The first race on the Qatar soil was definitely a challenge for many, but especially Pirelli tyres that were pushed to the limit due to Losail’s combination of aggressive kerbs and high-speed corners. During the race Bottas, Norris, Russell and Latifi all suffered from left-tyre failures while opting for the one-stop strategy, which was called “marginal” by Pirelli itself. After the race, the Italian tyre manufacturer declared they will launch an investigation into these failures, which in their opinion "could be the result of very high wear combined with high-speed impacts against kerbs that are very aggressive at Losail.”
The executive director of Alpine Marcin Budkowski admitted after the race the team was also afraid that Fernando Alonso will suffer from a similar left-tyre blowout. Both Alonso and his teammate Ocon were sent on the track on one-stop strategy, finishing the race in 3rd and 5th, the team’s best result since Hungarian GP. Alpine realised early enough that after committing to a one-stopper there was no way out, and they instructed their drivers to stay away from the kerbs and look after their tyres. As said by Budkowski after: "Everybody really worked hard to make that tyre last until the last few laps, so yeah, it was stressful.
"We knew if we stopped we wouldn't get anything. We managed these tyres quite early, but also we understood that avoiding the kerbs was key and we instructed our drivers to do that.
“On the last lap I saw all the mechanics jumping on the grid, I was like 'no, no, no, there is a few more corners left'. Just because we... honestly it was a question of a few corners whether we would make it or not."
The team principal admitted that he was not concerned for safety reasons, but just for the actual result during the GP. As he explained: "Look, there was no safety concern. If you puncture the front tyre, you just lose the front end and you slide.
”The rear tyre is a bit different because if you lose a rear tyre, you might spin and go off track.
"We were confident we're not putting anyone at risk there but obviously, we're putting our race and our points at risk.”
Eventually, the risky strategy and tyre management paid off especially for Alonso, who secured his first podium since 2014.