Speculation within the F1 paddock points to the probable continued use of tyre blankets for slick tyres in the next season, reserving their discontinuation for wet and possibly intermediate tyres.
The issue will be tabled at the F1 Commission meeting at Spa on Friday, following Pirelli’s submission of its testing programme report to the FIA.
As per the 2024 regulations, tyre blankets are to be used next year, prompting a decision from the FIA on whether Pirelli has sufficiently proven that its tyres can function effectively without blankets before this matter is voted on by the team bosses.
An agreement to introduce blanket-free wet tyres was reached earlier this year, with these tyres making their debut in the Monaco race.
However, a subsequent proposal to extend this change to intermediate tyres within this season was turned down, notwithstanding their readiness for use.
The expectation is that the use of intermediate tyres without blankets will likely be approved for 2024.
In the meantime, testing of the slick tyres continues, with the latest test before the decision occurred at Silverstone two weeks prior, involving Red Bull, Williams, and Haas.
Although the new tyres reach optimal temperature within a few corners after exiting the pits, some team insiders argue that this needs to be demonstrated on a broader selection of tracks after runs at Bahrain, Barcelona and Silverstone – venues known for easily heating up the tyres.
The FIA’s vote may inevitably face resistance from some teams apprehensive about potential negative impacts on their performance next year.
Regardless, Pirelli remains optimistic about its proposition to eliminate the use of blankets.
“We are content with where we are now and have submitted a report for the F1 Commission’s consideration,” said Simone Berra, Chief Engineer. “We also have more tests scheduled, including Spa and Monza, as well as in-competition tests. Our development phase is still ongoing.
“We still have new compounds to test. The construction is nearly complete. We are now primarily concerned with the compounds.”
It remains to be seen how this tyre change could influence racing strategies, and how blanket-free slicks will perform immediately upon leaving the pitlane in cold, damp conditions during track transition.
Mercedes trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, noted that the challenge with dry tyres is far greater than with wet ones. He further stated that while it is possible to run race weekends without blankets, numerous questions regarding safety and race enhancement remain unanswered.
Notably, even if blanket-free slicks are not approved for 2024, Pirelli intends to continue their testing with Aston Martin and McLaren at Spa next week, as it would be too late to alter the plan.
This testing will, therefore, essentially be in preparation for a potential 2025 introduction. However, it remains uncertain whether Pirelli or Bridgestone will secure the F1 tyre tender for that season.
The decision is due to be made during the summer break. If Bridgestone is chosen, there would be no reason for Pirelli to continue its blanket-free testing at Monza in September. Instead, it would likely shift its focus to the standard tyre development for 2024.
Interestingly, this could give a slight edge to the participating teams – Red Bull and Alpine – as they would be working with the definitive 2024 race tyres, whereas other teams who carried out Pirelli testing this year would only have tested the now-abandoned blanket-free versions.
Nonetheless, all teams will have the opportunity to test the final 2024 tyres in the post-Abu Dhabi test.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about F1 tyre protocols
What is the consensus in the paddock about the use of tyre blankets in the next F1 season?
The consensus in the paddock is that tyre blankets will likely continue to be used for slick tyres in the next season, but not for wet and possibly intermediate tyres.
Where and when will the matter of tyre blanket use be discussed?
The issue will be discussed at the F1 Commission meeting at Spa on an upcoming Friday.
What do the 2024 regulations currently state about tyre blankets?
The 2024 regulations currently state that tyre blankets will be used next year. However, this is pending a decision from the FIA on whether Pirelli has adequately proven its tyres can function without them.
Are there concerns about the performance of blanket-free slicks?
Yes, there are concerns about how blanket-free slicks will perform immediately after leaving the pitlane in cold, damp conditions during track transition. This could impact racing strategies and the overall race experience.
What will happen if blanket-free slicks are not approved for 2024?
If blanket-free slicks are not approved for 2024, Pirelli still plans to continue testing them with Aston Martin and McLaren at Spa next week. This would essentially be in preparation for a possible 2025 introduction.