Ban on electric warmers from 2024
According to current plans, electric warmers are set to disappear from Formula 1 starting with the 2024 season. Pirelli explains what impact the measure will have on tire development.
Formula 1 is the only major racing series in the world that still uses electric warmers. But the artificial pre-warming of the compounds is soon to be a thing of the past. It doesn’t exactly help the ambitious climate goals of the premier motorsport class if the warmers have to be charged at the power socket for long periods of time. What’s more, the teams would like to save on the expensive equipment.
However, the electric warmers are not to be removed in a single instance. Together with the teams and supplier Pirelli, the FIA has agreed on a tiered system. As early as the 2021 season, the maximum temperature of the tire warmers was reduced to just 100°C at the front and 80°C at the rear. This year, just 70°C is permitted for all slicks. In addition, the number of heated blankets has been reduced from 40 to 20.
Pirelli sports director Mario Isola explains why this strategy with small steps was chosen: “If you want to run without heated blankets, you have to design a completely new tire. It’s not enough to simply build new compounds with a larger working window. The cars in Formula 1 are so fast and generate such large forces that the pressures increase by ten to twelve PSI while driving. This changes the complete profile and contact patch of the tire.” – Mario Isola explained, when asked about this topic.
High loads in Formula 1
Pirelli can’t learn much from Formula 2, where electric tyre warmers have long since ceased to be an issue. In the junior class, the compound is inflated to between 13 PSI and 15 PSI when it is strapped on. Over the course of a stint, it then stabilizes at values just above 20 PSI. Because the cars generally don’t build up that much force, this difference in pressure is acceptable, according to tire specialists.
But that doesn’t apply to Formula 1: “The increase in pressure is twice as high as in Formula 2,” Mario Isola calculates. “Because of the high loads, we can’t just start with 15 PSI in Formula 1. Then the drivers would have to take it easy at the beginning of a stint and only slowly increase the tire temperature. Of course, that doesn’t work in a race. So they have to start at 20 or 21 PSI. The pressure then quickly climbs to over 30 PSI.” – Pirelli’s Motorsport Director added.
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During the test phase with the current 18-inch tires in the preseason, cars had already worked with the lowered temperature specifications for the electric warmers. Therefore, there were no nasty surprises when the completely new product was introduced. For the coming season, however, the engineers will have to go one better.
Plan for electric warmers ban in place
“Next year, the temperatures of the electric warmers will drop further – to just 50°C front and back,” Mario Isola confirms – “This also means that the pressure differences within the stints will rise again. We are deliberately taking only small steps so that nothing goes wrong and the on track action is not affected. This year the tires are working very well. Of course, we want it to stay that way when we do away with the electric warmers altogether.” – he pointed out.
The complete ban on tire warmers is scheduled for the 2024 Formula 1 season. Before the measure is finally anchored in the regulations, however, there are to be talks with all parties once again as to whether they really want to take the risk. The smaller teams in particular are exerting pressure for the ban to remain in place. At the moment, the plan is still on track, according to Pirelli.
In the past few years, the Italian supplier has repeatedly been faced with the task of having to build completely new tires. A large part of the test runs in the development phase take place on the test stands in Milan. But these can’t quite replace practical tests with new prototypes on the real race track. “We need current-generation cars. We need to go to different tracks where the tires are affected differently. And we need to drive in different conditions,” Mario Isola emphasizes.
Tires must fit all cars
The fact that the new calendar for the 2023 Formula 1 season includes a record number of 24 races is not exactly met with enthusiasm by Pirelli. This leaves hardly any time for tire testing. The mechanics are running on fumes with a heavy workload and travel stress. Nevertheless, in the European season, some teams will again be obliged to do extra laps for Pirelli on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after a Grand Prix weekend.
At the overseas races, and there will be more and more such events in the future, this is no longer so easily possible. Here, Pirelli relies on so-called in-event tests. The second free practice session is extended to 90 minutes and reserved for data collection with prototype tires. This new format is to be tested for the first time as early as this year in Austin and at the Suzuka circuit.
“The idea of using FP2 for testing is actually very good,” Mario Isola confirms – “The teams don’t have to travel extra to a track or stay longer after a race weekend. But as soon as you have a new good idea, teams find problems. They complain that they have to use the same cars and the same engines as the rest of the weekend. That’s where mileage quickly becomes an issue.”
For tire engineers, however, it’s important when all teams participate in development. According to Mario Isola, not all cars stress the tires in the same way: “The fast cars take the tires harder. We have to make sure that the warm-up process works with the slower cars, too. And that the tires don’t overheat with the fast teams. That’s where we have to find a good compromise so that the tires work with all ten cars, all 20 drivers and on all tracks. It’s not going to be that easy.” – the Pirelli Motorsport Director concluded.