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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. Pingguest said on 10th June 2008, 12:29

    I think tyre warmers should be banned. They’re practically a driver aid as they help a driver through the first couple of laps after taking new tyres. It should be a driver’s job to heat up his tyres as quickly as possible and to change his driving style to the low-grip cold tyres.

  7. Hi.
    I think they should ban them, it will make F1 more exciting and the drivers will have to do more at the start. It is getting boring now !! Ban them, they will have to show more skill !!

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