Formula 1: The bizarre, concerning behavior of Ferrari’s tires

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images) /

Given the concerns following qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, what implications could Ferrari’s issues with new tires have on the remainder of the 2022 Formula 1 season?

During an enthralling qualifying session for the 2022 Formula 1 season’s second race, the final session of running uncovered a peculiar issue in Ferrari’s tire characteristics at the sweeping, high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Between the combination of reduced temperatures for tire blankets and few low-speed areas on-track for safe tire warming, all teams struggled to get their 18-inch Pirellis into the proper working window within a single out lap.

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The direct impact of reduced tire blanket temperatures was witnessed throughout the Bahrain Grand Prix, when multiple drivers found themselves vulnerable to the overcut on their cold tires (e.g., Guanyu Zhou vs. Lewis Hamilton on hard tires).

This struggle to build tire temperatures was exposed further on Saturday in Jeddah when both Ferrari drivers voiced their concerns about the matter.

In their final two runs of the evening during the final session of qualifying, Ferrari opted to put their drivers on a used pair of soft tires to put in a time before putting them onto fresh rubber for their final runs.

Both drivers proceeded to struggle with the new tires, unable to get the same bite on their hot laps as they were on the tires which had already been broken in.

Charles Leclerc still managed to find time in his final run while teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. struggled, finishing over four tenths of a second off of his earlier time.

This abnormal characteristic did not appear during the first round of running at Bahrain, meaning that the trait may only rear its head at tracks with characteristics resembling Jeddah Corniche Circuit (minimal low-speed sections, high-traffic qualifying).

Looking ahead to future races, this issue could be a defining element of positional change during the pit phases, adding another challenge which can differentiate drivers based on how well they can handle adversity.

Teams will now also have to consider their preference between the conventional approach of new rubber or a potentially faster out lap on a used set.

Still learning all of the intricacies of the new tires, which will continue to be understood more far into the future, teams will be looking forward into the schedule to identify tracks which could pose a similar trade-off during qualifying sessions.

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Teams could also begin to use qualifying and potentially portions of practice to wear-in their soft tires if this trend is found to have major strategic implications under race conditions.