Getting a Grip on F1 Tyre Changes For 2019

Tyre management
is one of the most crucial aspects of Formula One. Yet, to the casual fan, it’s a daunting topic to delve into. With
so many different compounds to choose from – many of which are unhelpfully
described as some variation of ‘soft’ – and with requirements changing from
track to track, it can be difficult for even the most dedicated viewer to keep
up.

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Thankfully, to make life simpler for
the wheel spotters out there, Pirelli have a
much-improved naming system in place for
2019.

The Old System

For those steering themselves into the
world of tyre choices for the first time,
a quick recap may be useful. For everyone else, it’s a reminder of how messy
the old system was.

Pirelli (the sole tyre manufacturer for F1 since 2011) has a number of different tyre compounds. Two are for rainy conditions, while
the others are for dry running. Previously, each tyre was distinguishable by a colour band around the rim. In 2018, there were
nine different tyre compounds to choose
from, as follows:

Wet tyres

  • Full Wet (Blue): Used in the heaviest rain where there’s standing water on the track
  • Intermediate (Green): Often described as ‘Inters’ and used in slightly damp conditions

Dry tyres (from slowest
but most durable, to fastest but highest wearing)

  • Superhard (Orange)
  • Hard (Blue, again)
  • Medium (White)
  • Soft (Yellow)
  • Supersoft (Red)
  • Ultrasoft (Purple)
  • Hypersoft (Pink)

A veritable rainbow of choice, but a
nightmare to keep track of over the season, as only three of the seven dry
compounds would be selected each race weekend by Pirelli depending on the surface
of the circuit. Given that soft tyres were the middle of the road choice out of
the dry compounds, and on some weekends the hardest choice on offer (or even
too hard to be picked – I’m looking at you Monte Carlo), it became very difficult
to calculate a team’s strategy on the fly.

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Changes for 2019

Thankfully, Pirelli have seen sense and have neatened up the system for this year. There has been no change to the wet or intermediate tyres; however, the dry choices have been trimmed down to five and given the sexy names of C1 to C5 (from most to least durable) as follows:

Wet tyres

  • Full Wet (Blue)
  • Intermediate (Green)

Dry tyres (from slowest
but most durable, to fastest but highest wearing)

  • C1
  • C2
  • C3
  • C4
  • C5

On any given race weekend, Pirelli will
select three dry compounds as before, but they will now be called hard, medium
and soft, with white, yellow and red colourings respectively. The rules on how
the tyres must be used (namely, at least 2 different compounds per race unless
raining) remain unchanged.

For the true tyre buffs out there, Pirelli will continue to announce which compounds have been selected to be used, so tracking the changes between circuits is still possible. However, for casual fans, following tyre strategy on a racing Sunday just got much easier.

Words by Chris Raftery