The Rubber Conundrum


Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
I think it is fair to say that much of the increase in speed of F1 cars over recent years has been down to improvements in tyre technology. This year average speeds have risen again, despite the dramatic reduction in aerodynamic down force.

With the ban on refuelling next year opinion is split on whether this will encourage more overtaking. Fuel and tyre stops are currently used as a way to gain track position. I would be surprised if the ban of in race refuelling changed the team’s perspective on this as drivers will still be able to abuse a set of tyres for a few laps to gain the few tenths needed to move up a position. If tyre stop were also banned the drivers would have to pass on the track.

Personally, I would like to see a return to a single set of tyres being used for the whole race and I will explain why.

With a set of tyres having to last less than an third of a race the amount of rubber the tyres deposited on the track has increased markedly. On the BBC website Martin Brundle made the following comment about “graining”

The tyre surface - especially on tyres made of the softer rubber compounds - tend to rip from the friction as they slide across the track, forming balls of rubber on the surface of the tyre. These are hazardous and can drastically reduce grip as they act like a film, or layer, of marbles for the driver. Graining, however, usually stabilises after five or so laps.
So harder compounds will leave less deposit on the track allowing drivers to move off the racing line to overtake.

The current “two options must be used” does nothing to enhance the sport, it simply forces drivers to compromise their race pace to satisfy an arbitrary requirement from the sports governing body. With a single tyre compound being used for the race, drivers would have to make a choice; push in the early part of race and compromise their tyres for the later stages or look after the tyres early on with the hope of catching the other drivers later on.

With the push for cost cutting it also seems rather bizarre to require drivers to use at least two sets of tyres, regardless of whether they are worn out or not, during the course of a race.

I appreciate that many other factors affect the drivers ability to overtake, especially the aerodynamic problems encountered when one car follows another but a car with worn tyres has to brake earlier, corners slower and would accelerate less quickly than one with tyres in better condition. Surely this would improve the sporting spectacle?
I couldn't agree more.

The marbles are probably the biggest reason why drivers are unable to overtake at corners and chicanes off the racing line.

As for the rule forcing drivers to use at least 2 compounds, at least 1 of which isn't suitable for the conditions, I've always found that ridiculous and nothing more than an attempt to introduce an artificial level of interest/excitement.
Also, as you say, it goes against the FIA's so-called green agenda (but then again so does holding a race at night under 1000's of lights).

If the rules were changed to permit a single set of tyres to be used per race then we would potentially see more overtaking but we would definitely see more interesting races with a lot more different strategies being used.
FB, I could find it very easy to agree with the having no planned tyre changes, however I've also found it easy to be swayed the other way.

I think the bottom line is that there will be no indication as to which way is best to go until the dumb two tyre rule is binned. With banning fuel stops there should be no rule requiring the car to visit the pits, cars should go with the tyre best for them/the circuit, the current single manufacturer has at least four types, so they should all be available for the teams to choose.

I suspect you are correct that the best race, start to finish, will be on a single set with no tactical stops changing who the drivers are racing, but we're so far away with the other rules it would be necessary to evolve towards, not just because of the abilities of the parts involved, but, and I know I'm on my own with this, I always felt that Senna would have been alive today if the rules had evolved rather than changed and as a result do not believe in the casual approach the FIA et al have used in setting rule changes.
FB :-
I would like to see a return to a single set of tyres being used for the whole race ...

I agree in principle but...

Would it not be more interesting to allow a free reign of tyre choice/compounds; with at least two tyre suppliers etc.
With the option of tyres that may last the whole race and tyres that would only last half to two thirds.

The drivers who look after their tyres, would go with a hard compound and probably go with 0 to 1 stop in a race.

The drivers a little harsher on their tyres would have stop at least once, if not more.

Drivers who 'waste' their tyres have no chance.

This may sound like the enforced pit stops created by the FIA, but it rewards overtaking, why overtake if you know the guy in front will have to come in for tyres in 10 laps, giving you at least a 20 sec advantage, pushing for the overtake will only wear away your tyres.

If you know the guy in front will not be coming in for fresh rubber but you will in at least 20 laps. Then you must get past and pull out a second a lap to get back in front.

