Proposed tire warmer ban has hot, cold reception

Finding ways to make the most expensive form of motor sport less expensive must be a novel exercise in calculating known expenses with unknown expenses to get an estimated expense level lower than the current one and that’s assuming you know which team spends how much on what resources. In short, this is a challenge and most teams are going to be in favor of some sort of cost-cutting so long as it fits their program.

The recent discussion in Valencia this past weekend was a potential ban on tire warmers. The Formula One series already clamped down on tire ovens in the garages (which keep the tires and rims extremely hot) and now they are having a long look at the tire warmer blankets the teams use when the car is in the garage.

The blankets keep the tires at a certain temperature and this is to help reduce the effect that cold tires have on the performance of the car when released to the circuit. Cold tires can be blamed for some serious accidents and tire warmers are intended to help reduce those situations and improve the pace of the car right out of the pit lane.

Opinions are split on the idea with McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh saying:

“You can’t do it with these tyres, that’s for sure,” he said. “But what was suggested is that if you’re going to change the tyre and go out to tender, which is something in prospect for the sport, then having noisy generators on the grid and having all the costs of tyre blankets … you have to ask if they actually add to the show or if they get in the way of it? Providing that the temperature and the pressure range of the tyres are designed to warm-up, which they do in other formula, then it’s clearly possible. We’ve got ourselves into a particular niche in Formula One where we all spend £300,000 on dragging blankets and generators around to make noise on the grid.”

In essence Whitmarsh sounds in favor of reducing the expenses of tire blankets but does suggest that the current tire compounds would not work with the ban. The current formula would simply be too difficult to manage without heat in the tire prior to placing them on the car. Also interesting that Whitmarsh suggested putting the concept of a different tire compound that requires no initial heat in them out to tender. A veiled interest in having more than one supplier of tires in Formula 1?

Taking the middle of the road, Mercedes AMG Petronas boss Ross Brawn says:

“I think you just have to look at the economies of it,” he said. “If it’s a sporting question that’s a different matter, but if it’s an economic question they’re not cheap – probably an extra £200,000 for the year – but if you think of the extra mileage we’d do [to warm up the tyres], and we’d probably all have them for testing, because in testing you don’t want to have to use that mileage. We’d end up buying them and using them for testing and then not be able to use them for the race. I think it’s a close call whether we should or shouldn’t have them.

“On the sporting side it’s a different matter, cars going out after a pit stop with cold tyres and perhaps not being able to bang in a really quick lap to defend their position. That could be a different issue; it might be an interesting proposition. But I don’t think on cost grounds they are very expensive bits of kit. They do save us having to do extra mileage to get the tyres up to temperature.”

Brawn, using the practicality of the situation to prove it may be a push, says the teams would need them for testing and should they not have them, they’d have to do a significant amount of mileage (in total) for tire warming runs. Overreaction or over simplifying? Could the cost of testing mileage actually be over 200,000 pounds per year?

On the other side of the argument, Mercedes driver and 7-time champion Michael Schumacher says he thinks it is a bad idea to ban the tire warmers:

“I think cold tyres are for categories that have low power; maybe Formula Ford or Formula 3,” he said. “But quite honestly Formula One, being the pinnacle of motorsport, with the power that we have, with the speed that we have … no, I wouldn’t like that idea at all, and I don’t see a need or reason for doing so.”

So there you have three different opinions on the matter all via ESPN. What do you think? Could cold tires add to the “show” as Whitmarsh suggests or would it be dangerous and perhaps short-sighted of F1 to consider banning tire warmers as the costs and methods of generating heat in the tires during testing or racing would off-set the savings? Let us know your opinion in the comment section below.

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