Formula 1 backtracks on key decision due to drivers’ concerns

Tyre blankets are set to be banned from Formula 1 in 2024 but the current plan for 2023 has been revised.

It appears that Formula 1 tyre manufacturer, Pirelli, is listening to the requests of the drivers, following a barrage of criticism over the plans to further reduce the maximum tyre blanket temperature in 2023.

Since 2021, Formula 1 has been slowly preparing for an incoming tyre blanket ban, which the sport has pencilled in to come to fruition in 2024.

To build-up to this, the maximum temperature of the blankets was planned to be reduced year-on-year, something that has happened from 2021 to 2022.

Last season, front tyre blankets were allowed to go up to 100°C and the rears 80°C.

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This season, the maximum temperature of both the fronts and the rears was reduced to 70°C, with the plan being to decrease this further next season to 50°, before they are taken away altogether in 2024.

To best prepare for this, FP2 at the United States Grand Prix was used to test Pirelli’s 2023 prototype tyres, whilst using tyre blankets at 50°C.

Given that the Circuit of the Americas is usually one of the easiest for the drivers to generate heat into the tyres, it came as a shock that almost every driver complained of no grip, with many explaining that they nearly crashed in the pit-lane as a result.

The drivers quickly voiced their concerns over the 2023 tyre blanket temperature reduction, resulting in the 2023 prototype tyres being used differently during FP2 at the Mexican Grand Prix, which was also used to test next year’s rubber.

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Pirelli allowed teams to use the tyre blankets at 70°C during the session; however, the teams could only heat them up two hours before use, rather than three to achieve the Italians reduced energy consumption targets.

With the feedback from the drivers having been considerably better following the revised tyre blanket temperature, it now looks likely that the teams will be allowed to continue using the blankets at 70°C, but just with two hours of warm-up.

Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola admitted that he didn’t “believe” that the conditions at COTA were “dangerous”, but that the tyre manufacturer does “listen to drivers” over their concerns.

“We listen to drivers,” Isola told The Race.

“I don’t believe it’s dangerous, but in Austin, which is a high-energy circuit, we had some issues with the warm-up. Or, at least they had fresh in mind the warm-up at 70°C and if you test the tyre at 50°C, you can feel the difference.

“After listening to the drivers, we started to consider that if Austin is a high-severity circuit with very good weather conditions and they had an issue with a warm-up, what happens at street circuits, low-severity circuits with smooth Tarmac, or in poor conditions?

“The target is to ban blankets for 2024 and the idea was to go in this direction step-by-step. The plan is still in place, but looking at the test in Austin, it seems that 50°C is not a suitable option for next year.

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“So we made some calculations of the energy consumption, considering different scenarios as we have some blankets in Milan that we used for our test. We found two hours is the time needed to warm up the tyre at 70°C, so we have an additional hour at the moment that is just maintaining the temperature.

“If, instead of going down to 50°C, we cut one hour [of the currently-permitted three hours at 70°C] we discovered that it is a lot more efficient, we save more energy and we don’t create any issue with the warm-up. So the drivers can go out and push, as they are doing now.

“That’s why we decided in Mexico to test the blankets at 70°C for two hours instead of three hours.”