Ferrari has aired concern at the FIA World Endurance Championship’s recent ban on tire warmers following Antonio Fuoco’s accident at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Fuoco lost control of the No. 50 Ferrari 499P on the run down to Eau Rouge, immediately after exiting the pit lane on a new set of Michelin slick tires during the fifth hour.
His car speared into the left-side barriers before spinning back towards the track. The accident caused Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen to retire from the third round of the WEC season after claiming back-to-back podiums at Sebring and Portimao.
The head of Ferrari’s Attivita Sportive GT department, Antonello Coletta, warned after the race that the ban on pre-heating tires could have “major ramifications for safety.”
Tire warming equipment is designed to enhance the grip of a new tire before use, while starting a stint without pre-heated tires leaves the driver with significantly less grip.
“Starting from the assumption that the rules are the same for everyone and that we abide by them, I think we need to reflect on the ban on tire warmers,” Coletta said.
“It’s a common opinion in the paddock and among professionals, not to mention the drivers, that this situation has become dangerous.
“At Spa, there have been many accidents and extreme episodes due to cold temperatures and changeable weather, and it’s time to do some serious thinking on the matter because it has major ramifications for safety.
“We are on the eve of a decisive race like the 24 Hours of Le Mans where, overnight, temperatures are low and speeds very high.”
The No. 50 Ferrari was not the only LMH car to have trouble on cold tires at Spa, as Brendon Hartley crashed the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid in the early stages of qualifying.
“It’s not just an issue for us,” Coletta added.
“The accidents involved different cars, from different classes, driven at the time by both professional and gentleman drivers, and this situation had already been predicted some time ago.”
Tire warming was banned in the WEC this season as part of a development roadmap drawn up by WEC organizers the FIA and ACO in cooperation with tire suppliers Michelin, which provides Hypercar and GTE-Am, and Goodyear which operates in LMP2.
The measure is understood to have been implemented on sustainability grounds, to remove the energy produced by generator-powered tire ovens.
Marek Nawarecki, FIA Director of Circuit Sport, said: “Moving away from tire heating was a much-needed step from a sustainability point of view and something that the FIA Endurance Commission agreed on as part of a long-term WEC tire road map.
“It is important to remember that already for a number of years, there have been several motorsport series, including endurance racing series, around the world that do not rely on tire warmers.
“The nature of every incident is different, and each case has to be looked at before any conclusions are made.”
Michelin expanded its Hypercar tire range this weekend, bringing a third compound that is softer than the ones used at Sebring and Portimao.
The soft specification, also known as the soft-cold, was introduced for Spa due to the challenges of organically warming up tires at a circuit that often has low temperatures.
It’s believed that Fuoco was on the hardest compound when he crashed, although Ferrari would not confirm its choice.
Michelin’s endurance racing program manager Pierre Alves told Sportscar365 that the French supplier “worked towards this decision” from the FIA and ACO to ban tire warmers.
“For us, they asked us to make a tire that works without heating the tires,” he said.
“This is what we have done. If [competitors] have some warmup issue, they have to use the tire that helps for a better warmup.
“We have a solution. It’s a matter of choice and strategy from the teams.”