Anyway either FBs way or my suggestion would drop the silly tyre rules we have at the moment and that could only be a way forward.
all very nice ideas.

but none of them will work in my view. cos if i know i will have to stop for a pit stop, then i'll make sure i am light as hell and qualify as far ahead as possible. leaving the other guys as far behind me as possible.

so for a tyre idea to work, we also need a fuel idea or we need more then 1 supplier.

its all pretty much connected in F1. so if you want to change one thing, then you have to change more or basically it won't make much of a difference it seems.

also, i am not at all sure the reason cars are so fast this season has really that much to do with tyres as FB suggests. i thought the tyres are according to a standard and don't get developed through the season. so a type of tyre we see now is exactly the same as that kind of tyre we saw in the beginning of the season.

but we did see the cars improve during the season. so the main reason why the cars are so close or even closer to previous years, to me at least, is mainly based on car development and improvement. i do agree that tyre technology has improved but if its the main reason for cars doing what they do now, i am not sure.
I think part of the reason why tyre stops have been kept is for the pit crew, that would be a lot of people out of work if cars did not need to stop in the race.

That said, it is a good idea, while I never liked the one set of tyres rule for the entire weekend rule from a few years back (2005?) because it was plain stupid but I agree it has some potential to come back as no race changes and scrapping the 2 tyre compound stupidity sounds a good idea too; maybe even get rid of the ambiguity and just have one tyre compound for every race over the season with a specialised qually tyre.
BlackCountryBob said:
I think part of the reason why tyre stops have been kept is for the pit crew, that would be a lot of people out of work if cars did not need to stop in the race.

Why do you say that? The pit crew are made up from the mechanics and truck drivers that go to every race, they don't just turn up to do 20 seconds work every few hours ;)
Agree Boga, it's not just down to the tyres but the "improvement" in tyre technology over the last few years has been incredible. These are the fastest laps time from Monaco:

1980 Reutemann 1m27.418
1990 Senna 1m24.486
2000 Hakkinen 1m22.571
2001 Coulthard 1m19.424
2002 Barrichello 1m18.023
2003 Raikkonen 1m14.545
2004 Schumacher 1m14.439
2005 Schumacher 1m15.842
2006 Schumacher 1m15.143
2007 Alonso 1m15.284
2008 Raikkonen 1m16.689 (wet, drying)
2009 Massa 1m15.154

As we, in effect, have 3 sprint races in F1 nowadays the need for a driver to look after their tyres has completely disappeared. Very few of them, I suspect, even have the skill set to do this now. The car designers have clawed back nearly all the down force take away by the rule changes and this combined with the extra grip offered by the full slick has resulted in the cars going faster still.

Perhaps drivers should be allowed to choose the option to run with softer tyres and then make a pit-stop but it still, from my perspective at least, takes away the need for drivers to pass on the track which I hope is what we all want to see.

The BBC is very kindly showing re-runs of old races on their website and I watched highlights of 1982 last night; Cosworth Vs Turbo's, Michelin Vs Goodyear, no pit stops, cars passing and re-passing one another, brilliant. Maybe I should just stick to watching DVD's of races from the 80's
I'm looking forward to the new rules... even if I don't completely understand them. I think you will get an increase in speed differential between cars at a given time and hence more overtaking.

Unlike now, drivers are going to be faster after a stop, so they will pit and then make up the time lost at maybe 1 or 2 seconds a lap - unless there is a Toyota in front of them of course :D

At any point in the race, the cars will all weigh the same, but drivers can choose to pit for fresh rubber or stay out and try and hold on. You might start the race thinking maybe one / maybe two stops and for a car behind, they won't be able to stay there and wait for you to pit for more fuel. If they want to get past, they will have to overtake because you might not stop.

If you still have to use both compounds it might spoil it a bit because the no-stop strategy would be out of the window.
jez101 said:
If you still have to use both compounds it might spoil it a bit because the no-stop strategy would be out of the window.
Unfortunately that is exactly the case.

So everyone will have to make at least 1 stop, no real difference from now really.
Shame... that used to make for great races. Elio de Angelis trundling around on worn tyres as Mansell or Senna chased him down after a stop was always good fun.

So what do you think will be a good strategy in 2010? Hopefully it will depend on where you are on the track at any given moment and be a little more unpredictable than now!
I think we'll see the first stops a lot sooner than now as the tryes are going to take a hammering when the cars are full of fuel.
Whichever car is kindest to its tyres could be the one with the advantage next year.
Of course that goes hand in hand with driver style.
First of all, this is a really interesting aspect of racing and one where more consideration should be placed. But this is F1 and the FIA for you..

