Racing in Formula One is often won with proper tyre management. The tires being used have different classifications like super soft, soft, medium and hard for dry weather conditions. Then there are the wet tires that can be used when the race director declares that the race track conditions are considered wet.
Those of the harder compound tires are referred to as ‘prime’ tires while the softer compound tires are referred to as ‘option’ tires. The harder compound last longer than the soft compound tires. There are also race circuits where either of the two compounds will suit them better. Softer tires are used for better grip on road surfaces and better handling at tight turns.
Road temperature is also one factor that formula one race teams consider. A hot road condition will make softer tires wear out more easily and tire pressure increases with heat. Hotter road conditions seem to be favored more by race teams because their drivers will not have problems setting their tires at the right racing temperature. The tire temperature is important in having better road grip.
With all the above, F1 teams coordinate with their drivers on how the cars feel when they drive with different sets of tires. Though they know the characteristics of the road surface and condition, it is still up to the driver to say which set of tires he can make better lap times.
Tire management during a race is done both by the driver and the team. The driver knows how the car feels with the tires while the team at the pit stop can monitor the degradation of the tires until the next tire change. A severely worn out tire can slow down a F1 car on its in-lap that could even lose the position in the race.
The pit stop team tells their drivers when to pit for a change of tires. The driver though can tell if the tires are holding well and could go for a couple of laps more before pitting. Tire change is a strategy used by F1 teams. The lesser pit stops they make while the tires run good until the next change, is a strategy employed to gain the upper hand.
Use of prime or option tires often depends on the driver. He knows how fast and how many laps he can go with the set of tires he uses. The top ten on the grid have to use the set of tires they used for Q3 in getting to their positions at the start of race day. The rest of the field can use any type of tire they want in starting the race.
Even if a rated race driver and team starts from last because of some issues, the driver could easily make it to the top ten or even get a podium finish. Why, because they will be able to manage better tire use while on the race. This was proven by Michael Schumacher in his last race with Ferrari at Sao Paolo, Brazil. He still made it fourth despite having tire puncture that put him in 19th position.
The tyre management in a F1 race is important because it can make or break a team’s goal of getting a podium finish. This especially holds true in a race where rains come and go unpredictably. In races with this kind of weather situations, it will be the team that manages the tyres best in changing road conditions and temperatures.This just simply shows the importance of using the right tires at the right road conditions in Formula One races.