.

With 24 career poles to his name, Vettel (24 years old) is equal eighth on the all-time list. Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark, Alain Prost, Mansell, Juan Manuel Fangio and Mika Hakkinen are the only men ahead of him.

Red Bull are currently on a run of 13

successive poles. Only Williams (24) and McLaren (17) have achieved more.

With all 12 poles this season, Red Bull are three shy of the record they equalled last year, sitting alongside McLaren (1988 & 1989) and Williams (1992 & 1993).

With his win in Belgium, Vettel has seven for the year. Only five drivers have won more in a single season – Schumacher (13 is his record), Mansell, Senna, Damon Hill and Hakkinen.

Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber have had 14 consecutive results in the points. Only Schumacher (24), Fernando Alonso (18 & 17) and Carlos Reutemann (15) have achieved more.

Vettel has finished in the top five on

each occasion.

Vettel and Webber are the fourth most

successful pairing in F1 history, with 10 one-two finishes to their name. Schumacher/Rubens Barrichello lead the way with 24, followed by Senna/Prost with 14 and Hakkinen/David Coulthard with 13.

Vettel has now had 13 wins from pole.

Schumacher (40) holds the record, followed by Senna (29), Prost (18), Mansell (17), Fangio and Clark (15).

The Italian GP has been won from pole 18 times in 61 races, including seven times in the past 10 years.


I always like stats like these, even though some don’t really have use looking fwd. Seb has quite a few unconverted poles … 11 I think. Quite a lot when you think about it.

I’d like to know the percentages on best pairing (i.e. number of 1-2’s / number of starts as a pair). I’m sure Senna/Prost would come out on top for that one … they only had ’88 and ’89 together.


yes that was off topic


Excellent stats, thanks.


Pirelli supply the tyres, do they get paid for this? Who supplies the wheels? I ask this particularly because we hear that Mercedes incorporate the nut into the wheel so does this mean that all teams get specific wheel/tyre assys or just Merc?

I gather that the tyres are glued on to the rims nowadays so how do they get them off to grind up after each race, do the rims remain undamaged during this?

Interesting too that the wheels are still made of magnesium and are very thin in places.

Any manufacturer of any safety related product not only can, but must, specify parameters for it’s use, its a matter of normal engineering procedure, it does not have to be in the regs

otherwise future tyre design may be curtailed.


What is the purpose of a recommendation on camber limits if teams don’t have to stay within the prescribed limits?


Responsability. It’s as simple as that.

Inside the recommendation – Pirelli responsability.

Outside the recommendation – Team responsability.

If there is a big accident – heaven forbid – then it will matter a lot.



It’s all nice and safe until one of the teams decides to ignore Pirelli (again) and go with a slightly higher angle to gain a massive advantage over the others.


I thinka that Ferrari is in trounle more than Red Bull…they have issue with warming up tyres.


Ferrari was not running those extremes…



I am not quite clear what the sanctions are for a team that goes beyond the limit set py Pirelli. Can you shed some light on this?


As Spa showed… There isn’t one.


The BBC reports that there will be sanctions by the FIA, starting with the Italian GP this weekend.

Of course, that begs the question of how this will pan out in practice. Will this form part of the scrutineering? How will the angle be measured? Will there be a tolerance? What will the penalties be?

Yet another rule change mid-season. I assume the FIA can do this because it is on safety grounds?


But that’s just wrong.

If they take the risk and ignore the recommandations, they are not only risking the safety of Seb and Mark, but also every other driver on the track.

This is crazy and if RedBull are repeating what they did in Spa they don’t deserve to be allowed to race.

Maybe some so called “fans” are excited about this because they like to see crashes, but for us, those who want to see racing, this is madness.



But this is Italy, so if an someone gets injured in an accident as a result of running too much camber then some legal trouble is likely.


I definitely think there should be some form of sanctions…otherwise it might just become a game of chicken more than fair competition. And in my opinion Adrian Newey doesn’t really hold driver safety in as high esteem as his counterparts, and hasn’t been, since before 1994.


QUOTE: Next year blown diffusers will be banned, so the downforce levels will drop significantly.

Isn’t that similar to what you said last year because double diffusers were banned in 2011? Don’t underestimate engineers in F1, they need downforce. I’m sure they will surprise us and Pirelli once more.


No-one could have predicted how powerful blown diffusers have become. Look at Button’s comments on this today


Where can i find them?


I really don’t understand why the FIA is banning blown diffusers. Seems to me that they are the result of some pretty sharp engineering and F1 is supposed to be the most technologically advanced class of auto racing. Banning them flies in the face of that level of technology and innovation.


DRS has no place on the road either, I’d like to see that go too


They have 0 use in the road car industry and they use more fuel than normal running – therefore wrong direction


The race will be interesting to watch with Pirelli’s conservative setting



In the Pirelli press release they said “3.75”. Did you make a typo?


No. 3.25, confirmed by Paul Hembery


Thanks … that is a big difference, hmmm, it will effect performance although it is only a recommendation … it will be interesting to see what track they run.


Seems that Pirelli have changed the recommendation a number of times. They started with 3.75 as reported by autosport then changed to 3.5 then 3.25. See:


Can I suggest an “in depth” article on this about why the teams run extreme angles and why Pirelli want to restrict the angles?



I wonder why they put Webber on another set of hard tires for his third stint, when they knew after the first set of softs that they could take a beating and that the blistering wouldn’t really hurt them.

It seems odd that they would judge from Webber’s tires that Vettel could run longer on softs, but then not think that Webber himself could do it.


Here is your answer:

Q. Did you think about putting Mark on options for the last stint, or was that an easy call to make for the primes?

CH: With the energy you put into the tyres, if you damage them in three laps in qualifying – to do 10 or 12 we thought might be too much. And with the prime, he looked really happy on it. It looked as quick after a few laps as the option, so it was logical to keep him on the prime.



I believe it was because Webber is not as kind to his tyres as Vettel, especially the Softs. My understanding is that Mark’s initial set of softs were shagged when he pitted on lap 2(?). They were partially shot on his second quali run on Saturday. Had Mark been put on softs for the run to the end, he may well have destroyed them before the end of the race. He was blindingly fast on the harder tyre anyway. Way faster than Alonso, who he was racing. I thought the call for mediums was strange at the time but it made sense when you think about it.

On the negative camber issue, I strongly believe, in the interests of driver safety, that it should be a scrutineerable item.


He might have caught Vettel if they did that, no win for Red Bull, they got a 1-2 anyway


So, a less-than-4-minutes (2 Spa laps) risk-management decision involving safety, speed and several other factors saved Vettel’s race. How high-pressure is that?

And I just love having access to this kind of info. Thanks.


James, we need a “like” or “+1” button of some sort please


The problem, then, is that Pirelli is issuing recommendations rather than enforceable rules.

If they are genuinely concerned about how the tyres will behave if their recommendations are exceeded, shouldn’t they be approaching the FIA to get the rule book amended such that their recommendations cannot be exceeded?

Safety surely has to be the priority – and recommendations really mean very little when this much money and success is at stake. The teams will do whatever they can to win, and while I’m not suggesting they will deliberately forgo safety in favour of performance, Pirelli are ultimately the tyre experts, and if they don’t want people going above a set limit because that puts the tyres at risk, they should be making that limit a rule, not a recommendation.


You do not have to suggest it – RB have already forgotten the safety over performance!!! Thanks to their luck, both drivers are safe….


Of course they are talking to the FIA..


Yep just heard Ted Kravitz make that point – seems that the FIA will be monitoring the situation teams that go over the Pirelli recommendations will be reported to the stewards.

Fair enough, then!

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