Hamilton’s warning over dangers of tyre blanket ban is “fair comment”

Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola has responded to comments from Lewis Hamilton criticising Formula 1’s plan to outlaw tyre blankets.

A new wet weather compound which does not require pre-heating with a tyre blanket has been approved for introduction at round six of season at Imola in May. F1 aims to outlaw the use of blankets completely next year to reduce costs and emissions associated with transporting and powering them.

Hamilton has already driven a prototype 2024 slick compound designed to be used with tyre blankets. However he warned last week the plan was “dangerous” and “pointless”, and cast doubt on the potential energy savings that would be made.

Asked by RaceFans about Hamilton’s comments, Isola pointed out the 2024 compounds are still in development.

Hamilton’s warning over speed differences is “fair”, says Isola

“Lewis tested the tyres in Paul Ricard at the beginning of February,” he said. “It was quite cold in that period and clearly we tested some tyres that are not in their final shape, not the final version of the tyres that we want to homologate without blankets.

“The next step is, and I hope we are successful this year, to find an intermediate tyre that is able to work without the blankets. And at the same time we have a development plan for slick tyres, and we have asked for a few days more than usual to develop these new tyres without blankets to achieve the target to remove the blankets in 2024.

“It’s a long journey, it’s just the first step, it’s a big technical challenge because we have to redesign completely the construction and all the compounds.”

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One of the concerns that has required a redesign for the slick compounds is making sure “we don’t have too much overheating when the temperature stabilises”, said Isola. The characteristics of the tracks can greatly influence how long tyres take to warm up and how quickly they may overheat.

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Hamilton queried the potential energy saving made by banning tyre blankets, pointing out “you have to drive multiple laps to get the tyres to work” and therefore use up more fuel.

“It’s a balance, it is true,” said Isola. “If you need three to five laps to find the grip, obviously you use more fuel. And this should be accounted when you make the calculation between removing blankets or the energy used without blankets or saved without blankets, and the additional fuel to run the car.

“The point is that it depends on how long is the warm-up because if it is three or four corners, you don’t use a lot more fuel. If you need three or four laps, it’s a different story.”

Some differences between the characteristics of the current tyres and those designed to work without blankets are likely to be unavoidable, said Isola. “The drivers are used to exiting the pit lane and drive a car with tyres that are able to generate, more or less, the grip that they have when they stabilise. So it’s a completely different approach also for them.

“It’s difficult to tell you now if we can develop a tyre with exactly the same characteristics of the tyres that we’re using now. Probably they will have differences, because without blankets in any case you need some corners to warm up the tyre. And that means that the drivers need to get used to this new situation.”

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Isola acknowledged Hamilton’s point that the speed differential between cars on cold and warm tyres could contribute to incidents. “If in the out-lap one car is 10 seconds slower than another car, this is creating a speed differential that must be considered,” he said. “I believe that Lewis’ comment was also relating to this.

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“It’s a fair comment. We need to consider all the elements, the fuel, the out-lap. This is why in the next test we are going also to implement a new methodology to evaluate also the out-lap. Because the out-lap without blankets would be a key parameter in the decision.”

Pirelli already supplies tyres that do not require blankets in other series such as Formula 2. Isola says he often asked why developing equivalent compounds suitable for F1 is such a different challenge.

“The difference is 10 seconds per lap. So that means that if you translate that in energy that a F1 car is able to put into the tyres, it’s a different world.”

A past attempt to identify a different type of car Pirelli could use to develop its F1 tyres yielded no suitable alternatives, said Isola.

Revised F1 sporting regulations issued last week confirmed a special voting mechanism will be used to determine whether the tyre warmer ban goes ahead. A vote will be held after a two-day test of the prototype 2024 slicks at Silverstone on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the British Grand Prix.

“There is a plan to have a meeting with the FIA, F1, teams and drivers, to see what is the situation with the development of the tyres for next year,” said Isola. “[We’ll] decide altogether if we are at the right level or if we need more time to develop a tyre able to work without blankets, without affecting the show.”

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