The paddock consensus is that tyre blankets will continue to be a fixture for slick tyres next season, even as wet and possibly intermediate tyres make the transition to operating without these protective covers. This matter will be up for discussion at the F1 Commission in Spa on Friday, following Pirelli‘s submission of a test report to the FIA.
Current 2024 regulations state that tyre blankets will still be in use next year. The FIA will deliberate on whether Pirelli has presented enough evidence that its tyres are designed to run effectively without these thermal covers and will subsequently put this issue up for a vote among the team bosses.
Teams had previously consented to deploy wet tyres without blankets earlier this year, which was first exhibited on the racetrack during the Monaco Grand Prix. A later attempt, however, to shift the paradigm for intermediate tyres within the current season was not successful, despite a broad agreement that these tyres were prepared for action. It is anticipated that the concept of intermediate tyres sans blankets will likely be accepted for 2024.
Meanwhile, the slick tyre testing programme is progressing, spearheaded by the final pre-decision trial at Silverstone a fortnight ago that saw participation from Red Bull, Williams and Haas. Insiders from these teams have recommended the need for more expansive testing across a broader range of tracks after runs at Bahrain, Barcelona, and Silverstone – the locations where heat is more readily absorbed by the tyres.
With the FIA considering a vote on this issue, certain teams may resist transitioning to blanket-free slick tyres due to potential impacts on their performance next year. However, Pirelli has expressed confidence in its case for running without blankets.
Pirelli‘s chief engineer Simone Berra said, “In general we are happy and we have defined a document for evaluation of the F1 Commission by the team principals. So we are where we wanted to be at this point of the season. Then obviously we have other tests, we have Spa, then we have Monza, then we have the in-competition tests. The development phase, it’s not yet finished. So we still have something to test, some new compounds. Construction is almost finalised. We are really looking for the compounds.”
Questions still linger regarding how the new tyre policy might affect racing strategies or function under certain nuanced race situations. When queried about Pirelli‘s efforts and the impact on racing, Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin shared, “I think the challenge of the dries is a lot bigger than the wets. And you can definitely run race weekends without blankets because you could do it next week if you wanted to do that. The question is, does it improve the racing? Do you have a better show?”
Even if the blanket-free slicks are not accepted for 2024, Pirelli is committed to their testing programme with Aston Martin and McLaren at Spa in the coming week, since changes to the schedule at this point would not be feasible. This means that the Spa test would essentially be to introduce the change in 2025. However, it remains uncertain whether Pirelli or Bridgestone will secure the F1 tyre tender for that season.
The final decision on the tyre tender will be made during the summer break. If Bridgestone is entrusted with the mantle, Pirelli‘s blanket-free initiative at the Monza test in September may be scrapped and efforts refocused on standard tyre development for 2024.
The teams – particularly Red Bull and Alpine, who are partaking in the testing – could potentially gain an edge as they will be collaborating on the finalised 2024 race tyres. Other teams involved in Pirelli‘s testing will only have knowledge of the discarded blanket-free versions. The teams will be able to run the finalised 2024 tyres in the post-Abu Dhabi test, ensuring a level playing field.