Tyre warmers set for 2009 ban

Red Bull tyre warmer, Bahrain, 2008, 470150

Bridgestone is standing firm by its desire to see tyre warmers banned next year despite strong opposition from some teams and drivers. Director of motorsport tyre development Hirohide Hamashima said:

Bridgestone has said to the FIA that we have confidence in (producing) a good specification of tyres, in terms of grip and handling, without tyre warmers.

However some drivers feel there is a serious safety risk in banning tyre warmers.

As I’ve explained here before I think tyre warmers should be banned. However it’s been one of those situations where I explain my point of view and lots of people disagree with me because 65% of you voted against a tyre warmer ban when we last did a poll on it.

However I’m standing by my point of view (for now – I’m always open to persuasion!) because I’m not convinced that it is impossible for Bridgestone to create a slick tyre that can heat up quickly without tyre warmers being needed. After all, tyre warms are banned in many other single-seater championships and racing series that see similar speeds to Formula 1.

Nor am I convinced that the speed different between drivers on cold tyres and drivers on hot tyres is as big a concern as it is being portrayed as. In other championships where different classes of cars compete on the same track at the same time with vastly different speeds. In the Le Mans 24 Hours next weekend the fastest cars will lap the Circuit de la Sarthe in three and a half minutes, the slowest in four and a half minutes – and those guys race at night!

However I do think the drivers concerns about safety should be listened to and that is what Bridgestone appear to be doing. In December when the 2009-specification slicks were first tested David Coulthard raised concerns about the variations in tyre pressures.

So Bridgestone brought new compounds and when the teams tested them again in April they found they were better – although some drivers felt more could be done. As far as Bridgestone are concerned, the tyres are fine as long as the teams don’t try to get an advantage by fiddling with their pressures:

The real concern is minimum pressure. They worry about minimum pressure. We suggest a minimum pressure to teams because we would like to keep tyres safe, but some teams will take a risk – and cheat. Other teams are worried about that, so they would like to keep the tyre warmers.

Finally I think we should remember that when tyre warmers were first used in F1 in the mid-1980s it wasn’t for safety reasons, it was to give drivers a performance advantage by reducing how long it took their tyres to heat up.

By removing them it will put more emphasis on the driver’s skill rather than the speed of their car. As far as I’m concerned that’s a good thing.

2009 F1 season

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22 comments on Tyre warmers set for 2009 ban

  1. Ratboy said on 4th June 2008, 22:04

    However I’m standing by my point of view (for now – I’m always open to persuasion!)

    What!!!

    It does look however that we are now going back to proper racing.
    First: No traction control
    Second: Slicks are coming back
    Third: Possible ban on tyre warmers
    Forth?: Ban on re-fueling and Un-banning of Turbos

  2. ctm said on 5th June 2008, 0:04

    How are they gonna control this new regulation? What about storing the tires in the pit garage before the pit stop – right next to a heater hidden in something?

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th June 2008, 0:22

    That’s a good question. Here’s an advert for a set of F1 tyre warmers. Apparently it can heat tyres to temperatures of between 50 and 110C. Would it be possible to inconspicuously heat tyre surfaces to those kind of temperatures?

    An alternative approach to what your suggesting could be to force teams to use tyre warmers but restrict them to use a temperature of, say, 20C.

    Apparently those things cost £1,000 each. Used Ouch.

  4. theRoswellite said on 5th June 2008, 0:28

    @ ctm: The stewards could require that the tires temperature, when placed on the car, was within a certain percentage of ambient air temperature, as measured at the time they were placed on the car. The regulations could also preclude them being stored in, wrapped by, or located near any device which caused their temperature to vary from the normal air temperature. It should be easy to check both portions of such a rule.

    Which is, of course, not to say the ban is a good thing.

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th June 2008, 0:35

    Do you not think it is a good thing then, Roswelite?

  6. So a steward has to look at the tire before it can be placed on the car?

    I agree with ctm: we’ll see a slight difference in the way the cars roll out on fresh tires, but I think everyone knows that all F1 teams go to the greatest lengths to push every letter of the law to its limit. Tire blankets will be replaces by tire kilns, tire ovens, or tire greenhouses, whatever the law accidentally allows.

  7. the limit said on 5th June 2008, 3:41

    I agree with you all. The problem with rules is that there is always a loophole, an avenue for the brainboxes to take but without legally braking the rules.
    The drivers should be listened to, after all, they are the ones put at risk by these rules and are the ones driving. The main focus, apart from the safety, is the spectacle of the sport.
    I think, albeit we all have different opinions on F1 politics and rule regulations, that we agree that the sport should be as entertaining as possible.
    I am fully aware that certain teams (without naming names), will always have an advantage over the others, however. The more responsible the drivers are concerning their cars performance, as apposed to the team giving them the advantage, then I am all for this ban.
    Formula One should be the ultimate driving challenge, the ultimate goal of every professional driver on earth.
    The sooner it becomes that again then the better for us all.

  8. Why complicate matters? Take the tyre warmers away and don’t regulate what the teams do as a result. So one team finds a way to sneakily get a bit of heat in the tyres before they go on the car? That’s not cheating, it’s racing. And how long will it be before everyone else is doing the same thing?

    F1 needs fewer rules, not more and to get involved in regulating where the tyres are stored, providing inspectors to test the temperatures on the car, all that sort of thing is just needless complication. Let them compete, for pete’s sake!

    Of course, you could always have a spec series where everyone has identical equipment. No wait, that wouldn’t be F1, would it?

