Pirelli completes another blanket-free tyre test in Spa

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Just two days after the Belgian Grand Prix, Pirelli stayed at Spa to complete another important in-season test session with McLaren and Aston Martin assisting to the tyre development work. F1Technical’s senior writer Balazs Szabo reports on the latest in-season tyre testing.

Since the start of the 2023 F1 season, Formula One’s sole tyre supplier has been working on a brand-new specification of slick tyres that does not require preheating. Working with different teams, Pirelli has held various test sessions on different venues in 2023, including Bahrain, Barcelona and Silverstone.

However, following a meeting of the F1 Commission last Friday, it has been decided that the blanket-free tyres will not be introduced next year with the sport set to make further experiments and evaluations with the new generation of tyres in the near future.

With Pirelli having scheduled another two-day testing aimed at evaluating the blanket-free tyres at Spa for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Milan-based manufacturer decided against calling off the running.

The development work was assisted by McLaren and Aston Martin with four different drivers taking to the Spa-Francorchamps track, the longest circuit on the current F1 calendar.

Despite to the postponement of the introduction of the blanket-free tyres, the running was not a wasted opportunity as rain meant Pirelli could complete further evaluation of their wet and intermediate tyres over the course of the two-day testing. This was of great importance as the Italian tyre supplier debuted a blanket-free wet weather tyre specification at the Monaco Grand Prix, and was to introduce a new specification of intermediate tyres that does not require preheating until the teams decided against its debut.

The test on the damp surface gave Pirelli the opportunity to evaluate their new products, although their Motorsport Director Mario Isola indicated during the Belgian Grand Prix that the Italian company was dwelling on introducing a brand-new ‘super intermediate’ tyres that would be slotted in the current intermediate and wet weather tyres.

McLaren had worked with Oscar Piastri on the opening day before Lando Norris brought the running to an end on the second day.

Aston Martin kicked off the running with Lance Stroll behind the wheel on Day 1. The Canadian driver, who finished in P9 at the Belgian Grand Prix, completed 71 laps of the 7.004km circuit in rainy conditions – tallying up nearly double Sunday’s race distance.

Getting back behind the wheel of a Formula One car for the first time since 2020, Reserve and Test driver Stoffel Vandoorne rounded off the two-day tyre test, with 53 laps on the board during another wet day at Spa.

Commenting on his return to an F1 cockpit, Vandoorne said: “It was great to be back in an F1 car today driving the AMR23. It’s been a while and it was also my first time driving in green with Aston Martin.

“To do it at Spa was also very special for obvious reasons despite the wet weather. We ran on Wet tyres in the morning and then as conditions improved into the afternoon we ran through the programme on the Intermediate tyres. The car felt good even in these wet conditions and I enjoyed every lap.”