One of the methods we use today to understand the health status of a car’s tires is to check the grooves on them. Smooth tires, which mean danger for a long time, are among the essentials for Formula 1.
With the increase in the number of vehicles on the highways in recent years, there has been a parallel increase in tire knowledge. As vehicles accelerate and strengthen, the number of studies to improve tire grip has increased. Different groove shapes began to emerge.
While all this is happening, the majority of tires in Formula 1, the pinnacle of motorsports, are slick tires. There are no grooves on the tires, and if there happens to be any minor flaking or attached rubber, the tire is made smooth again. But why?
Formula 1: The Sport Where Weather Conditions Matter Most
Firstly, weather conditions are crucial for Formula 1 races. The reason for events such as the suspension of races instead of racing in the rain in recent years is precisely this. The goal is to have the cars grip the track better.
The way to achieve this is through specially made smooth tires. Therefore, the modern Formula 1 administration requires you to race in picnic-friendly weather. Otherwise, we see disasters like the Belgian GP two years ago.
Formula 1: The Sport that Changes Everything to Suit Itself
Another significant difference in Formula 1 is that everything, from tires to fuels, from engine oils to cooling fluids, is specially developed. Tire components and asphalts are prepared to provide the highest road grip. Therefore, cars have fewer problems in non-rainy situations.
Formula 1: The Sport Where Those Cars Inevitably Stop
Another point is the restrictions brought to Pirelli, the official tire manufacturer of Formula 1. Pirelli produces tires that will work most efficiently within a short time and a certain temperature range. Since it’s mandatory for cars to make at least one pit stop and change tires, it is sufficient for the tires to be produced to last about 150-200 km.
As it seems, while Formula 1 cars are designed to use tires for a very short time and then discard them, the tires are designed to provide the highest efficiency during that short time. They do not have a problem like being used for six months. That’s why we install the slick tires that we wouldn’t want on our cars on million-dollar cars, but these are special slicks.
What makes these tires so special?
In fact, these tires, known to racing fans as “slicks”, are certainly not the tires we see on our cars worn out, they have been specially produced for races since the 1960s. Today’s 18-inch tires seen in Formula 1 cars are being developed by a huge team of 150 people at Pirelli’s headquarters in Milan. This team first starts working on the physics and chemistry of the tire.
Unlike the steel-reinforced tires we see on the roads, F1 tires are made with nylon and polyester. While these tires can withstand larger loads, they do not have a lifespan of thousands of kilometers like the tires we see on the roads. Since the end of slick tire use in F1 in 1997, they have been receiving significant improvements since they returned in 2009. Pirelli engineers send the different components they develop in Milan to their facilities in Romania for production. If they can’t use their facility in Romania, their address becomes Turkey. The produced tires then start to be tested again in Italy. In these tests, tires are prepared for almost every racing condition and even extreme situations.