There will be a discussion considering the subject of tyre blankets at the F1 Commission, which is set to take place at the Belgian Grand Prix. This meeting is scheduled to occur between F1 chiefs and team administrators on the upcoming Friday.
Pirelli, the exclusive supplier of tyres for F1, has been diligently exploring the production of tyres that would negate the need for pre-heating. This research and development operation was wrapped up post the British GP.
Despite the company feeling confident that it has successfully engineered tyres to adapt the current crop of cars, there is a considerable amount of doubt from the drivers and their respective teams about the ramifications of such a dramatic change.
If the new tyres don’t undergo pre-heating, they are expected to have significantly less grip right off the gate from the pitstops. This would more likely than not make undercut strategies obsolete. Related concerns addressed the potential for hazardous situations if drivers, even temporarily, do not have grip control when vying for positions after pitstops.
Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion, made his apprehensions known about the proposed change, which is being driven by the mission for sustainability. He will be heading to the Belgian GP with a handicap of five places grid penalty because of a gearbox change.
The world champion expressed his skepticism ahead of the F1 Commission meeting, stating that “People probably don’t know how difficult it is to drive a car with 1000 horsepower out of the pits already, and especially when the track is also a bit slippery. It is not necessary.”
He also noted that the impact tyre blankets have on energy consumption is insignificant compared to an air conditioner in the paddock. He stated, “I don’t think it actually generates a lot of energy, these tyre blankets. I think an AC generates more when you combine it through the whole paddock.”
One of the red flags he pointed out was that the tyres could end up being too malleable if the working range temperature were to drop significantly to accommodate this new set of tyres. “And also I think with the tyres, yes, they probably can make it work, but then they need to drop the working range that much that once you’re up to temperature, the tyre will just be like chewing gum, and the pressures will go through the roof.”
He also conveyed his fears that the switch could degrade the quality of the races. “It will not make the racing better. I think anyway, on an out-lap when you’re struggling so much in a car with just [to] warm the tyres, it will look so stupid”, said Verstappen. He concluded by adding, “I think the racing now sometimes, out of the pits as well having hot tyres, is brilliant. I don’t really see why we need to change that.”
The inaugural resolution at the F1 Commission will be to establish if Pirelli and the FIA believe that the development of unheated tyres has reached a level of satisfaction to warrant the change. If they seem to be satisfied, the subsequent step will be to proceed to a vote, which would need a majority to outlaw tyre blankets.
Most teams, however, are believed to be uneasy about this alteration, making this decision implausible. Nevertheless, there is a strong likelihood that the proposal to switch to intermediate tyres without pre-heating will receive support for the 2024 season.