HOCKENHEIM, Germany — Formula One has opened the tender process for its next tire supplier from 2020-23, when it will move toward narrower front tires and scrap warming blankets.
The current model of tires would be kept in place for 2020, motorsport's governing body FIA said on its website, with proposed changes only effective from 2021. Potential suppliers have until Aug. 31 to bid, after which F1 owners Liberty will need their choice approved by FIA.
Pirelli is the current tire supplier, meaning any other would have to build a new tire for one season only — 2020 — and then incur the cost of designing another. This makes a new supplier, such as Michelin, unlikely unless Pirelli unexpectedly pulls out of the series.
"That is a big challenge for any new tire manufacturer to come in and do," Force India's technical director Andrew Green said. "It will be interesting to see how it plays out."
From 2021 onward, F1 wants to remove tire blankets. The thick blankets are used to heat tires shortly before the cars go onto the track, in order to improve grip. Scrapping these blankets has been discussed in previous years, but never approved due to safety concerns.
But the FIA is confident blankets will no longer be needed because future F1 tires "should provide safe performance" when cars are leaving the pit lane onto the track. Tires for racing in wet conditions — and intermediate tires — should also be capable of running without pre-heating.
"Plenty of other racing series do it so I don't see any reason why we can't in Formula One," Green said when asked about removing blankets. "If those specifications for the tire allow us to get around some of the limitations that we face in operating the tires at the minute — pressures, cambers, all those things — then I think that's all to the good."
In recent years, tire management — when drivers nurse their tires during a race through fear of degradation — has been unpopular.
Tire strategy and data-analyzed tire control have therefore gained too much importance, at the expense of unpredictability and suspense. This has led to frustration from fans wanting more excitement and less race management.
As from the 2021, the FIA said reassuringly, a tire should be able to recover more quickly from degradation "once a period of aggressive driving or close following (behind another car) ceases."
FIA also hopes re-modelled tires will "encourage the greatest variety in the racing spectacle."