Tyres are such an important factor in determining who wins and fails to win races in Formula One and looking after them and making the right strategic choices are at the heart of a team’s decision making.


On the face of it, tyres seem to be a mundane aspect in any form of car, but they have taken on a newfound significance, particularly in recent years.

Not only do drivers have to manage them properly, teams also spend plenty of time crunching the data and analysing which sorts of tyres are best used at different circuits.

They are a fascinating sub-genre of the sport and the subject of much discussion.

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Why do drivers warm up their tyres?

Very simply, warmer tyres are grippier on the tarmac and that is essential when driving a car which can be chucked around corners at 190mph.

When lining up on the grid before the start of a race, the tyres are wrapped up in covers – acting almost like a blanket – in order to preserve as much heat in them as possible.

During the warm-up laps before a race, drivers will “weave” their cars when going at slower speeds in order to inject more heat into the tyres. The weaving creates extra movement and load on the tyres which subsequently warms up the rubber.

By contrast, some drivers compare driving on cold tyres to driving on sheet ice, and lap times set immediately after pit stops are usually slower with more caution being exercised.

What type of tyres are available to drivers?

Pirelli are the current manufacturers of F1 tyres and have been the sole supplier in the sport since 2011.

For 2023, there are seven types of tyres available to use for a race weekend. Two sets are for driving in wet weather conditions while there are five types for dry weather.

Of those five compounds, three will be selected for use for a race weekend, and the choice depends on the circuit’s characteristics.

The three are graded as “soft”, “medium”, and “hard” tyres and drivers must use at least two types during a race, which is where the strategy comes into play. They are colour coded so the viewer knows which tyre is on which car.

Every car must use at least two of those tyre compounds throughout a race, but it is their choice as to when and where. This does not apply if there is rain and the specialised wet weather tyres are required.

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Soft tyres are grippier and drivers can set quicker lap times. They are favoured by cars near the front of the field who want to set the pace.

However, harder tyres are more durable and lead to a car needing fewer pit stops. If a usually quick driver has had a poor qualifying session then they may look to gamble on playing the long game with their tyres.

Teams who often find themselves near the back of the grid will opt to start on harder tyres to try to stay out on track as long as possible with a view to earning points.

Decisions on which tyres to use will also depend on the characteristics of the circuit and the temperature of the tarmac. More heat on track will wear tyres down so harder rubber is more commonly used.

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