Posted by Mole on August 29, 2011 | 1 Comment
Red Bull Design Chief, Adrian Newey, has admitted that he spent the Belgian Grand Prix worrying about the safety of the teams drivers; Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.
The apparent statement came after issues with severely blistered tyres, due to a harsh Qualifying. Normally, only drivers who qualify below 10th position are aloud to use a fresh set of tyres for the start of the race. However, at the end of the third qualifying session, Mark Webber’s tyres which were so blistered, that Red Bull deemed them to be unsafe to use during the race. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton also suffered from this problem. Red bull decided to request to use a new set of tyres for the start of the race, but because rival teams thought this was unfair, the FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting, denied the request.
So why did the tyres blister so badly? The culprit is a technicality of the cars tyre, known as the Camber. It is quite simply, the angle between the tyre, and the suspension arms of the car. If the top of the tyre is leaning further towards the car than the bottom of the tyre, it is known as a ‘Negative Camber Angle’, whereas if the bottom of the tyre is leaning further towards the car than the top of the tyre, its known as ‘Positive Camber Angle’.
Usually, Formula One cars run Negative Camber, for maximised grip. However, with an increase of grip from negative camber, comes an increase in tyre degrading. That is why Engineers have to get the perfect balance of good camber, and appropriate tyre wear, otherwise it could ruin a weekend.
As we know with angles, they are measure in Degrees. And Pirelli, who is the Official F1 Tyre Provider, recommend that team engineers do not exceed negative camber higher than 4 Degrees. They say, if you have any more camber than 4 Degrees, then the tyres will degrade rapidly, and be unsafe to use.
Chief Designer of Red Bull’s RB7, Adrian Newey, ordered the car to be set with 4.0125 Degrees. This is 1/8th over the recommendations which Pirelli set for safety reasons. As a result of Red Bull ignoring Pirelli’s guidelines, the tyre manufacturer say that was to blame.
However, McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh insisted “What I can say is that from our side we absolutely follow the instructions of Pirelli,” he said. “If you follow the instructions of Pirelli, they are there to ensure the tyre is used in the best and the safest way possible”. But, Newey told reporters “We had some dialogue with Pirelli about it before qualifying and they didn’t seem concerned, but after qualifying if you change it without the FIA’s blessing you have to start from the pit lane. Pirelli were telling us after qualifying that our tyres were very marginal and they wouldn’t say whether it was after half a lap or five laps, but they were going to fail”.
Luckily though, no tyres failed, and Vettel won the grand prix. Red Bull say it was a huge relieft, and without a doubt, as always with Motorsport, a definite learning curve.