Mick Schumacher, Mercedes, Pirelli tyre test, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

“There will be crashes”: F1 drivers oppose ban on tyre heaters ahead of 2024 vote

2023 Canadian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers have warned the series is not ready to handle a proposed ban on tyre heating blankets next year.

A vote will be held at the end of next month on whether to forbid the use of tyre heaters from the 2024 F1 season.

Pirelli is developing revised tyres for next year which are designed to work without heating blankets, which F1 teams have used since the eighties to ensure cars leave the pits on tyres which are close to or at the optimum operating temperatures. F1 has reduced the permitted temperature range of the blankets in recent seasons as part of a move towards phasing out the use of the blankets entirely.

However based on their test runs with Pirelli’s prototype 2024 rubber, drivers remain concerned the new tyres cannot be brought up to temperature quickly enough in cooler conditions in order for them to be used safely. George Russell, who conducted a recent test of the tyres at the Circuit de Catalunya, said the conditions were closer to ideal than they encounter at other circuits during a typical season.

“In hindsight it probably wasn’t tested in the right conditions at the right circuit,” said Russell. “If you go to a circuit such as Barcelona which is quite an aggressive Tarmac, it was 40-odd degree track temperature, fully rubbered-in from the race weekend, the tyres were very sketchy coming out pit lane but by about turn five on the out-lap it was at a respectable level.

“But if I compare that in contrast with the start of the year when I did one run in Jerez in 10-degree track temperature it was extremely difficult getting out of the pits.

Last year races were held in ambient temperatures ranging from 12C to 37C, and track temperatures of 15C to 57C. Russell is concerned drivers could be involved in crashes when they leave the pits on unheated tyres.

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“If I’m being totally honest, I don’t think we as a sport are at a position yet to bring these tyres into a racing scenario,” he said. “I would be very concerned for all the mechanics in the pit lane during a pit stop. I’d be very concerned for the out-lap from a race.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2023
Alonso raced without tyre heaters at Indianapolis
“In cold conditions there will be crashes, I have no doubt about it, and I think there’s a lot of work, expense development going into these tyres I feel like that could be put elsewhere.”

Charles Leclerc, who also tested Pirelli’s latest 2024 prototypes in Barcelona last week, echoed Russell’s concerns that the tyres haven’t been proved in lower temperatures yet.

“In the conditions that I had during the test, it was good, it went well. But in lower temperatures, I don’t know. I haven’t tested these tyres in lower temperatures and that’s where the big question mark is.

“So it’s very difficult to answer whether I will be happy to go. I would like to maybe test those tyres in different conditions and then see whether they are raceable in all conditions.”

Tyre heaters are banned in other championships such as IndyCar, where Fernando Alonso has raced. While he had no problems using tyres without heaters there, he isn’t convinced it is necessary in F1.

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“It depends on the tyre energy that you put on that specific circuit,” said the Aston Martin driver. “Barcelona will help the tyres, some others, it will make things very difficult. Indy, I think you put a lot of energy in the tyres immediately and it was fine.

“At places like Monaco, or some others… I’m not a big fan of removing the blankets, to be honest, and I don’t see the reason why.”

The FIA and F1 are keen to ban the use of tyre heaters in order to reduce freight and energy consumption. The same change has been tried in other series, but has faced criticism elsewhere too. The World Endurance Championship’s ban on tyre blankets was temporarily reversed for last week’s Le Mans 24 Hours following a series of crashes earlier in the year.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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29 comments on ““There will be crashes”: F1 drivers oppose ban on tyre heaters ahead of 2024 vote”

  1. What crashes? Single-seaters with far less downforce have managed to run blanket-free entirely safely, so why couldn’t F1 equally, even though the more downforce a car has the easier is keeping it on track with cold tyres.
    F1 drivers should note this aspect & the other categories.

    1. Well those tyres and cars are developed with that in mind, it’s not quite the same I think @jerejj

      1. Yes, but in theory, with less downforce, staying on track with cold tyres should be more unsafe & the other way around with higher downforce levels regardless of car developments.
        I wish I knew Aero more profoundly, but the point I’ve made about F1 drivers’ arguing against banning blankets has always been based on what’s the general theory based on downforce levels. @bosyber

    2. And those other cars have a bit less torque going to the wheels as well. You know the Indy Super Speedway spec is 550 HP? Maximum HP for an IndyCar is 810, and that’s with push-to-pass active. Their races also tend to take place at much warmer tracks.

      And their tires aren’t designed with artificial fall-offs in performance. And those series have hydraulic suspension, and some even have traction control.

