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“Concerned” Russell says F1 not ready for blanket-free tyres in 2024

George Russell believes that Formula 1 is not ready to run blanket-free Pirelli tyres in 2024 and says he is “concerned” about the safety implications of using them next season.

Pirelli tyres outside of the Alpine garage

Photo by: Uncredited

Tyre-warming blankets were originally meant to be banned from next season onwards, until the rules were later amended so that they will remain – but with the option for the FIA to re-impose the ban after a final decision is made by the end of July.

Mercedes driver Russell was one of four drivers to take part in a crucial Pirelli test at Barcelona in the week following the Spanish Grand Prix, along with Mercedes reserve Mick Schumacher and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

The significance of the test was that there is just one more session of 2024 blanket-free testing, at Silverstone with Red Bull and Haas among those participating, just before the final call is made.

Although the Barcelona test reportedly went well, and blanket-free tyres have made a lot of progress since they were first tested, Russell suggested ahead of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix that they were flattered by the high temperatures and track characteristics in Spain.

“In hindsight, it probably wasn't tested in the right conditions at the right circuit,” he said when asked by Autosport if he thinks that the blanket-free tyre is raceable.

“I think if you go to a circuit such as Barcelona, which is quite an aggressive Tarmac, it was 40-odd degree track temperature, fully rubbered from the race weekend.

“The tyres were very sketchy coming out of the pit lane, but by about Turn 5 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.

“And 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.

Pirelli technicians work on some tyres

Pirelli technicians work on some tyres

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“I would be very concerned for all the mechanics in the pit lane during a pitstop, I'd be very concerned for the out lap from a race 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.”

Leclerc expressed similar sentiments about the Barcelona test, suggesting that while the tyres worked well in hot weather at that venue he wants to see how they will behave in less favourable conditions.

"I think it's too early [to say],” said the Ferrari driver when asked if the tyres can be raced. “And I don't have all the answers for now. I have to say that in the conditions that I had during the test, it was good, and 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 very difficult to answer whether I will be happy to go [with the new tyres].

“I would like to maybe test those tyres in different conditions, and then see whether they are raceable in all conditions. But again, it was a positive test with the conditions that we've had in Barcelona.”

Asked to elaborate on how the tyres worked at the Spanish track, Leclerc replied: “Well, you've got four or five corners where it's very tricky, where tyres need to get into temperature.

“When you are alone on track, it's not that much of a problem. Of course, if you're racing other cars, then it becomes very, very difficult to manage.

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Motorsport Images

“If it remains four or five corners, even in low [temperature] conditions, then it's something that we could consider.

“But obviously with very low conditions, I expect this to be much longer this warm-up period, and this then could become difficult.

Fernando Alonso, who used tyres without blankets in his Indianapolis 500 campaigns, made it clear that he doesn’t believe that it’s the right option for F1.

“I think it depends on the tyre energy that you put on that specific circuit,” said the Aston Martin driver. “I think Barcelona will help the tyres. Some other [places] it would make things very difficult.

“Indy, I think you put a lot of energy in the tyres immediately, and it was fine. 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.”

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