Why the Qatar Grand Prix Curb Conspiracy Hurt Valtteri Bottas and Helped Lewis Hamilton

One by one, tires on Formula 1 machines went flat. First it was driver Valtteri Bottas. Then three others soon after.

But why? 

Qatar Grand Prix’s curb conspiracy theories are already spreading via word of mouth and social media.

Qatar GP’s curb conspiracy sparked short runs for Valtteri Bottas, three other drivers

As sparks fly, Formula 1 driver George Russel steers his car during the second practice session in preparation for the Qatar Grand Prix on Nov. 21, 2021 | Hasan Bratic/picture alliance via Getty Images

When F1 teams arrived at the Losail International Circuit for its inaugural event, they set out to test the limits of the new track. Able to run the smooth curbs with a wheel, drivers aggressively pushed the corners to gain a few seconds of lap time. 

These maneuvers may have saved track time, but they played havoc with the machines’ front wings and chassis floors. As drivers charged into the smooth curbs, front wings were often dinged, and tires rubbed the corners, wearing them beyond their limits. 

The smooth curbs proved to be too much of a temptation. Mercedes officials contend Qatar should raise and roughen up the curbs, like many of the other F1 stops. 

“It is strange because the issue is that they are actually quite smooth; therefore, you can run all over them,” Mercedes director of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin told GP Fans, reported by PlanetF1

Valtteri Bottas was the first F1 driver to experience Qatar GP’s curb craziness

Of the four drivers who suffered tire punctures, the first victim was Bottas. The Mercedes driver suffered a puncture on Lap 33 of 57. Far away from pit lane when the tire went out, Bottas rode the tire frame nearly the entire lap, and sparks flew all around. 

The drivers knew the chances they were taking. 

During the practice sessions leading up to the Qatar GP on Nov. 21, the F1 drivers took their machines hard over the smooth curbs, searching for the correct combination of risk and reward. 

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, in the end, didn’t need any blocking help from his teammate, Bottas. The four-time defending F1 champion’s approach over the corners and, of course, his straightaway power aided his dominant run at Qatar. He will go for his third checkered flag in a row at Saudi Arabia on Dec. 5. 

Sholvin: ‘If it is the fastest thing you have got to do it, and therein lies the risk’ 

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Considering how much damage several teams incurred going over the curbs, Shovlin said if Qatar track officials decide to keep the curbs smooth and low, F1 teams will continue to experiment with ways to cut those corners harder and faster than they would at other courses. 

“… If it is the fastest thing, you have got to do it, and therein lies the risk,” Shovlin said. “When you run all over them, the front wings are very close to the ground, and they are being clipped; the tires are getting hit pretty hard by them.” 

Bottas can attest to that. While his teammate placed first, Bottas placed last. 

Talk about a conspiracy.