BEHIND THE WHEEL
There’s a widespread belief that the need
to save fuel is the main reason why drivers
cannot run flat out in modern Formula 1
races. But while that can and does play a
role, tires are the key factor.
“It’s still all about managing the tires,
and not abusing the tires,” says Force India
technical director Andrew Green. “As soon
as you start sliding the tires or lighting up
the rears, the surface temperatures just go
through the roof. The tire performance
drops away massively, and you struggle to
regain that. In practice sessions you can
often see the drivers doing a cool-down lap,
because they’ve overcooked the tires. You
can’t do that in a race situation, because
you’re pushing all the time.
“The real art is to keep the tires right on
LOOKING AFTER THE RUBBER
that edge of not slipping and not sliding too
much, for the whole of a stint. That’s
absolutely crucial, because as soon as you
come out of a turn and spin the wheels,
you’re history, they’ve gone. It’s not about
out-and-out racing at that stage; it’s about
managing the situation, feeling the car,
feeling the tires, and when they’re starting
to go over the top. It’s holding back,
knowing which corners to save the tyres
on, which corners you can push on.”
Stint length will largely depend on which
of Pirelli’s compounds are in play at a
particular race, and how quickly their
performance deteriorates. Factors such as
track temperature and abrasiveness, pit-lane
delta time, track position and a driver’s
innate ability to maintain a competitive
pace on wearing tires will all play a part.
So is there any stage during a race
where drivers really can take it to the limit?
Only briefly, according to Green.
“We’ll tell them at the end of a stint,
when they’re about to come in for tires,” he
says. “They might be able to get one or two
laps where we’ll say, ‘Use all the rubber,’
but it’s no more than one or two laps.
That’s it. You can’t drive flat out, but I don’t
think it’s ever been any different.
“It’s maybe a little bit more extreme now,
but it’s something you’ve nearly always had
to do since I’ve been in the sport – Sunday
is all about managing the tires, trying to
keep them at optimum performance, or
trying to extend the life of them.
“It’s very rare that we’ve had the
opportunity to race flat out. During the tire
wars between Michelin and Bridgestone,
there was a short period where we had
refueling and technically quite sophisticated
tires, and that allowed you to run sprint
races, with the race divided into three or
four of them. That was as close to qualifying
laps as we’ve had in a race situation, but it
becomes processional – tire performance is
consistent, everybody knows what the
strategy is, everybody lines up in order on
the grid, and nothing happens in the race...”
Managing tires isn’t new in Formula 1, but you might be surprised at how fundamental it is to the outcome.
SPINNERS AREN’T WINNERS
For a modern
Formula 1 driver,
knowing how far you
can push the tires
without abusing the
rubber is a huge part
of their skill set. But
when hasn’t that
been the case?
Two tire stops is the F1 norm, although stint
length and the order in which a team runs
the two available Pirelli compounds does
mean some strategic variety (see page 45).
The Force India technical director had his
Formula 1 initiation as part of the small
design team which penned the first Jordan
F1 car in 1990, ready for its ’91 debut.