I think it was Nick Heidfeld and/or Adrian Sutil that voiced concerns about the compounds of tyres for this season, complaining that the graining of the tyres could end up being worse and that there'd be more marbles off line. I believe it was Nick Heidfeld who also predicted the aero rules would do nothing, and he was proven right. Unfortunately I can't find the links to verify those, if I do, I'll put them up here.

With no refueling next year we're all eager (well, most of us) to find out how exactly it will pan out.

However with the ridiculous two-tyre rule (surely introduced to add artificial excitement and ensure we mention the company that creates the tyres, which, by the way, carry huge air miles), I feel varying strategies will be confined to the bin for now.

If Bridgestone created a tyre that could last the whole race and a softer compound that offered vastly more grip for, say, 17-18 or so laps, wouldn't we see people making decisions on the fly? Does a driver choose to set a higher average lap time, nursing his tyres with the fuel onboard, or does he make 1 or 2 pit stops costing him around 40 seconds in total, and hope that with fresher tyres he can bring himself up to the no-stopper and pass him with the stickier rubber.

With that element of strategy, I'm not sure what can be done but to help aid differing strategies it may be possible to increase the pit lane speed limit (as it was from 08 to 09, I think?) to reduce the pit lane time, even if it's only 1-2 seconds. This would be another consideration as the drivers would have to think about how much time they would gain from fresh rubber and how much they'd lose in the pit lane, and the regulations should not punish aggressive driving (in terms of race pace, not aggressive in the sense of racing another car, that's open for debate and poor stewardship).

Although not entirely relevant to this thread another part of tyre strategy for me, depends too much on the engineers in the garages. The drivers should be the ones feeling the grip and considering what he wants to do with the tyres, not the engineer telling him to do one or the other. In essence, on-the-fly thinking and strategy from the drivers should be a key element of grand prix racing. It rewards using their brains and punishes the drivers that make a bad call.

So, in short :

- Create a tyre that can just about make it through an entire race
- Create some tyres that will offer huge grip for a shorter no. of laps
- Ban pit-to-car radio and limit use of telemetry during races
- Decrease the pit lane time so as not to punish creative thinking and driving

Would it make racing better?

Hell, I don't know. But it'd be interesting.
Changing the pit lane speeds is not going to happen for safety reasons. I also don't see it making much difference as previously the majority of time spent in a pit lane is on refuelling, not changing the tyres (which can be done in 4-5 seconds). Increasing the speed of the pit lane is going to give maybe a few tenths of a second, not really enough to make a big difference, in my opinion.
fat_jez said:
Changing the pit lane speeds is not going to happen for safety reasons. I also don't see it making much difference as previously the majority of time spent in a pit lane is on refuelling, not changing the tyres (which can be done in 4-5 seconds). Increasing the speed of the pit lane is going to give maybe a few tenths of a second, not really enough to make a big difference, in my opinion.

I think it could have a bigger impact than you think.

Now, my maths is terrible, so I'm guessing I've made a terrible error here somewhere, but I'll show you what I've come up with.

Let's take a few things into account ;

  • The pit lane speed limit as it stands is 100kph/62mph
  • The pit lane loss at Silverstone is 21.8s[colour=red:zonszoqh]**[/colour:zonszoqh]
  • 62mph is 27.7 metres per second
  • Therefore, 27.7 x 21.8 means the pit lane at Silverstone is 604 metres (this seems a little far-fetched, but then I've never been to the circuit)
  • Let's say we increase the speed limit to 112kph/70mph
  • In turn, this is 31.2 metres per second
  • So let's divide the length of the pit lane by the speed per second, which is 604/31.2
  • This equates to 19.3 seconds lost in the pit lane, totaling a gain of 2.5s

It seems like a very useful gain to me and something that would definitely make a difference, at least from where I'm standing.

If I've got the pit lane speed limit wrong or any other parts please correct me, I'd hate to be posting inaccurate figures!

[colour=red:zonszoqh]**[/colour:zonszoqh] Source
Are you ok using the time loss figure?

That is the difference between going through the pitlane at 62mph and going around the track. ie the actual time in the pitlane is 21s + whatever it takes to cover the same distance on the circuit, isn't it?
It's a lot simpler than using the pit lane length to calculate any gain made by increase the speed limit.
Just do it as a percentage of the increase.

So to make it easy, if the time in the pit lane at 100kph is 25 seconds, if we increase the speed by 10% to 110kph then the time will reduce by 10%, or 2.5 seconds (roughly).
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