Driver outcry surrounding tyre blanket temperatures has led to a reverse of the planned move to reduce them in F1 from next season.
Pirelli and F1 plan on removing tyre blankets from the sport altogether from the 2024 season, looking towards improving sustainability by taking away the required energy to heat the sets to the required temperature.
Maximum blanket temperatures have already dropped to 70°C for the 2022 season, but a part of Pirelli’s tyre test session in Austin was to trial a new 50°C upper limit, which had been pencilled for 2023.
But several drivers voiced concerns over their safety with the new plans, with the lower temperatures requiring more work to get the tyres to within a working range – and putting them at higher risk of locking up.
When applied to racing speeds, the likes of Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris all felt this could prove problematic – Perez in particular feeling “safety is at risk” if F1 continued with these plans.
But Pirelli head of motorsport Mario Isola confirmed this would no longer go ahead, and in fact the sport’s tyre manufacturer have been able to work out a compromise.
They will keep the maximum tyre blanket temperature at 70°C, but found that reducing the time allowed in the blankets to two hours from the previous three would actually use the same, if not less energy than warming the tyres at 50°C for three hours.
This news was welcomed roundly throughout the paddock, though Verstappen remains concerned about “a lot of crashes” coming when tyre blankets are removed entirely from 2024.
“We listen to drivers,” Isola said to The Race in the wake of their U-turn. “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.
“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. 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.”