The Qatar Grand Prix’s Losail International Circuit turned out to be something of a car killer. It claimed the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc and the Haas of Nikita Mazepin before the race even started, with both cars suffering cracked chassis due to kerb damage.
In qualifying, AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly demolished a front wing on a rumble strip, and those pesky kerbs were also blamed for a string of tyre failures including one for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. According to Merc, though, this wasn’t down to the kerbs being too rough. Nope, according to the team’s trackside engineering boss Andrew Shovlin, it was quite the opposite – because they weren’t bumpy enough.
As reported by Motorsport.com, he said:
“It is strange because the issue is that they are actually quite smooth, so therefore you can run all over them. When you run all over them, the front wings are very low to the ground and they are being clipped, plus the tyres are being hit pretty hard by them.
“In a bizarre way, if they were more aggressive it would probably be easier for the cars and the tyres. But the fact that you can get on them, and the quickest thing is to get on them as well, means you have got to do it here, and therein lies the risk.”
In other words, the relatively easygoing nature of the kerbs at Losail, which has been used for MotoGP bike races since it opened in 2004, made them just too tempting to resist for drivers trying to eke out those last hundreds of a second. Repeated running on them proved to take its toll on some cars.
The kerb design isn’t unique to Losail, it’s worth pointing out. “They’re the standard FIA/FIM [Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme] kerbs that we’ve seen at the last two corners at Austria forever,” race director Michael Massi said. Echoing some of Shovlin’s comments, he added: “I think one of the things is that drivers were trying to use everything to their full advantage.”