Formula One tyres
Formula One tyres play a significant role in the performance of a Formula One car. The tyres have undergone significant changes throughout the history of Formula One, with different manufacturers and specifications used in the sport.
Formula One tyres bear only a superficial resemblance to a normal road tyre. Whereas the latter has a useful life of up to 80,000 km, the tyres used in Formula One are built to last less than one race distance. However, it should be noted that road tyres are not typically subject to a driving style which seeks the absolute maximum in tyre adhesion. Therefore, such comparisons are not really valid and must be put in context. The purpose of the tyre determines the compound of the rubber to be used. In 2005, tyre changes were disallowed in Formula One, therefore the compounds were harder as the tyres had to last the full race distance (around 300 km). Tyre changes were re-instated in 2006, following the dramatic and highly political 2005 United States Grand Prix.
In 1998 grooved tyres were introduced with 3 grooves in the front tyres and 4 grooves in the rear tyres. Between 1999 and 2008, regulations required the tyres to feature a minimum of four grooves in them, with the intention of slowing the cars down (a slick tyre, with no indentations, is best in dry conditions). They can be no wider than 355 mm and 380 mm at the front and rear respectively and the maximum diameter is 660 mm (670 mm for wet tyre). Slick tyres were reintroduced at the beginning of the 2009 season along with aerodynamics changes intended to shift the balance towards mechanical grip in an attempt to increase overtaking.
For the 2007 season Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier in Formula One with the withdrawal of Michelin, and introduced four compounds of tyre, two of which are made available at each race. The harder tyre is more durable but gives less grip, and the softer tyre gives more grip but is less durable. Both compounds have to be used by each car during a race and the softer tyre had a painted white stripe in the second groove to distinguish between compounds. This was introduced after the first race of the season when confusion occurred because a small dot was put on the sidewall of the tyre, instead of the white stripe. Upon the reintroduction of slicks in 2009, the sidewalls of the softer tyres were painted green to indicate the difference in compound, as there were no longer any grooves in tyres. Each team must use each specification during the race, unless wet or intermediate tyres are used during the race, in which case this rule no longer applies.
In extremely wet weather, such as that seen in the 2007 European Grand Prix, the F1 cars are unable to keep up with the Safety Car in deep standing water due to the risk of aquaplaning. In very wet races such as the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, the tyres are unable to provide a safe race due to the amount of water, and so the race can be red flagged. The race is either then stopped permanently, or suspended for any period of time until the cars can race safely again.
On 2 November 2009, Bridgestone announced their withdrawal from Formula One at the end of the 2010 season. Michelin, Cooper Avon and Pirelli showed interest in taking over the role of tyre supplier. In June 2010, it was announced that Pirelli would be the 2011 sole tyre supplier and would receive a 3-year contract. During August 2010, Pirelli commenced its test programme with the Toyota TF109 at the Mugello Circuit with Nick Heidfeld as the test driver.
With the sole tyre supplier having been changed from Bridgestone to Pirelli, the rules were the same as the 2010 season rules concerning the tyres. All teams still were required to use each type of dry tyre compound supplied in the race, and drivers that made it through to Q3 still had to use the same tyres they used to set their fastest qualifying time with to start the race. However, the way of denoting different tyre specifications was changed. Rather than a green stripe denoting a softer compound, for each tyre specification, the lettering on the tyre would have a specific color. The hard compound would have silver lettering, the medium compound would have white lettering, the soft tyres would have yellow lettering and the super-soft tyres would have red lettering. For the wet tyres, the intermediate tyres would have light blue lettering and the full wet tyres would have orange lettering.
At the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, Pirelli introduced a coloured band around the outside of the tyre on the softer of the two dry compounds. This was due to confusion during the first round of the season. This measure was said to be a stop gap, with a permanent solution due to be implemented at the first European race of the season. The coloured line featured at the Chinese Grand Prix too. From the Turkish Grand Prix, the permanent solution was implemented; the option compound had a new marking. The option tyre had two thick coloured lines between the Pirelli and P Zero logos of each tyre, which made it easier to see the colour of the marking when the tyre rotates. The prime tyre remained the same markings as previously, though later in the season had the sidewall updated with the new markings.
According to regulations, both compounds, prime (harder) and option (softer) compounds must be used in a dry race, failing which a driver will be disqualified. If a race is suspended without both tyres being used, a 30 second penalty will be imposed. This requirement is waived should drivers use wet weather tyres.
2005 United States Grand Prix controversy
On Friday, 17 June 2005, during the afternoon's practice session, Ralf Schumacher, who was driving for Toyota, crashed heavily in Turn 13 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, apparently as a result of a left-rear tyre failure. Turn 13 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is a high-speed banked turn (it is turn one of the oval run in the opposite direction), unique to Formula One racing, that causes a greater than usual lateral (horizontal) load. This pressure can cause the side walls of the tyre to bow and wear in abnormal places.
The following day, Michelin reported that the tyres it had provided for its seven customer teams – BAR, McLaren, Red Bull, Renault, Toyota, Sauber, and Williams – were unsafe for extended high-speed use on this turn, and announced its intention to fly in another set of tyres from its Clermont-Ferrand headquarters. However, the replacement tyres flown in, which were of the type used in the Spanish Grand Prix earlier that year, turned out to have the same problem when tested.
