F1 Tyre Rules for Dummies


Right, I’m back with the second part of me trying to explain Formula 1 to you. I, like many people, do not know all that much about tyres. I know they are constructed out of rubber and some other stuff and that they must be pumped to a certain pressure to save fuel and for safety and all that. I also know the lyrics to that awful “Them Stones” song from Firestone commercial.

Pirelli-F1-Tyres-600x400 F1 Tyre Rules for Dummies

In addition, I have made several jokes containing the words “run on flats.” I have also seen many lockups in my days because obviously, this is South Africa and it isn’t safe enough to just lock up your car. Please find attached some useful info regarding the tyres in Formula 1.

All F1 cars use tyres from a single supplier – currently Pirelli – who have a range of five slick dry-weather compounds. These are the all new ultra-soft (with purple sidewall markings), super-soft(distinguished by red sidewall markings), soft(yellow markings), medium (white) and hard(orange).

Three of these are selected in advance of a race weekend by the supplier, determined by the characteristics of the track. Each driver of the team will then pick 2 types of tyres from the options given. So driver A can choose super-soft and soft while driver B can choose soft and medium. The harder of these two tyres will be given the designation prime, with the softer of the two designated as the option.

The all new Ultra Soft tyres that will be making it’s debut this season will most likely be used at the street circuits for increased grip and also in qualifying to help set the fastest time possible to start near the front of the grid. The performance difference between the ultra soft and super soft remains to be seen though.

The rule of thumb is, the softer the tyre, the more grip but the faster you get tyre wear. The harder the tyre, the less grip but the more durable the tyre.

Both the prime and option tyre must be used during the race, unless it rains and one or both of two wet-weather compounds are used. These are known as the intermediate (with green sidewall markings) and full wet (blue).

At the start of the race, the cars that qualified for Q3 must be fitted with the tyres with which the driver set his fastest time during Q2 (See my previous post to freshen your memory overall about the Qualifying process).
Both the prime (harder tyre) and option (softer tyre) compounds must be used during a dry race.

F1-cars-600x339 F1 Tyre Rules for Dummies

The tyres are inflated with nitrogen instead of plain old air to ensure that no water vapour is introduced, which would affect the tyre pressures as they heat up, as it expands at a unpredictable rate. Check out this video below featuring an F1 Pitstop.

All four wheels can be removed and replaced in under 2 seconds, which is handy, as they’ll only last about 90 – 120kms. They’ll also lose half a kilogram each due to wear especially because at top speed a F1 tyre rotates 50 times a second.

The biggest enemy to tyres are lock ups. Which is a term used to describe a driver braking sharply and locking one or more tyres whilst the others continue rotating. Tyre smoke and flat spots are common side effects.

Well, there you have it, everything you need to know about F1 Tyre Rules.

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