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Formula 1 Belgian GP

Unheated “chewing gum” tyres would make F1 look “stupid”, says Verstappen

Formula 1 risks looking “stupid” running with “chewing gum” tyres if it goes ahead with a tyre blanket ban for 2024, says Max Verstappen.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Team bosses and F1 chiefs are due to discuss the tyre blanket issue at a meeting of the F1 Commission at the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday.

F1 tyre supplier Pirelli has been working hard to develop tyres that do not need pre-heating, with its testing programme reaching a conclusion after the British GP.

But despite feeling confident that it has done all it can to deliver tyres that will work with the current generation of cars, there is still a great deal of scepticism from drivers and teams about the impact of a switch to such rubber.

One of the biggest issues is how little grip the unheated tyres will offer immediately out of the pits, with it almost certainly doing away with undercut strategies in races.

Furthermore, there have been concerns that the tyres could prove to be dangerous if drivers are left with almost zero grip in the fight for positions after pitstops.

World champion Verstappen, who goes into the Belgian GP with a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, has made it clear that he saw little upside to the switch, which is being pushed for on sustainability grounds.

“I don't think we should head in that direction,” he said ahead of the F1 Commission meeting. “People probably don't know how difficult it is to drive a car with 1000 horsepower out of the pits already, and especially when the track is also a bit slippery. It is not necessary.

“I don't think it actually generates a lot of energy, these tyre blankets. I think an AC generates more when you combine it through the whole paddock.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Red Bull Racing

“And also I think with the tyres, yes, they probably can make it work, but then they need to drop the working range that much that once you're up to temperature, the tyre will just be like chewing gum, and the pressures will go through the roof.

“It will not make the racing better. I think anyway, on an out-lap when you're struggling so much in a car just [to] warm the tyres, it will look so stupid.  

“I think the racing now sometimes, out of the pits as well having hot tyres, is brilliant. I don't really see why we need to change that.”

The first decision to be made at the F1 Commission will be whether or not the FIA and Pirelli feel that the unheated tyre development has reached a point where both are happy for the change to take place.

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If both parties feel that tyres are ready then the matter will go to a vote, which will require a majority of teams to support a move to ban tyre blankets.

Such a prospect appears unlikely, however, with it understood that most teams do not feel the switch is the right direction for F1.

However, efforts to switch intermediate tyres that can be used without pre-warming is likely to get support to come in for 2024.

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