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Plan to switch back to 2018 F1 tyres rejected

SPIELBERG, Austria -- A plan to revert to last year's tyre specification in Formula One has not received the majority vote it needed to come into play later this season.

At a meeting on Friday at the Austrian Grand Prix, the proposal was put forward as a way to peg back championship leader Mercedes after its dominant start to the year. In order to be approved, the proposal needed seven teams to vote in favour but in the end the teams were split five for the change and five against.

The specification of the tyres was changed for 2019 to combat complaints from teams and drivers last year that the 2018 tyres were susceptible to overheating and blistering. The overheating was seen as a negative for F1 as drivers felt they could not race hard for fear of damaging their tyres and ruining their race strategy.

Pirelli's solution for 2019 was to tweak the compounds and reduce the tyre tread depth by 0.4mm -- as it had done in Spain, France and Great Britain in 2018 to combat the same issue. The reduced tread depth means the rubber retains less heat, stopping the compound from overheating and bubbling up into blisters that damage the integrity of the tyre and its performance.

But while the changed tread depth had the desired effect of reducing overheating, it also made it more difficult to retain heat in the tyres and keep them in the correct working range. Ferrari, Red Bull and Haas have all struggled as a result at low-energy circuits with smooth track surfaces and, along with Alfa Romeo and Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso, were among the teams that voted to revert to 2018-style tyres this year.

"The meeting was mainly to understand if there was anything we could do to improve the show," Pirelli's head of racing Mario Isola said. "We know Mercedes' dominance is not helping at the moment and we had a discussion on the opportunity to introduce the 2018 tyres but after analysing the positive and negative sides, we came to the conclusion, via a vote from the teams, that we will stay on the current tyres.

"The meeting was quite productive and there were new ideas and proposals for the end of the season. Obviously we have to analyse them - at the moment they are just ideas, but let's see. We will continue the discussion in the next days and maybe we will come with a proposal for Silverstone - but we don't know yet [for certain] because it as just discussed two hours ago."

Under the current regulations, Pirelli is allowed to offer two extra sets of development tyres for teams to use in Friday practice and Isola said his company may opt to do that as it develops compounds with a wider working range for 2020. However, Isola also hinted that the rules might be tweaked to allow for those 2020 development compounds to be used in qualifying and racing -- perhaps offering a middle ground between the 2018 and 2019 tyres.

"The current regulations allow us to supply two additional sets of prototype tyres for Friday, and there was a discussion to slightly change the regulations in order to understand if different tyres can be used during the race weekend and not just in free practice.

"So this is a completely new idea and has to be evaluated and discussed, and the FIA should come up with the wording, but we are open to evaluate that. We will continue our planned development tests in the next weeks but if we also have this opportunity it is a good opportunity to test the product for next year and later in the season."