By Stefan Kristensen
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July 1, 2022
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Why Do Formula 1 Tires Need Heat?

Those who pay attention to Formula 1 racing will notice that the tires used on those cars are heated in the pit stop. This may seem like an odd thing to do on a hot summer day but there is a reason for it. 

Why do Formula 1 tires need heat? Heated tires hold the road better than cold ones. It's as simple as that. The rubber is warmed and has a tacky feel to it so it grips corners better while cold tires skid. The result is the Formula 1 driver takes the corners at faster speeds and that can cut time off his lap times.

Asphalt and Heat

The outside temperature also affects asphalt. Anyone who has ever laid the stuff knows that crews must wait until the temperature is at least 90 degrees before they can roll it down to cover a road. 

Asphalt becomes must easier to work with and to cure in hotter weather. This also plays a role when you talk about Formula 1 racing and how warm to make the tires. 

The Right Temp

There is a method to the madness of why do Formula 1 tires need heat. The perfect temperature for Formula 1 tires to offer the best traction and racing performance is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. However, hot asphalt, track temperatures, and atmospheric conditions will affect how hot the tire gets during racing. All must be considered to warm up the tire where it takes on the track perfectly. 

Bring On the Heat

Pit crews just can't heat tires any old way. There are rules to this for the sake of the tire, the car, and the driver. Heat can be set to the tires' surface only before the beginning of a race. That means they have to do it right the first time because there are no second chances. 

If you've been to a Formula 1 race, you may notice that heating blankets cover tires loaded on a trolley before a race starts. That is a heating blanket and it is wrapped on tires for a certain period before a race begins to warm up the tires' surface. 

The blanket is an electric heating blanket on steroids. It has heaters built throughout it and they distribute heat only to the tire surface evenly. The temperature is usually set at 194 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it doesn't drop below the optimum temperature before the race starts. 

The tire will be more heat from the pavement to bring it up to optimal temperature.

Nothing is left to chance in heating the tires. The blanket has thermal sensors that connect to a thermostat. The thermostat switches power off and on so the tires remain at the correct temperature.

The heating blanket serves another purpose. It prevents others from seeing exactly what tires you got. That is important when you have a race strategy. 

Heating Blankets Ending?

Talk surfaced about the F1 Commission phasing out the heating blankets over the next three years, much to driver's disappointment. The reason is because it costly and doing away with them would save energy.

Teams are getting a reduced number of blankets this year and the maximum heat applied to a tire with the blankets is being reduced before the full ban expected in 2024. 

Under new rules, tire temp using the blankets must be reduced fro 194 to 158 degrees this year. It will be reduced to 122 degrees in 2023.

It is up to the teams which tires they will use and they decide this in the first practice session. Different types of tires are put on cars at different times in the race according to a pre-determined racing strategy. 

Tires are marked with the components included in the manufacturing of the tire. An opponent can alter their strategy if they know what tire you are using.

Coming in Hot

There is a danger of getting a tire's surface too hot and that is where checking the pavement and air conditions is vitally important. A tire that is heated too much will blister too fast and start to fall apart. 

That spells doom for a Formula 1 racer because taking a pit stop to change a failed tire can cost 30 seconds and the driver may never be able to make that up, especially if there is a second failed tire.

Air pressure is also an important component of setting the tires on the car. Temperature and the heated surface of the tire affects how much air pressure should be in the tire. It may seem like those in the pit crew assigned to tires are more scientists that tire specialists because of all the calculations that are done.

The ZigZag

Another thing that Formula 1 fans notice is how drivers zigzag in a short lap drive before they head to the racing grip. They also will do this move after a safety car comes on the track. This keeps the tires warm so the driver can maintain performance.

Pirelli Rules

Pirelli, the tire manufacturer, has enormous influence over how tires are used, stored, stacked, and distributed among drivers. Pirelli technicians supply all the driving teams with tires mounted on the wheel hub. Each tire gets a certain amount of air pressure and is tagged.

Pirelli sets the conditions for use of the tires. Conditions are built around car performance data. The teams using the tires supply the data to Pirelli and that helps Pirelli avoid a failed tire. 

Beginning this year, the FIA is inserting sensors into the tires to monitor them during a race. This is more information that can help give a warning of a tire failure and improve tire quality.

Conclusion

Why do Formula 1 tires need heat? Tires are always an important feature of a car but Formula 1 tires are a critical element to those driving in those races.

Everything about the tire is important because it can either improve or deflect from performance. That includes how warm the tire is because that indicates how well it will grip the lane. That makes understanding how tires act in a lane under different conditions part of a Formula 1 driver's essential knowledge.

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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