Formula One has probably entered the most ‘responsible’ era in its entire history. Gone are the days when the ‘hero’ drivers are sent out to be slaughtered with at times just a 1 in 5 chance of surviving death during the season.
Also gone is the space race spending war by F1 teams in their attempt to gain dominance as evidenced by the Ferrari era (1999-2005) and Mercedes in (2014-2021).
The end of an F1 era
The cost cap has been set at a tighter limit for this season and the looming engine budget limit will restrict the ability of the teams blow money for performance reasons even further.
Corporate friendly Liberty Media realise that the FIA’s carbon zero goals are now a positive tool to unlock the marketing treasuries of the newly sensitive breed of blue chip companies.
To this end the FIA have been in persuasion mode with the F1 teams to abandon their electricity eating tyre warming blankets.
F1 tyre blankets revolutionised the sport
Electric tyre blankets were first introduced to the sport in 1985 after teams had tried various methods to pre-heat the tyres including wrapping them black bin liners.
Each set of tyres has traditionally required 1.5-2 hours of pre-heating to the required temperature so when variable weather is forecast, each car can have 5 or 6 sets of tyres being pre-heated before the start of a race.
As the tyres reach the optimum heat in the blankets, the pressure inside the tyre also rises to its optimum level which in turn means the driver can drive his car flat out from the get go without having to build up to full speed over a number of laps to bring the tyres up to full temperature.
F1 drivers still run cold tyres
The F1 drivers know full well what it is like to run with cold tyres and how difficult it makes their job bringing them up to temperature in a mechanical manner.
Extended safety car periods cause the tyre temperatures and therefore pressures to fall substantially. Often one safety car period is swiftly followed by another as drivers fail to warm their tyres properly and push the limits too far before the pressures have normalised.
When the topic of banning tyre blankets was first raised by the FIA, the Formula One drivers like heroin addicts en masse protested over the dangers of removing their precious heat fixes.
Most F1 drivers in favour of ban
Many are persuaded now that the gigawatts wasted a year on such a practice should be stopped, though a few remain opposed to the FIA impending ban first scheduled for 2024.
Lewis Hamilton recently spoke out against the plan to ditch the tyre warmers claiming it to be “wrong” and “dangerous.”
He said: “I have tested them, and there is going to be an incident at some stage. So on safety grounds, it is the wrong decision. You have to drive multiple laps to get the tyres to work. The whole argument is that taking away the blankets will be more sustainable and more green, but we are using more fuel to get more temperature into the tyres.
“What is more concerning is that when you go out, the car is skating around, it is very twitchy, and if someone else is on tyres that are working, you could easily collide with them. It is a pointless exercise.”
Hamilton claims ban is “wrong” and “dangerous”
Hamilton went further arguing rather lamely that the extra fuel used by the driver would offset the environmental savings made by ditching F1’s tyre warmers.
Given that Formula One should be using 100% bio fuels by 2026, Lewis’ claim appears baseless.
Former IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe criticised Hamilton for expressing views that have been “disproven” in other motorsport categories.
“Confused by some F1 drivers reluctance to ban tire warmers. It makes for better racing, it highlights the skill of driving on cold tires, and it saves a ton of money/pollution from freight and energy consumption,” Hinchcliffe posted on social media.
Indycar driver criticises Hamilton
“The argument that it’s dangerous has been disproven in many other four-wheeled motorsport, and recent claims that it’s less sustainable because you’d have to ‘use more fuel to put heat in the tires’ are inaccurate.
“Cold tires mean less throttle use/higher lap times, which means less fuel consumption,” added Hinchcliffe.
Lewis Hamilton’s comments are now being rebutted by Pirelli chief Mario Isola who reveals “Lewis last tested the tyres in Paul Ricard at the beginning of February.
“It was quite cold in that period and clearly we tested some tyres that are not the final version of the tyres that we want to homologate without blankets.
Hamilton in the minority
Isola reminds Hamilton and any other dissenters their views are in the minority.
The idea to remove blankets is something that we discussed years ago and it is a common thought between the FIA, F1, teams, Pirelli and promoters to achieve carbon neutrality for 2030.
“Any step to make our sport more sustainable is important and one of these steps is to remove blankets, to avoid using electricity to warm up the tyre before we use it.
We tested, before the Christmas break, some wet weather tyres, that was also our priority because last year, drivers were not happy about where they were on tyres. We found a new compound that is able to work without blankets.
Blind tyre tests show new tyres are better
Pirelli have been working hard for a number of years to develop compounds for Formula One that require less artificial heating. This included the move to low profile tyres last season which natural heat up more quickly than their high sidewall predecessors.
Isola claims the recent tyres tests compared old wet weather tyres with blankets to new wet weather compounds without blankets with astonishing results.
“If I’m not wrong, the five different drivers, the comments were positive. So we are planning to remove the blankets from the wet weather tyre from Imola onwards. That has been authorised by the Formula 1 commission last Wednesday.
No tyres blankets from Imola this year
“The next step is – and I hope we are successful this year – to find an intermediate tyres that is able to work without the blankets. At the same time we have a development plan for slick tyres.”
The old wet weather tyres were rarely used by the teams because their performance was so poor, almost always the intermediate tyres was preferred in rainy conditions.
New wet weather tyres which have a wider operating window should add another strategic dimension for the teams when competitive on rack sessions are hit by inclement weather.
Hoping for more EPIC battles like these this weekend 🤩 pic.twitter.com/lNLIQfnzT4
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) February 27, 2023