Can Formula 1 Succeed Without Tyre Blankets in 2024?
The Formula 1’s proposed tyre blanket ban for 2024 faces challenges in manufacturing tyres that offer adequate grip immediately leaving the pit lane. Pirelli will continue to develop tyres for the ban and assess their progress, considering various factors such as the impact on the racing spectacle. The decision will depend on a thorough evaluation, including the impact on the drivers, teams, and overall racing.
The determining factor in Formula 1’s implementation of the proposed tyre blanket ban for 2024, which Lewis Hamilton criticized as both “dangerous” and “pointless,” will be the ability to manufacture tyres that offer adequate grip immediately upon leaving the pit lane.
Although the prohibition of tyre blankets for the upcoming season had already been scheduled, the most recent version of the technical regulations, which outlines modifications for 2024, has postponed the implementation of the ban on a provisional basis.
As per the regulations, the tyre regulations for 2023 will remain unchanged, pending an assessment that may permit the prohibition of all tyre warming apparatus, including not just blankets but also tents and other related systems, as initially intended.
In order for this to be enforced, it must be approved by the F1 Commission in a vote before the end of July. The regulations for 2024 stipulate that a “simple majority,” which entails five out of the 10 teams, is required to implement the changes.
Lewis Hamilton is in a good position to offer insights regarding the tyres, as both he and George Russell participated in a Pirelli test at the beginning of February, as part of the ’24 tyre test program, driving them on a 2022 Mercedes. However, it is important to mention that this test was conducted in cold weather conditions, and the rubber used was still in the developmental phase and not representative of the final product.
Mario Isola, the Head of F1 at Pirelli, acknowledged that he could understand why Lewis Hamilton felt the way he did but emphasized that the situation required a more comprehensive evaluation.
When asked about Lewis Hamilton’s statement suggesting that the difference in grip levels between cars on cold tires and those on warm ones could be hazardous, Mario Isola replied that he comprehended Hamilton’s remark.
Furthermore, Isola noted that the drivers are accustomed to leaving the pit lane with tyres that can generate a similar level of grip once they stabilize, which is a completely distinct approach. Therefore, the elimination of tyre warming devices could necessitate significant adjustments for the drivers.
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Isola explained that it is challenging to predict whether they can create a tyre with identical characteristics to the current ones. Without the use of tyre warming devices, there might be variations because the tyre will need some time to warm up on the track. This implies that drivers will have to adjust to this new circumstance.
Isola also acknowledged that if one car is significantly slower than another car on the out-lap, it could result in a speed differential that must be taken into account. He recognized that Lewis Hamilton’s remark was related to this issue, and it was a reasonable observation. Therefore, all the factors need to be carefully considered.
Isola added that they would be introducing a new methodology to assess the out-lap during the next test. This is because the out-lap without tyre warming devices will be a critical factor in the decision-making process.
Isola also agreed with Hamilton’s observation that the fuel consumed by the cars as they warm up the tyres on the track should be taken into account when deciding whether to ban tyre blankets. He explained that the prohibition of tyre blankets is part of F1’s objective to achieve a net zero carbon target, and this is why they must consider various factors. Isola added that the fuel used during the out-lap is one of the elements that need to be considered.
The warm-up characteristics of the tyres will be essential in the absence of tyre blankets. Pirelli is optimistic that they will be able to meet these requirements since the current test tyres achieve their ideal operating window within two laps. Therefore, their attention is now focused on enhancing the grip level of the tyres immediately after they leave the pit lane.
Manufacturing tyres that meet these requirements is a difficult task because of the substantial variation in pressure levels between cold and hot conditions, which Isola estimates to be around for a wide operating range, along with a pressure variance of around “9 to 10 psi, or possibly more.”
Pirelli will continue to work on its development program in the upcoming months, with a test scheduled for July 11-12 at Silverstone, following the British Grand Prix. Following the test, meetings will be held, which could lead to the tyre blanket ban for 2024 going to the F1 Commission for a vote.
Apart from the suitability of the tyres, various factors will be considered, including the effect on the show. There are apprehensions that the tyre blanket ban could result in less strategic variety, which may affect the overall spectacle of the races. Therefore, this aspect will also be evaluated before a final decision is made.
Isola confirmed that there is a test scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday after Silverstone, and a meeting is planned with the FIA, F1, teams, and drivers to assess the progress in developing the tyres for next year. The meeting will determine if the tyres are at the appropriate level of development or if more time is needed to produce tyres that can operate without blankets without affecting the show’s overall quality.
Isola emphasized that another crucial aspect to consider is the fact that the previous season was a fantastic championship, with a lot of action, diverse strategies, and a combination of one-stop and two-stop strategies. This is precisely what the spectators want to see, and they do not want to alter the current situation. Therefore, the decision to ban tyre blankets must be thoroughly evaluated, keeping in mind the impact on the overall spectacle of the races.
Isola reiterated that they want to deliver a tyre that can function without blankets and exhibit the same characteristics as the current tyres. This is an additional level of complexity that must be addressed, as the tyres’ characteristics significantly impact the racing’s quality and overall enjoyment for spectators. Therefore, they will continue to work on developing a tyre that meets all the necessary requirements.
Even if Pirelli achieves its objectives with the 2024 test tyres and makes the tyre warmer ban feasible, the question remains whether the teams will vote against it. Typically, F1 teams are hesitant to support significant changes and may cite the need to incorporate the ban on tyre blankets into their 2024 car design, which will already be in an advanced stage, as a reason not to back the proposal. Therefore, the final decision will depend on various factors, including the teams’ viewpoints and the impact on the overall racing spectacle.
Despite the challenges, Isola remains optimistic that Pirelli can produce a strong enough product that meets the requirements for a blanket ban. He cites the teams’ support for the introduction of a blanketless wet tyre, which will be used from this May’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix onwards, as evidence that the teams may be open to such a change. Therefore, Pirelli will continue to work towards developing a tyre that meets all the necessary criteria for a blanket ban.
Isola’s confidence is reinforced by the fact that the introduction of the blanketless wet tyre was approved despite not all teams having tried it out, relying instead on testing data. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari’s driver, confirmed this, stating that he had no concerns regarding the blanketless wet tyres for 2023, as he had already tested them as part of Pirelli’s programme. Therefore, Pirelli’s experience with the blanketless wet tyre could indicate that they can develop a tyre that meets the requirements for a blanket ban.
Despite Carlos Sainz’s positive experience with the blanketless wet tyre, Lewis Hamilton’s strong criticism indicates that drivers, in general, are not in favor of the proposed blanket ban. Moreover, with the current default in the rules that permit the use of tyre heating devices in 2023, it is likely that the ban will be postponed, at least for the time being. Therefore, the final decision will depend on a thorough evaluation of all the factors involved, including the impact on the drivers, teams, and the overall racing spectacle.
Can Formula 1 Succeed Without Tyre Blankets in 2024? Can Formula 1 Succeed Without Tyre Blankets in 2024? Can Formula 1 Succeed Without Tyre Blankets in 2024? Can Formula 1 Succeed Without Tyre Blankets in 2024?
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