Formula 1 Tire Compounds
Formula 1 tires are radically different from everyday road tires, and they’re certainly a lot more complex. Just to put into perspective how important these tires are to the race, each set costs around $2,700, and a total of 13 sets are allotted to each team per race. That's $35,100 per race on tires alone. Read on to learn more about Formula 1 tires and how they fit into the race.
F1 Tire Compounds
There are seven different compounds of tire made available by the F1 tire manufacturer Pirelli. Different types of compounds are marked with different colors so they can be easily seen by the race officials and the audience. These compounds are the softs, mediums, hards, and wets. There are three different types of hard tires, each with varying levels of grip. The wets can be broken down into the intermediate and the wet-weather tire. Here is a breakdown of the different tire compounds and their corresponding sidewall colors:
- Hard: White (C1-3)
- Medium: Yellow (C4)
- Soft: Red (C5)
- Intermediate: Green
- Wet: Blue
Tire Compound Rules
At each race, given they are not starting on wet-weather tires in the rain, the rulebook requires competitors to utilize two different compounds before the race is over. This rule was put in place to make strategy and competition more interesting. As a result of the rule, drivers must make at least one pit stop, and teams have to devise strategies for multiple compounds on the same track.
Slick tires have no tread, giving them a slick surface. There are three different types of slicks: soft, medium, and hard. Slick tires are designed for use in dry weather conditions. Soft tires have more initial grip but wear out faster. Hard tires take longer to warm up and find grip, but they are the most durable. Medium tires are a balance of initial grip and durability.
The softest and fastest tire is indicated with a red sidewall stripe; it is given the tire compound designation C5. Since it is the softest tire out of the selection, it has the most grip on the track, meaning it can go the fastest. The downfall of this tire is its short life span. The softs will wear out the fastest, forcing the competitor to go into the pit lane earlier than if they had been using a harder compound. Depending on a team’s strategy and what track they are racing on, it can be beneficial to utilize the softest tire and sacrifice pitting more often. They are most commonly used on shorter and more twisty tracks like Monaco.
Next are the medium compound tires marked with yellow and designated C4. They are the middle ground between maximizing speed and staying out of the pit lanes for as long as possible. Generally, the medium tire is used at every event, and it is by far the most popular tire used by each team. This tire can be considered a compromise between performance and durability.
Within the spectrum of dry-weather tires, the last compound is the hard tire marked with white. Hard tires are the most durable of all the tires, but with that comes the sacrifice of speed. There are three different compounds of hard tires with varying levels of grip and durability. Of the hard tire compounds, C1 is the most durable with the least grip. C2 has slightly less durability but more grip. C3 has the best balance of grip and durability of the hard tire compounds.
Hard tires take the longest to warm up, and their maximum grip is as good as that of the soft compound. Despite this, it is often used because it comes into play with race strategy. The durability of the tire means staying out of the pit lanes the longest. If it wasn’t for the rule requiring each competitor to pit at least once during the race, a racer that looks after a set of hard tires could potentially avoid pitting completely. Towards the later half of the race, you will often see the teams in the back of the pack put on the hard compound tire. They do this to avoid pitting in the second half of the race to catch up to the middle of the pack.
There are two types of treaded tires in Formula one, intermediates and wets. Both are designed for use in rainy conditions.
Lastly comes the intermediate tires, marked by green, and their partner, the wet-weather tire, marked by blue. The intermediate tires are used when there is light rain or when the track is partially dry after rain has stopped. The use of these tires is completely decided by how much it is raining. The green tire can expel 30 liters of water per second, traveling at 300 kph while the blue can expel 80 liters at the same pace.
The wet-weather tires, marked with a blue sidewall, are only used during heavy rains. As soon as the heavy rain has passed, the team will call their driver in and swap to the intermediate tire. If the track continues to dry out, then the team will continue to switch the tire out for a softer compound.
Who provides the tires for Formula 1 races?
All Formula 1 racing tires are provided to F1 teams by the Pirelli Tire Company, the official partner of Formula 1. Pirelli supplies Formula 1 with all of its soft, medium, and hard tires, and also offers wets for rainy conditions. Pirelli has been a part of Formula 1 since its beginnings in 1950, but only became F1’s official tire provider in 2011, taking over for Bridgestone.
Are you required to use wets after rain in F1?
If a Formula 1 race starts or is delayed after heavy rain, drivers are required to use wets when starting or resuming the race. Drivers are required to use wet tires until after the safety car returns to the pit. If a driver does not use wet tires during the period in which the safety car is on the course, they will receive a penalty.
How many tires does a Formula 1 team bring to a race?
The Formula 1 rules stipulate the number of tires teams are allowed to bring to a racing weekend. At the start of each race weekend, Formula 1 teams are allowed to have 13 sets of dry tires: two hard sets, three medium sets, and eight soft sets. Additionally, each team is allowed to have four sets of intermediate tires and three sets of full wets.