Vasseur slams handling of track limits in Qatar, but applauds Pirelli’s response to tyre issues

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Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur shares his reaction to the last minute rule change to limit running distance on tyres, but highlights the volume of track limit infractions during the Grand Prix as the biggest issue of the weekend.

Charles Leclerc on track at the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix
Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Following the discovery on Friday ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix that track conditions were causing the Pirelli tyres to separate between the contact patch and sidewall. With safety concerns raised, the idea was put forward that a 20 lap limit for tyres be implemented for the Grand Prix to be confirmed once data from Saturday’s sprint was analysed.

“It’s always, for me, safety first…”

Once the data was analysed it was announced that a limit of 18 laps would be implemented, throwing a spanner in the works for strategy teams up and down the grid. Following the Grand Prix, Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur shared his opinions on the decision, applauding Pirelli for pushing for the safety of the drivers.

“I think the reaction was quite good,” he said of the decision to limit laps on each tyre set. “At the end of the day it’s always, for me, safety first, and we are not sure and to have this kind of reaction. We had a good race, it was a good show. I would say that the reaction was very appropriate and now it’s bit of a shame to be in this situation.”

“Pirelli was pushing in the right direction…”

When pushed further on the issue, Vasseur called attention to the fact that the decision to focus on safety was pushed by Pirelli and not the FIA. He noted the difficulty all the teams faced in ahead of the Grand Prix in starting from scratch to develop their run plans, a point accentuated by the fact the teams had only 1 hour of free practice before jumping into qualifying on Friday afternoon.

“Not really from the FIA,” he responded when pushed on the point. “I think Pirelli was pushing in the right direction and so it was important to have someone taking the lead on this one. It was frustrating for sure because the situation is not ideal.

“We are working to prepare the weekend but we have on the Friday the run plan to prepare for the long stint and save these kinds of tyres and so on, and in the end they say ‘no no, you change completely the plan’.

“It’s not ideal for sure but I think the situation is like it is. We’ll have to discuss how we could arrive in this kind of situation on a track that we know.”

“I think the drivers, at the end, lost a bit of concentration.”

Continuing on, Vasseur noted the high volume of track limits infringements as the biggest issue during the Qatar Grand Prix weekend. He highlighted the delays from the stewards in assessing and penalising these infringements as a major issue for the sport.

“Honestly for me, the situation about they tyres is one thing,” Vasseur said. “But the biggest issue of the weekend for me is track limits. Because track limits, you know when you are going to Spielberg that you will have issues with track limits, and when we had issues with track limits – you get the results two hours after the race.

“When we came here before the weekend we told them exactly the same, that it will be the festival and it was the festival. On top of this I think the drivers, at the end, lost a bit of concentration. Some guys, the last ten laps, they were doing strikes every single lap. You can’t blame them for this situation, we have to find a solution.

“It’s not even good for the show. At least on the pit wall you have the number of strikes, you can follow the story, you know where you are, but thinking about the guys who are in front of their TV; they don’t have the story about the strikes. At one stage you see ‘Gasly – 5 seconds, Gasly – 10 seconds, Gasly – 15 seconds’.

“We have to think also about this, that we cannot anticipate this kind of issue.”