      The F1 regulations in their current form are very hostile towards the tires, the suspension, and the drivers– And removing the blankets is one more thing. WEC, which has all-wheel drive on some cars, traction control, and sophisticated suspensions, decided to allow tire warmers for Le Mans this year. That kind of negates your argument.

      So, what experience do you have that says you’re better qualified to judge the safety risk than George Russell, Charles LeClerc, and Fernando Alonso?

      Reply moderated
  2. Sometimes these guys sound like they’re being forced to race in F1 and would rather it be as effortless as possible. More DRS, fewer practise session, fewer races…

    More variables is better. You’d think they’d relish the opportunity to showcase their skills.

    1. They’re not there to showcase their skill in any other way than winning. Why would they put themselves in a position where they risk their race position for half a lap by being a bit skittish, even if they have the skill to do it (well, most of them do). They’re at the pinnacle of motorsport, they don’t need to prove themselves capable of racing in F1, they just have to be better than the next guy. Do you have to prove yourself every day at work, or would you prefer to make things as easy as you can for yourself so you can do better?

      1. would you prefer to make things as easy as you can for yourself so you can do better?

        MichaelN’s job (or yours or mine) probably needs to be done. Therefore, it is in the interest of everyone concerned to make it as painless as possible.

        The job of these drivers does not need to be done, unless they entertain a lot of people by doing it. Some random guy called Max Verstappen being faster than another called Lewis Hamilton (or vice versa) is a worthless skill in itself. It justifies a multi-million dollar paycheck only because a hundred million people want to watch them.

        So, how easy they prefer to make it for themselves is of secondary importance. Sure, they can voice their opinion like anyone else, but it may as well be ignored as long as it is not about fundamental safety, only a matter of convenience.

      2. The F1 sphere loves to talk down to other series to the point of belittling them, but driving a lap on slightly sub-optimal tyres… oh no!

        Having more variables gives more opportunities for drivers to make the difference and to do better than their competitors. In a series that can’t seem to escape switching from one era of car-based domination to another, that sounds like a great change. And one that you’d expect drivers to be thrilled about, precisely because it gives them more influence over the result. It definitely sounds more involved than them merely matching the pre-race digital simulation of the optimal execution.

        1. Having more variables gives more opportunities for drivers to make the difference and to do better than their competitors.

          This this this.
          The less perfect the cars and conditions are, the more emphasis is put on the sporting element (the human element of actually driving the car) in F1.
          Why do people not want this?

          I can recall many drivers from all manner of series who have had an incredible extra level of confidence, feel and finesse and cold tyres that gave them a distinct driving for a few laps in every race. This driver skill should be rewarded, especially in something that people still (bizarrely) refer to as the pinnacle of motorsport.

          Reply moderated
          1. 100% agreed. As you pointed out earlier, the teams are allowed to gather way too much tire data. You know what almost always results in good qualis and races? When practice is either totally unrepresentative due to wet conditions before a dry race or vice versa. It allows talented drivers to rise above drivers relying on endless laps as well their superior teammate’s data. More importantly, the engineers can’t figure out everything for the drivers.

            Let’s be honest though, if drivers start spinning or beaching their cars with Bumper Lanes Wittich as RD, we’ll have 55 laps of SCs or races that time out.

    2. You could always ask Jules Bianchi on whether he’d like a slightly safer car.

      We the fans, are essentially asking the drivers to put their lives on the line at 200+ mph in cars that we, as fans, increasingly demand be made more difficult to drive.

      My job is essential in the sense that people rely on me to do it, yes. But the health risks are the cumulative effects of several decades behind a desk in rooms with fluorescent lighting staring at a computer screen– not slamming into an immovable object at well over 100 mph.

      1. We the fans, are essentially asking the drivers to put their lives on the line at 200+ mph in cars that we, as fans, increasingly demand be made more difficult to drive.

        ‘We’ are not asking them to – we are just paying to watch. And they are willing to do it, all of their own free will, whether we are watching or not.
        Ask any one of them if they’d be happy to race in 1950’s or 1960’s F1 cars, and they’d all say yes. They’ll race just about anything, because that’s what they love to do. It’s their passion.
        Many F1 drivers, upon leaving F1, take up more ‘dangerous’ versions of motorsport anyway. For far less compensation.

        This isn’t really about making F1 more dangerous anyway – it’s about restoring some of the challenges that made F1 as attractive to sportspeople and viewers in the first place. F1 has never been safer.

        And Jules Bianchi would have a safer car today if he hadn’t ignored the rules and made a terrible decision (including with other people’s lives) in what was otherwise a very safe set of circumstances. All he had to do was off the throttle.

        Reply moderated
  3. You’d think they’d relish the opportunity to showcase their skills.

    I fear that is what they are fearful of.

