A decision is due to be made at the end of the month on whether Formula One will ban tyre blankets on slicks next year, but it currently looks as though the Formula One teams will decide against doing away with the heated covers.
Manufacturer Pirelli had gradually reduced the temperature of the heated blankets in recent months and had also already completed tests without the warmers. However, most of the drivers were against the abolition because they considered it dangerous.
Ban pushed back
Originally, the electric blankets were to be abolished in 2024, but the regulations were changed so that they would be retained after all – but with the option of abolishing them if Pirelli can prove by the end of July that they can develop a tyre that can do the job.
In the current Formula 1 season, Pirelli has already introduced new rain tyres that work without heated blankets. They wanted to do the same with new intermediates from Singapore, but this was rejected by the teams.
Meanwhile, development for the slicks is still ongoing. Just earlier this month, there was a test in Barcelona with Ferrari and Mercedes. A final test before the decision is to take place after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone with Red Bull, Williams and Haas. Then the teams are to decide.
However, it is likely that the proposal will be rejected. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner wants to wait for his own tests first for an opinion, but he does not believe that the tyres are what the drivers want.
Moreover, he also does not believe that the measure will really save costs as it is planned: “My fear is that there will then be a lot of effort to heat up the tyres very quickly, which could drive up costs,” Horner said.
His opinion: “Everyone has electric blankets, they serve their purpose. I think we should be looking at sustainable ways to power those electric blankets rather than removing them.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 19, 2023
Wolff: “Let drivers decide”
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says he will let the drivers tell him what to vote for: “Mick [Schumacher], Lewis [Hamilton] and George [Russell] will tell me their opinion on how to vote.” And that Russell is not a fan of that, after all, the Brit has already made it clear.
“I tend to agree with the drivers,” he says. “Why are we doing experiments that are potentially a safety risk? In my life I’ve learned that risk and reward have to be weighed well, and I don’t think experimentation in Formula One cars is particularly worthwhile simply for the fun of it.”
Meanwhile, his technical director James Allison thinks the scrapping is premature: “I would say that the initial thoughts of working without blankets are not quite mature enough to think that that will be a good thing next year,” he says. “I would say there are enough challenges to make that work.”
Vowles: Pirelli need to show us a tyre yet
“My view is a very pragmatic one,” adds Williams team principal James Vowles.
“Show us a tyre where you can take the blankets off and it works, and it works whether we’re racing in five degrees at Spa or 40 degrees in Bahrain, and I’ll be happy to sign that because I think it’s a good move.”
But, “At the moment we haven’t seen a tyre that can do that. The test will help and give us another clue. Reading between the lines, I don’t think we are quite there yet. But the direction of travel is good.”
For Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer, meanwhile, the electric blankets are part of Formula 1 and a part to keep, and Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack insists he trusts the FIA to make the right decision – regardless of the team vote. After all, the federation gets to decide in advance whether it even gets to that point.
Krack trusts the FIA
“To be honest, I can’t say anything about that because we only tested them in Jerez, but that was a previous generation,” he says.
“And we are basically just following as co-drivers what is happening now. I think the FIA will honestly make the right decision.”
“We now have a rain tyre that runs without heating blankets. I think we have an intermediate that is almost ready to run without. And then we will see what happens with the slicks,” Krack said.
“But I think we have to trust the FIA to make the right decision for next year. It’s up to the FIA whether they propose a set-up or not. So the FIA makes the first step.” And then the teams would have to make a decision with as much information as possible.
One aspect of the decision is that the development of tyres without heated blankets will probably be on hold for some time should the teams decide against it for 2024. Because whether another attempt can be made for 2025 will only be decided once the result of the tender for a new tyre manufacturer is known.
If Pirelli loses out to one of its competitors, the programme will of course be completely scrapped.