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.

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.

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