F1 for beginners: How do tire compounds work?
Formula 1 tires are essential and also quite complex: their ideal temperature is between 100 and 110 degrees Celsius and in order to reach their maximum performance, the teams usually heat them using thermal covers . If one of the tires was still below that temperature, the drivers would notice the difference immediately.
In race broadcasts, we often hear about the need for drivers to warm up their tires. However, it's not as simple as heating them up for more grip; each compound has an optimum temperature.
If the tire is overheated such that the inside gets much hotter than the outside, blistering will occur. We can usually detect it as an abnormal imperfection in the tire surface and it can be due to different reasons: if the track is too hot, if it is too hot or even if the driver is too aggressive with his driving style.< /p>
Conversely, “graining” occurs when the outside of the tire is too hot and the inside is not yet at the right temperature. Over time, the worn portions of the tire will take on a grainy appearance (hence the name).
This creates an uneven surface that makes braking and cornering difficult, thereby reducing traction and giving the rider less grip.
Heating tires is key to preventing blistering and graining, and how quickly it is achieved will depend on how stiff the rubber is, that is say, the compound.
What are the tire compounds?
Compounds include white hard tyres, yellow medium tyres, and red soft tyres. However, these can vary from C1 (hardest) to C5 (softest) depending on what Pirelli decides.
How does Pirelli decide which tires to use in each race?
The weather is one of the most important parameters taken into account, with high temperatures on the track being very influential. But the weather is not everything, another essential parameter is the circuit on which it is raced: if there are abrasive surfaces or fast corners where the tires are under higher pressure, Pirelli will lean towards the range of harder compounds. p>
It is the hardest tire in the Pirelli range and although it takes time to warm up, it lasts much longer than the other sets. However, what you gain in duration, you lose in speed. We usually see these compounds on circuits where degradation is very high: Barcelona,
Bahrain and Silverstone are some examples.
Compound 2 is one of the most versatile and has shown a high range of adaptability on a wide variety of circuits. It excels on tracks that tend to high speeds, temperatures and power loads.
This tire strikes a great balance between performance and durability, with an emphasis on performance. It is a very adaptable tire that can be used as both the softest compound on a high severity track as well as the hardest compound on a street circuit. It is one of the most used compounds.
This compound works well on tight, twisty tracks. They heat up quickly and provide more grip, but they degrade much faster.
Compound 5 is the fastest compound in Pirelli's history. It is suitable for all circuits that demand high levels of grip, but the trade-off of this extra speed and grip is a considerably shorter tread life. We also have rain tires:
This tire is an all-terrain compound for various situations: it can be used on wet tracks without puddles and when the surface dries up progressively. Rain tires are chosen based on the amount of water per second they displace.
In the case of intermediates, this is 30 liters per second at 300 km/h. For more extreme conditions, a different compound is needed.
This tire is used in heavy rain situations and offers better grip in wet conditions. It can drain up to 85 liters of water per second at a speed of 300 km/h and its diameter is 10 mm larger than the slick. Last but not least, let's review:
Every weekend, each team gets 13 sets of Pirelli tires. Of that total, Pirelli keeps 3 that he keeps for the race. The other 10 sets remain in the hands of the teams for free use both in practice and in qualifying. Generally, they tend to keep a new exclusive set for the race.
Teams must make at least one stop and use at least two different compounds. Choosing them correctly will be crucial to achieving a good race strategy.
There you have it, everything you need to know about the tires that take your favorite driver to the finish line every weekend.
Author: Florencia Andersen
Blog, F. and Setup, M., 2021. Tyres: what is graining and blistering - Motorsport World. [online] presticebdt - F1 & Anime World. Available at: <https://www.presticebdt.com/what-is-graining-and-blistering/> [Accessed 28 July 2021].
Pirelli. 2021. What's new with Pirelli's 2019 Formula 1 tyres?. [online] Available at: <https://press.pirelli.com/whats-new-with-pirellis-2019-formula-1-tyres/> [Accessed 28 July 2021].
Pirelli.com. 2021. F1 Tires. [online] Available at: <https://www.pirelli.com/tires/en-us/motorsport/f1/tires> [Accessed 28 July 2021].