Pirelli have been tasked by the FIA to develop tyres for Formula One that don’t require the wasteful pre-heating for two hours as their push for “net zero” rumbles on.
Pervious attempts to ban tyre blankets have run into trouble due to the complex nature of the rubber required to run in a big window of temperatures and pressure.
Pirelli tyres without blankets
However, Pirelli are pressing on with their tyre evolution and following another series of tests a vote will be taken at this years British GP as to whether tyre blankets can be ditched for the 2024 season.
Following a recent slick tyre test, Lewis Hamilton was critical of Pirelli’s efforts.
“I think it’s dangerous,” he reported after the track session on the new slicks.
“I’ve tested the no blankets [tyres], and there is going to be an incident at some stage. So, from a safety factor I think it is the wrong decision.
F1 stewards call for rethink of race restarts
Pirelli boss contradicts Hamilton
Pirelli boss Mario Isola disagrees
“My feeling is that people think that it was a much bigger challenge to move from 13-inch to 18-inch wheels, and that [loosing] blankets are not an issue.”
Tyre pre-heated temperatures were dropped from a maximum 100c to 70c last year and were set to fall further to 50c for 2023. However, following tests at the US Grand Prix the teams argued to retain the 70c temperature but agreed to reducing the heating time from 3 to 2 hours.
Chaos ends the Australian GP
Pirelli’s hopes of delivering blanket free tyres for 2024 took a hit this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix.
In the closing stages Kevin Magnussen brought out the red flag after clipping a wall sending shards of his wheel rim across the circuit. This meant the cars in pit lane awaiting the restart were fitted with new soft tyres for the remaining 3 laps of the race.
Bit at the standing restart the race was again thrown into chaos as Fernando Alonso was spun around by Carlos Sainz. Pierre Gasly out-braked himself and collided with his team mate when returning to the track and Logan Sargant hit Nyck de Vries from behind at the first turn.
F1 weekend format change agreed
Norris blames Pirelli for “terrible tyres”
Lando Norris has called out Pirelli for their role in late race incidents claiming he “can’t describe how bad the grip is”.
The British driver benefitted from the carnage as in the final classification he jumped two places up the order due to the stricken Alpines. Yet Norris was scathing of race control’s decision to call for a standing start, when a rolling start behind the safety car was also an option .
“Nothing against them, but the people who make decisions don’t know what’s going on inside the car.
“We have a soft [tyre] on that’s 65 degrees [Centigrade] and I can’t describe how little grip there is on track.
Lack of grip caused chaos
Norris’ issue is not with the mandated reduced tyre temperatures as he explained:
“It’s not a bad temperature. But the tyre doesn’t work and on this surface with this tyre temperature, I can’t describe how bad the grip is.
“That’s why you see everyone going straight on in Turn 1 and locking up… it provides literally no grip, so you have to brake so early, which causes chaos and causes incidents.”
Panic at Red Bull as Verstappen close to disaster
Drivers weren’t “clumsy”
Lando went on to suggest the apparent clumsiness of the drivers was an unfair representation of reality, emphasising again the lack of grip at the late race restart.
“We need a tyre that gives us some more grip and actually a tyre that feels like it should be on a Formula 1 car at the top of motorsport and at the moment, on a day like today, it feels pretty terrible,” Norris concluded.
A number of factors came into play late in Australia. The earlier red flag had delayed the race for some time and the sun was setting as the cars attempted their ill fated restart following Magnussen’s off.
Standing start cooled tyres
The track temperature had cooled significantly and so a standing restart with all the quasi formation lap messing about merely served to cool the tyres right down.
Lando’s tyres may well have been 65c when they left the pit lane but were probably half of that by the time the lights went out for the restart.
A better decision by race control given the track temperature would have been to call for a rolling start behind the safety car as the drivers would have maintained their tyre temperatures better and then rolled on into the restart.
Massic comeback closer as race director slammed
Chaos in Aus may affect Pirelli vote
Further, Pirelli could have brought a range of tyres one step softer, although the weekend prior to race day was particularly cold and this may have affected the running during the practice sessions.
Pirelli have another range of tyres for testing before the vote at Silverstone in July over tyre blankets for 2024.
It will require 5 of the 10 teams agreement to proceed without tyre blankets and at present Lando Norris will be lobbying his McLaren team boss to delay the decision another year.
READ MORE: Australian GP faces 1 year suspension
Lando racing hard Down Under. 👊 What a battle this was. #AusGP 🇦🇺
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) April 3, 2023
Wittich ultimately caused the chaos by unnecessarily red-flagging the race (twice) for situations safely manageable with SC, as proven by many worse past situations.
It doesn’t make any sense to me that the cars have to follow the Safety Car round to a standing start. It is in no way different to the standing start at the beginning of the race.
Let them run the warm-up lap at their own speed, and you’ll see them warm those tyres to much safer temps.
(S/C can do an exploratory lap to check safety if required before the pit lane gets it’s green light, just like it does to check standing water levels after heavy rain.)