In the wake of its reappearance on the F1 circuit following its inaugural outing in 2021, Qatar race organisers have carried out an extensive overhaul of the Lusail venue. This marked a significant change as the venue has been completely resurfaced for the first time since its establishment in 2004. Additionally, there has been a comprehensive revision of all the kerbs around the track.
These changes were initially perceived as a step in the right direction, given the spate of issues from the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix that resulted from kerbs causing tyre punctures for drivers. During that race, Valtteri Bottas, Nicholas Latifi and George Russell all drew attention due to their high-profile punctures, which post-race examinations determined were a result of kerb misuse.
However, as drivers got their initial look at the revamped Qatar track ahead of this weekend’s event, some apprehensions began to surface. The new solution, it seems, could potentially exacerbate the situation.
Yuki Tsunoda from the AlphaTauri team voiced his concerns, stating that the new kerb design is far too harsh for the current breed of ground effect cars. These cars ride close to the ground, making them vulnerable to damage from elevated surfaces. Tsunoda labelled Qatar as a “floor destroyer track” in a conversation on Thursday.
Adding his insights, Tsunoda said, “It seems like they switched to the aggressive kerbs. This location already had issues with track bounds, but the change has only worsened the situation. Going over the white line would result in a significant penalty – posing a high risk of vehicle damage.”
The major problem, according to Tsunoda, lies in the transition from the kerb to the run-off. This might leave a car veering off the track vulnerable to damage from underneath. He stated, “It’s the step between the kerb and off track. Driving on the kerb won’t be an issue, but if you step out from the kerbs, it’s going to be a complete slide. The surface isn’t smooth, and navigating such high-speed corners with a low car will be challenging. One slip-up could be very costly.”
Tsunoda and his AlphaTauri team started to face the harsh reality of the state of the kerbs earlier this week, upon receiving pictures of the updated track. He said, “I did the simulator on Tuesday, and the pictures arrived on that day. They were really aggressive, and all the engineers seemed concerned about it.”