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Pirelli encouraged by blanket-free F1 tyre test, drivers' views mixed

Plans for Pirelli to introduce blanket-less Formula 1 tyres in 2024 took a step forward after an “encouraging” post-Bahrain Grand Prix test in Sakhir, although drivers remain “cautious”.

Mario Isola, Racing Manager, Pirelli Motorsport

Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri all took part in the test with the latest constructions as Pirelli continues to push towards the change, with a final decision on 2024 to be made following a crucial test at Silverstone in July.

Lewis Hamilton branded the tyres “dangerous” after running at a cold Paul Ricard in February, but in Sakhir they showed more promise.

The warm conditions and high-severity nature of the track surface were clearly a benefit.

However Pirelli acknowledged that if the latest tyres hadn’t worked well in Bahrain the company would now be facing an even tougher struggle to find the right solution.

"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,” said Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola when asked about the test by Autosport.

“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.”

The drivers who tried the latest tyres in Sakhir had mixed views. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was upbeat, while also conceding that the track was favourable for the new tyres.

"I will be a little bit cautious with that,” he said when asked by Autosport.

“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.

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Everything went really well but let's be cautious, because it's in conditions that should help this test."

Alfa’s Valtteri Bottas agreed that the tyres performed satisfactorily in Bahrain, but questioned the wisdom of a move away from blankets.

“There's still work to do,” said the Finn. “I think Pirelli knows it as well and F1 knows it as well.

"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.

“But at this point, which is from the beginning pretty obvious, the pressure rise is then massive when you start cold and when you end up 100°C, so that obviously makes the tyre drop-off significantly worse.

“In my personal opinion, I don't feel that's the way to go, but I think they're working really hard and it's obviously not up to us what's going to happen in the future.”

Despite the encouraging test Isola conceded that there is still a long way to go before the FIA, F1 and the teams made a call on 2024 in July.

“It's a bit early to make a prediction,” he said. “In Bahrain, we tested different solutions.

Pirelli tyres

Pirelli tyres

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“The first target for us is to define the construction, because we want to fix the construction. And then to focus more on the compounds.

“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.

“So we have to wait. We decided to take a decision after Silverstone, because from now to Silverstone, we can get a bit more understanding of what is going on."

The World Endurance Championship, which uses Michelin tyres, has already moved to ban tyre warmers and staged its first race without them at Sebring yesterday.

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