The Williams Formula 1 team today have blamed a set-up mistake for the wheel rim clearance problem that twice punctured Felipe Massa’s left-rear tyre in Chinese Grand Prix Friday practice.
Massa first lost his left rear out of the fast Turn 5 right-hander early in the session, spinning across the gravel as he braked for the next corner.
He rejoined after repairs, only for the tyre to go down again almost immediately. This time he was able to keep the car under control and return to the pits without drama, where an issue with wheel rim clearance on the tyre was diagnosed and rectified.
Asked in an interview with Autosport today about what caused the problem, Williams technical chief Pat Symonds replied as follows:-
‘Something on the way we’d set up the car caused the wheel failure. So once we’d realised what it was, we were able to alter that and it was fine in the afternoon. We did a lot of laps in the afternoon with no problems, so we’re happy.’
In his own interview with the media today, Massa admitted that losing most of the morning made it a “not very positive” Friday, but said he had no concerns for the rest of the weekend. Massa said the following:-
‘If you don’t exactly know the problem it has an effect because you don’t know if the tyre will blow or not. But when the team understands the problem, that’s the important thing. I trust them.’
Although only Massa experienced the deflations on-track, the same problem was evident on team-mate Valtteri Bottas’s car.
Massa suspected Bottas benefited from the red flag to clear up his debris, and the Finn agreed that he had probably been “just more lucky”.