Tyre management and especially temperature management of these tyres is a vast subject in the world of F1 racing. You will find here all there is to know about the F1 tyres temperature management. Let’s start.
Why is tyre temperature important and why do we use tyre blankets ?
F1 teams & drivers do whatever they can to keep the tyres warm. They put the tyres in blankets before the race in order to keep them warm or have the drivers use the car a certain way to heat up the tyres faster. The tyres need to be warm for 2 reasons mainly:
- The warmer the tyre the less stiff the rubber. This will make the tyres conform more to the asphalt on track. A cold tyre will not adhere as much as it is stiffer. A tyre that conforms more to the track will be more capable of transferring the car’s power to the track. This is called the “grip”.
- A warmer tyre means a tyre with a higher pressure. When the tyres are cold, the pressure of the tyres is lower. This affects the handling and the load repartition of the car and often not in a good way.
Now this was just an introduction. The world of F1 tyres is full of drama.
A Quick History of F1 Tyres Blankets
Until 1974, teams & drivers aimed to get the tyres in the perfect temperature zone during the early stage of the race. In 1974, the first tyre blankets were created in order to keep the tyres warm on the track before the race start.
Back then, the first blankets were somewhat simple. Now technology kicked in and they are a lot more sophisticated. The blankets have a heating system made of a heating gel that spread the warmth evenly on the tyres that are inside. The tyres are heated up to 100 °C.
Tyre Types and Their Ideal Temperature Range
In F1 there are 7 different types of compounds supplied by Pirelli which is the main tyre supplier.
The tyres are identified according to their side colors :
|Name||Colour||Compound||Conditions||Grip (1 to 5)||Durability (1 to 5)||Type|
|Hard||C1 C2 C3||Dry track||1 to 3||3 to 5||Slick|
|Medium||C2 C3 C4||Dry track||2 to 4||2 to 4||Slick|
|Soft||C3 C4 C5||Dry track||3 to 5||1 to 3||Slick|
|Intermediate||N/A||Light standing water||N/A||N/A||Treaded|
|Wet||N/A||Heavy standing water||N/A||N/A||Treaded|
Basically, the C1 compound is the hardest compound for slick tyres. C5 is the softest. The more the tyres conform to the track, the more the car goes faster, the more the tyres will deteriorate as there is more contact between the tyre and the track. That is why the hardest compound lasts longer and adhere less to the road. And that is why the softer compound deteriorates faster and adheres the most to the road. Choosing the right type of tyre is a balance between adherence and longevity.
F1 tyres are made to last 1 Grand Prix (up to 300 km). This is to be compared to the lifespan of regular car tyre (up to 15 000 km).
The right choice of tyres according to the weather before a Grand Prix is a major factor determining a team’s strategy for the weekend. The teams let the tyre blankets as long as possible in order not to divulge the tyres they will use during the race. That way their strategy for the week-end remains concealed.
All these different tyres have a temperature range for which they are the most efficient. See below.
|Tyre||Ideal Temperature Range (°C)|
|Hard||110 – 145 °C|
|Medium||105 – 135 °C|
|Soft||85 – 115 °C|
|Intermediate||60 – 70 °C|
|Wet||30 – 40 °C|
It is not easy to reach these temperatures. Drivers and engineers must take into account that :
- If they have an aggressive approach and aim to be in the ideal temperature range quickly, there is a risk of overheating which will deteriorate the tyres rapidly.
- If they have a slower approach, they will reach the ideal zone late and have a slower pace.
- There are temperatures differentials between the front and rear axles that need to be corrected.
- Once they reach the ideal zone they also need to stay there. After an accident, once the safety car is out, it can be challenging to do this under certain conditions (rain for instance).
- They may change their strategy (1 stop or 2 stops) depending solely on this factor.
It will be clearer once we approach the differences in performance when the tyres ideal temperature is reached.
The Impact of Tyres and Tyre Temperatures on Performance
According to the FIA’s specifications for the F1 season :
|Tyre||Specification||Speed Differential||Speed Gain when in the Ideal Temperature Zone|
|Hard||2s degradation achieved at 22% race distance||+ 0 s/lap||+ 0,1 s/lap|
|Medium||2s degradation achieved at 18% race distance||+ 1,2 s/lap compared to Hard||+ 0,1 s/lap|
|Soft||2s degradation achieved at 10% race distance||+ 2,2 s/lap compared to Hard||+ 0,1 s/lap|
The temperature factor of the tyres and the choice of tyres play a huge role in the performance of the car. But that’s not all, as said earlier the choice of tyres impact also the strategy. Again according to the FIA’s specifications:
|Type of Tyres||Strategy|
|1x Medium Compound + 1x Hard Compound||1 – Stop Race|
|1x Soft Compound + 2x Medium Compound||2 – Stop Race|
|3x Soft Compound + 1x Medium Compound||3 – Stop Race|
To sum it up, the performance of an F1 car depends on the choice of tyres. This choice is made by taking into account many factors: the strategy during the race (which can affect dramatically the total race time and final position), the weather, the projected ideal temperature zone and the potential gain in speed. Tyre management is critical.
Temperature is an important parameter. It determines the racing strategy in order to get to the ideal temperature zone. If we are above this zone, we risk overheating and premature deterioration. If we are below this zone we risk having problems correctly handling the car. Tyre temperature management and tyre blankets are thus critical.