In a letter to FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting, Michelin representatives Pierre Dupasquier and Nick Shorrock revealed that they did not know the cause of Schumacher's tyre failure, and unless the cars could be slowed down in Turn 13, Michelin's tyres would be unsafe and unsuitable for use during the race. Whiting replied, expressing his surprise that Michelin had not brought along a second set of tyres, suggesting that the teams be informed of the maximum safe speed in Turn 13, and offered to monitor the turn by penalising any excess speed on the Michelin cars. He also addressed several solutions which had been proposed by the teams, insisting that use of the tyres flown in overnight would result in penalties, and the placement of a chicane in the turn was "out of the question" – the race would not be sanctioned by the FIA (making it a non-championship race) if the track layout was changed. He deemed the Michelin teams' proposals to be "grossly unfair" to the Bridgestone teams. In a second letter Dupasquier and Shorrock announced that they would not permit their teams to race on Michelin's tyres. The race then took place with only the three Bridgestone teams (Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi) taking part. The race was won by Michael Schumacher.
Make Cars Green campaign
At the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix the tyres had the grooves painted green, as part of a promotion by the FIA to reduce the impact of motoring on the environment, called Make Cars Green. The softer of the two types of tyre still had the second innermost groove painted white, as per normal.
Upon the return of slicks at the beginning of the 2009 season the white stripe to indicate differences between the tyres was no longer possible due to the lack of grooves on the tyres. Subsequently, in a continuation of the Make Cars Green tyres in Japan, Bridgestone painted the sidewalls of the option tyre green instead.
|Compound name||Colour||Tread||Driving conditions||Dry Type*||Grip||Durability|
|Hard||Orange**||Slick||Dry||Prime||1 - Least grip||4 - Most durable|
|Super-soft||Red||Slick||Dry||Option||4- Most grip||1 - Least durable|
|Intermediate||Green||Treaded||Wet (no standing water)||x||x||x|
|Full wet||Blue||Treaded||Wet (standing water)||x||x||x|
* Pirelli designates two dry types of tyres to be used for each Grand Prix based on the circuit. The softer of the two is referred to as "option", and the harder "prime".
** Hard compound tyres were silver for the 2012 season.
Past manufacturers include:
|First win||Last win||World Championships|
|1||Goodyear||1959 – 1998||494||368||113||1965 Mexican Grand Prix||1998 Italian Grand Prix||24||26|
|2||Bridgestone||1976 – 1977
1997 – 2010
|244||175||116||1998 Australian Grand Prix||2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||11||11|
|3||Michelin||1977 – 1984
2001 – 2006
|215||102||0||1978 Brazilian Grand Prix||2006 Japanese Grand Prix||6||4|
|4||Pirelli||1950 – 1958
1981 – 1986
1989 – 1991
2011 – Present
|258||102||58||1950 British Grand Prix||2013 Brazilian Grand Prix||9||3|
|5||Dunlop||1950 – 1970
1976 – 1977
|175||83||0||1958 Monaco Grand Prix||1970 Belgian Grand Prix||8||9|
|6||Firestone||1950 – 1975||121||49||11||1950 Indianapolis 500||1972 Italian Grand Prix||4||3|
|7||Continental||1954 – 1958||13||10||0||1954 French Grand Prix||1958 Argentine Grand Prix||2||0|
|8||Englebert||1950 – 1958||61||8||0||1955 Monaco Grand Prix||1958 British Grand Prix||2||0|
|9||Avon||1954 – 1958
1981 – 1982
- "Formula One 2009 Technical Regulations" (PDF). Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. 11 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- Tejada, Carlos (3 November 2009). "Bridgestone to Drop Formula One Pact". The Wall Street Journal. p. B8. Retrieved 3 November 2009.[dead link]
- "Bridgestone to quit F1 after 2010". Autosport. 2 November 2009.
- formula1.com confirming Pirelli for 2011
- Pirelli commence tyre testing
- Pirelli tyres to have six different colours for 2011 Formula 1 season . Retrieved 28 March 2011
- Pirelli tweak ahead of Malaysia  7 April 2011
- Michelin: Tyres not flawed, just unsuitable. www.crash.net. Retrieved 2 December 2006
- Bridgestone take pop at Michelin over USGP '05. www.crash.net. Retrieved 2 December 2006
- Michelin looking to fly in new tyres www.-itv-f1.com. Retrieved 5 August 2006
- Stoddart comments on US Grand Prix www.motorsport.com. Retrieved 5 August 2006
- Letters between representatives of Michelin and Charlie Whiting, the FIA Formula One Race Director www.newsonf1.net. Retrieved 5 August 2006
- F1 tyres to promote 'green' push. Retrieved 8 October 2008
- "Pirelli tweaks tyre markings for 2012 F1 season". Autosport. 25 January 2012.
- In depth tyre manufacturers history in F1 www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 17 August 2007
- Goodyear was sole tyre supplier in F1 from 1987–1988 and 1992–1996.
- Bridgestone provided tyres in a limited capacity at the 1976 and 1977 Japanese Grand Prix, then for the full season from 1997 through 2010.
- Bridgestone was sole tyre supplier in F1 from 1999–2000 and from 2007–2010.
- Pirelli is the sole tyre supplier in F1 from the start of the 2011 season.
- Firestone was sole tyre supplier at the Indianapolis 500 races from 1950–1960.
- Pirelli F1 Tyres
- FIA tyre regulation summary
- FIA tyre regulations
- Formula One Tyre Technology | Bridgestone Motorsport Official Site
- The Aerodynamic Development of the Formula One Car
- Bridgestone Teams, Single Tyre Formula And Sole Supplier
- The ATLAS Rough Guide: How to Set Up a Formula One Car (Part One)