F1 Bahrain Test Notes: Outlawing Tire Blankets Could Help Save Planet, Improve Racing
F1 roared back into action with a three-day test in Bahrain ahead of this weekend’s opening race at the same venue. Autoweek provides some behind-the-scenes news and notes from the full-field practice ahead of the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix on March 5:
Haas' Steiner Still Hasn’t Seen – and Won’t See – Drive to Survive
The fifth season of the docuseries Drive to Survive dropped on Netflix on Friday, coinciding with the build-up to the new season, and provided the usual insight into the past year. Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner has been one of the breakout stars of the series, which has been credited with bringing a new and younger audience to Formula 1, but he has still yet to watch a single episode – and stressed that he has no interest in changing that stance.
Steiner is again one of the focal characters in Season 5, including one memorable borderline inaudible quote that was interpreted as either ‘‘hugged’ or ‘***ed’ the whole paddock’, which led to slightly curious expressions from onlookers and a very quick clarification.
Cost Cap Adjustments Revealed
Teams have been given a greater allowance on the cost cap this year. The base price, which was always set to reduce from $140 million to $135 million for 2023 per the original plan, remains unchanged.
But the cost cap adjustment for additional races beyond 21 has been increased from $1.2 million to $1.8 million. That was undertaken on the trend that additional races installed on the calendar have been towards fly-aways, which are more expensive for teams. Compared to 2022’s schedule, Formula 1 has added races at Qatar and Las Vegas but lost only France.
That means the base budget cap for 2023 now stands at $138.6 million, rather than $137.4 million.
F1 to Introduce Winter Shutdown Period
Formula 1 will have two shutdowns per year from 2023 after a winter closing period was agreed by teams.
For several years Formula 1 teams have had to take a mandatory 14-day shutdown during the summer break but this has now been complemented by a period of non-activity in the off-season. Teams must close their factories between December 24 and January 1 (aside from the pre-existing exclusions) in order to give staff a bit of a break during the winter.
Overtaking Zone Changes for Early Events
The FIA will adjust the DRS zones for the opening Grands Prix with a goal of enhancing the quality of competition.
The changes, which are yet to be fully outlined, will be in force across the opening five events, and will "either facilitate overtaking, or make it harder in certain circuits where it was deemed not to be enough of a challenge."
Additionally, a fourth DRS zone in Melbourne, which was given a tryout in 2022, will be available in 2023. In DRS zones drivers may open the adjustable rear wing flap to increase pace during qualifying and when within one second of a rival in race trim.
Rueda Demoted to Factory Role at Ferrari
Ferrari’s strategies were not exactly stellar in 2022. Several victories slipped through its fingers, most notably in Monaco and Hungary, because of calls made by the pit wall.
Ferrari’s chief strategist was Inaki Rueda but he has been shuffled aside to a factory-based role at Maranello.
Ravin Jain, who has been part of Ferrari’s strategy team for several years, will lead the group at race weekends. It is the first major personnel change undertaken by Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur following his arrival, from Alfa Romeo, in January.
Midseason Decision Planned for Tire Blankets
And finally, a decision is set to be taken mid-season on whether tire blankets will be outlawed from the 2024 season.
According to those in favor of the ban, there are sustainability and cost-cutting reasons behind the proposal. The thought is that that the elimination of the blankets will also provide a new dynamic to racing, with drivers fresh out of the pits having to quickly heat up tires.
Lewis Hamilton was the most vocal critic, suggesting the move would be “dangerous,” likely lead to a collision, and miss the sustainability targets on account of needing to use more fuel while trying to heat the tires on-track.
Other drivers were okay with the situation, suggesting there is no real issue, and a vote of Formula 1’s stakeholders is expected in the summer months. Sole supplier Pirelli is set to undertake further tests before that vote.