    1. They’re fearful of massive deceleration followed by an extended stay in the hospital.

  4. And here come the armchair experts who apparently know abd understand things like this far more than those who actually drive these cars.

    I’m much more willing to listen to and believe what drivers are saying about this than someone on the internet who’s never driven an F1 car.

    WEC banned tyre warmers this year and there were a lot of issues with it which is why they brought them back for Le Mans.

    Honestly seeing cars at the WEC round at Spa struggling to get round the pit exit despite going at what looked like 5mph, LMP Hypercars cars been overtaken by GT carsdue to how long it was taking to bring tyres upto temperature, Watching them look like they were behind the safety car for those laps and also seeing cars spin while going in a straight line frankly wasn’t a fun spectacle and also did nothing positive for the racing.

    If anything it made the racing worse and it should be noted the best, most competitive race has been the one where the tyre warmers were allowed and we got to see close racing before the stops continue immediately after rather than seeing everyone get strung out for several laps while they were having to cruise around trying to bring tyres upto temperature.

    1. Most cars at Spa were just fine. Yes, if drivers push too hard that doesn’t work. But it wasn’t an issue for most, and that’s in a field with 50+ year old Bronze rated drivers.

      1. If “most of the cars were just fine” the tire blankets wouldn’t have come back. The needs of the few didn’t outweigh the needs of the many, that’s not how that works. And of course race car drivers are going to push too hard, that’s their job, to straddle the line. We both know out laps are crucial.

        Handicapping the drivers with a sorry excuse of a green washing attempt is laughable. A two day weekend or one less tire allocation will do far far far more to reduce emissions footprint while increasing entertainment and seeding clever thinking and gamesmanship than unplugging electronic heaters. Hell fifteen less minutes in each FP session might do something.

        It amazing how the people for this will readily call out Stefano for introducing gimmicks like sprint races but refuse to see how blatantly gimmicky this is. This isn’t about proving a driver’s mettle it’s just about messing with out laps to artificially widen gaps. If anything the pit crew is in more danger as the drivers will start doing burnouts in the pits without the blankets to do anything, something to heat up the tires.

      2. I don’t really have a preference for or against the tire warmers but i will say that having watched the Spa 6 hours i don’t think not having them really benefitted things.

        One car crashed hard while going in a straight and there were numerous other smaller incidents over the weekend with cars struggling to get out of the pits or sliding onto a runoff. As well as numerous near misses caused by the massive speed difference between cars on warm tires and cars on out laps. Was a couple at Eau Rouge where cars had to use the runoff over the weekend to avoid a massive accident due to the closing speeds.

        And from a racing and excitement perspective i do think it made that worse as carsgoing that slowly and struggling that much for 2-3 laps or more just isnthat fun of a spectacle and it did seem like the laps struggling to get tire temps up did hinder the racing as it did seem to result in the field getting way more strung out very quickly. Some cars that were in the lead fight for example before the first round of stops ended up half a lap or more behind afterwards and that clearly does nothing for the racing.

        1. Some cars that were in the lead fight for example before the first round of stops ended up half a lap or more behind afterwards

          Sounds like they need to work on their strategy and driving chops if they are losing that much time doing exactly the same thing as their competitors.

          Reply moderated
    1. Someone only seeking entertainment?

  5. So long as the tyres are designed to be run without being pre-warmed there won’t be serious issues but at present they’re not and a re-design isn’t an instant thing.

  6. Yes, somehow they survive without them in IndyCar. Street courses, road courses and even at the Indy 500 where cold tires go on after a pit stop and they out immediately running 230 mph.

    1. In warmer temps, with less powerful cars, with a totally different tire design, on some really rough tracks, with hydraulic suspension….. hell, for the ovals, they even have a weight jacker that allows them to dynamically alter the suspension DURING THE RACE.

  7. greasemonkey
    16th June 2023, 15:23

    From a game design POV, warmers are generally a good, not a bad.

    The overall time cost for a pitstop being as short as possible increases the strategic options in a race. Obviously, some stuff is necessary that makes stops longer, like the speed limit for safety. Tire warmers reduce the net time cost of a stop.

    I prefer Indy a little over F1, right now, and historically, but that doesn’t mean Indy has everything right and F1 has everything wrong. They both have a mix of both. In this case, I think F1 already has it right.

  8. Don’t want red flags galore either.

    Reply moderated
  9. There will only be crashes if you drive as though your tyres have been pre-warmed. Adapt your driving style accordingly and you’ll be fine.

    1. And how exactly do you get the designed-to-be-awful Pirelli tires into the right temperature window without driving aggressively?

      What series do you race in?

  10. It is not clever from the drivers to make a statement like this. You know Liberty will love crashes as all they sell is a show. If anything this comment will encourage them. Zilly boys..

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