Plans for Pirelli to move forward with blanket-less Formula 1 tyres in 2024 progressed after an “encouraging” post-Bahrain Grand Prix test held in Sakhir, although some drivers’ reactions remained mixed.
3 teams – Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri – took part in the blanket-free test as Pirelli continues in its quest to push towards the change. The final decision will be made later on in 2024.
Lewis Hamilton initially branded the tyres “dangerous” after running them cold at Paul Ricard in February, but in Sakhir they showed more promise, possibly due to the warmer surface temperatures and high-severity nature of Bahrain. Even though it was a success, Pirelli did acknowledge that if the latest tyres hadn’t worked well in Bahrain, the company would now be scrambling to find the right solution.
Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Formula 1 boss, added “The point is that if in Bahrain we discovered that it was impossible, or the warm-up was too long, or we had a big issue, then I can imagine that the challenge was going to be much bigger than expected.”
“It is encouraging. Bahrain is not the most representative track for the warm-up, because we know that the warm-up is not an issue with the blankets.”
However, this blanket-free test was met with mixed reactions from the drivers. Charles Leclerc was upbeat, while also stating that the track was favourable for the new tyres. “I think it went well, it was honestly a positive test. But Bahrain is a very specific track with very high temperatures so it’s not like warm-up is a very is a big concern.”
Valtteri Bottas did agree that the tyres performed satisfactorily in Bahrain, but questioned the decision tomove away from blankets. “It’s quite a new concept for F1 cars, with the amount of load we have in the cars, and having such a tyre that works from low temperature to high is not easy to make.”
“Obviously, warm-up is a bit of an issue when you don’t have blankets. But Bahrain is probably the easiest track to get the tyres to warm-up so it was actually manageable.”
Despite the encouraging test results, Mario Isola conceded that there is still a long way to go before the FIA, Formula 1 and the teams make a final decision in July 2024.
“In general, we were happy with the progression. To tell you now if we are in a position that is good or not is a bit too early.”
Other global race series like the World Endurance Championship (WEC), which uses Michelin tyres, have already moved to blanket-free practices. This was in effect in Sebring, for the opening round of the WEC.
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