Tsunoda concerned about “floor destroyer” Lusail circuit after kerb changes ahead of F1 Qatar GP

Spread the love

Yuki Tsunoda has expressed his concerns about the revised kerbs on the Lusail International Circuit ahead of the 2023 F1 Qatar GP. The revision of the kerbs that were aimed at improving the problems with punctures seen in the 2021 race, might have an opposite effect, with the Japanese driver suggesting the damage caused by running wide could be “worse than a puncture”.

Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool

The Qatari circuit underwent a massive overhaul ahead of its second-ever F1 grand prix, with changes to the paddock and pit buildings, a complete resurfacing of the track, and changes to kerb designs around the circuit after three drivers suffered from late race punctures at the 2021 event.

But the changes may have gone too far in the aggressive side, according to AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda. Speaking to selected media on Thursday ahead of the race, the Japanese explained how the new surface won’t pose as much of a challenge as the completely revamped and high-profiled kerbs, which present a “high risk” of inducing damage on the underfloor of the cars:

“I think more challenging will be the curve. It seems like they changed to the aggressive kerbs which here is always [the story] of the track limits and they even made it even worse kerbs. Actually when you go off the white line you’re going to have proper penalty which seems like it’s going to be a high risk to damage the car. So that’s the probably main point. You have to be careful about it.

“So I think seeing the kerb itself is really aggressive, the track limit won’t be probably a problem. More like you have to really be careful for those things.”

Whilst he believes it will be a solution to avoid track limits debacles like in 2021, Tsunoda is well aware of the risks that it presents for the ground-effect cars, that already run close to the ground in lower speeds, will be even closer due to the high-speed nature of the Lusail circuit, causing a “sliding effect” when stepping out of the kerbs – and even went as far as describing it as “worse than a puncture”:

“It’s the step between the kerb and off track,” he said. “Driving on the kerb won’t be an issue, but once you step out from the kerbs it’s going to be like a complete sliding effect.

“It is not smooth at all, and especially driving here, with such high-speed corners where the car is really low, it will be hard. Even one time will be pretty costly I think.

“I think [it’s a] floor destroyer track, yeah. It’s even worse than a puncture.”

“I did simulator [work] on Tuesday, the pictures arrived while on that day, so we couldn’t do simulator properly yet [with the new kerbs]. But yeah, the pictures are really aggressive and all the engineers were concerned about it.”

Looking ahead to the final few races of the season, the 23-year-old admitted AlphaTauri’s huge set of upgrades introduced at the Singapore GP moved the team forward in the pecking order compared to their dire first half of the season, but said the AT04 is still lacking some “extra performance” to be comfortably inside the top 10 and fighting for points regularly:

“We’re still really tight there. We would like to have a bit of extra performance to be honest. To feel like actually really good confidence that we can fight around the P10, inside top 10 actually. Still we’re in probably P12, P11. But definitely better confidence than the first half [of the season]. And I would say it’s probably not worse.”

AlphaTauri currently sits bottom of the constructors’ championship, with just five points to their name, trailing closest rivals Alfa Romeo by another five points, with Haas a further two ahead in P8. Williams is currently sitting strongly in P7, with 21 points – and Tsunoda isn’t ruling out a late comeback from the Faenza squad just yet – but is aware that firstly the team has to get ninth place before setting their sights on the Grove-based team.

“I think it’s still possible,” he said when asked if seventh place in the constructors’ championship is achievable for the Faenza squad. “I think it’s quite tight still and lots of things can happen. If we’re able to extract from it, I think still there’s a chance. So I think P7 is still possible. First obviously we have to beat P9 first and to aim [for] P7. But I think there’s more material, better materials than first half to fight those points. So [I’m] feeling pretty optimistic.”

After securing a contract renewal with AlphaTauri for the 2024 season last time out in Japan, Tsunoda says it’s good that he has “less to worry about” and can focus on the job at hand in this final stretch of the 2023 season:

“I mean pressure itself was similar but in the end I know what I have to do and what I have to perform so I’m okay with it. But yeah, less things I have to worry about so that’s good. That’s better for sure.”