  9. DG said on 5th June 2008, 8:22

    I’m happy about no tyre warmers as long as there will be true slick tyres, which will heat up quicker under racing anyway.
    What about the Wets and Extreme Wets, though? In the old days, the teams used the tyre warmers on them precisely because you cannot heat a tyre up on a wet race track. Is there anything in the new regulations about them?
    Rat-Boy – I don’t see the un-banning of fuel stops, in fact I can see a maximum fuel tank size being imposed for safety reasons (and to allow for calculating how much fuel has gone in). And turbos are so un-PC!

  10. M Smith said on 5th June 2008, 9:34

    I was concerned about the differences in speeds, but after you gave the Le Mans example and Bridgestone improving the tyre compound, that argument is less vaid now.

    I was really looking forward to the new tiny turbo engines, but thanks to the engine freeze extenstion, that not gonna happen now…

    A maximum fuel-tank capacity and banning of re-fuelling would have been great as well, but that’s not going to happen either….

    At least we have no traction control and slicks, along with the aero changes, so its not all bad ews.

  11. Amarjit Singh said on 5th June 2008, 11:23

    The stupidest proposal since the two-race engine rule. What since is there in banning tyre warmers? Every team already has them, they’re not continuously developed at a huge cost and they’re wholly exclusive to Formula 1, the top level of motor racing.

    If they’re not careful, there could be serious injuries if this rule goes ahead.

  12. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th June 2008, 11:30

    Amarjit, as I said in the article, the ban will “will put more emphasis on the driver’s skill rather than the speed of their car.” Surely if F1 is to be “the top level of motor racing” as you say it shouldn’t have devices that make racing easier for the drivers?

    I don’t think it’s as big a safety concern as you do for the reasons I’ve explained. Why do you disagree?

  13. Rob R. said on 5th June 2008, 11:55

    I can’t believe the support for tyre warmers here. The idea of having to actually manage the car seems to upset some you… if human input offends you so much, why don’t we get rid of the standing start too, and just have them start off in formation from behind the safety car just like every other bloody racing series? And why slow the drivers down with these outdated “fuel stints”? These guys should come in after every lap for 1 lap’s worth of fuel. I want to see these cars going as fast as they possibly can! All the time!

  14. Christopher Wait said on 5th June 2008, 15:35

    On a different subject…security. The roadshow is in Canada this weeknd and is classed as a flyaway race. The cars are packaged into the hold of a cargo plane and delivered to the circuit. what stops sabotage or underhand gathering of information on the design of competitor packages? i’m interested in light of what Mclaren were “caught” doing last year…

  15. William Wilgus said on 5th June 2008, 17:56

    I fail to understand how having to go a bit slower for a lap or so after changing a tire requires more driver skill. As someone has already mentioned, what about wets? Continuing someone else’s mentioning too many rules, I heartily agree. F-1 was much more interesting with Ferrari’s v-12s, BRM’s (?) V-16, Honda’s H-16, Cosworth’s V-8, etc.

  16. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 5th June 2008, 18:45

    William, it’s not just about having to drive at a slower speed, it’s the technique involved in bringing a cold tyre up to temperature as quickly as possible without damaging it. In the ’80s we would often see drivers who had come out of the pits trying to keep faster cars behind them while on colder tyres which requires tremendous feel for the car and a very cool head.

  17. I do believe it is right to ban tyre warmers. We are ultra – sensitive towards safety despite the sport being ultra safe. We have the right safety features on and off the car so i don’t see the problem. They only introduced it because drivers found it hard to produce a fast lap on cold tyres. Other racing disciplines don’t use it and why should we. We are the pinnacle of Motor sport so C’mon ban tyre warmers.

  18. William Wilgus said on 6th June 2008, 4:54

    Keith, I can’t see that any different driver skills are require to get the maximum out of cold racing tires than warm ones. (I do admit to never having raced with racing tires, though.) I can also see safety problems caused by not only the speed differential between a car with cold tires vs. one with warm ones, but also the increased possibility of a spin by drivers who attempts maintain or improve position by trying to `squeeze’ a bit more out cold tires.

  19. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th June 2008, 8:56

    William, here’s an example of what I’m talking about. This is Juan Pablo Montoya’s former CART team managing director Mike Hull:

    Mike Hull told us one reason why former F3000 drivers like Juan Montoya were so good on cold tyres in CART was because in F3000 the drivers are required to go right into a very short and intense qualifying session on cold tyres, and they have to make every lap count. He told us at Vancouver Juan Montoya’s out-laps were some 3-seconds faster than anyone else’s. He said tyre warmers would help to level the playing field for drivers who may not be as good on cold tyres.

    (Incidentally that quote is from an an old article arguing in favour of tyre warmers in CART but I don’t find its arguments very persuasive.)

    It’s a bit like street racing. Back when there were more street tracks in F1 there were some drivers who were particularly good around street tracks and others that weren’t. Senna was exceptional at Monaco for example, and Prost loathed Detroit. Now there are fewer street tracks it’s harder to tell which drivers would be really good on them (although that’s changing this year as we discussed here).

    Similarly with a ban on the warmers the drivers will have to be much more sensitive to their tyres and we’ll see another example of their skill. When the writer of the above article said, “tyre warmers would help to level the playing field for drivers who may not be as good on cold tyres,” he should have realised that’s a bad thing.

  20. William Wilgus said on 6th June 2008, 18:40

    Keith: It stands to reason that if Montoya was fast relative to other car/driver combinations with warm tires, he’d be relatively fast to other car/driver combinations with cold tires as well. Three seconds is a relatively meaningless statistic. What was the difference percentage? Further, it’s likely that the cars and their set-ups accounted for at least some of the difference.

    If you want a TRUE driver’s championship, you’d put them in equal cars. How many championships would Schumi have won driving for Minardi?

    Finally, F-1 is what it is. They’ve already degraded it with mandated engine layouts, freezes, etc. Why degrade it more for a few thousand dollar saving per team? Oh wait . . . how many crashes will be due to cold tires—and how much will those repairs cost?

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