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Tyre compounds - The development of two types of rubber has changed the face of F1

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

When I first started watching F1, there were two makes of tyre: Michelin and Bridgestone. The great tyre war raged, and Ferrari on their Bridgestones were having to fight with a newly competitive Renault on Michelins.

However, after the US GP disaster, Michelin pulled out of the sport, and a year later, it was a single tyre supplier series. To make the tyre aspect of racing more exciting, Bridgestone introduced various compounds of their rubber, varying in hardness, and they would only bring two types to each race. The compounds are usually one step apart from each other, and are known as the hard and soft tyres at each race, although they may actually be different compounds. In Monaco, Bridgestone bring the soft, and super-soft tyres, whereas other tracks may see different compounds used. They are all still known as hard and soft within each race weekend.

A team is required to use one of each type of tyre during a race, and it is usually the case that the soft tyre is faster over a single lap, whilst the harder tyre is more useful over a longer race distance. You will usually find drivers using the softer tyre, distinguishable by a white circumferential stripe, during the later stages of qualifying.

Bridgestone have recently announced they are looking into the possibility of widening the margins between the compounds to further add to the action. However, this is a very risky concept.

The way the tyres are at the moment mean there is very little scope for playing with strategies. On tracks where the soft tyre wears out very easily, you will likely not find a driver one stopping, as at least half of his race would be on unsuitable rubber.

If the margins were widened even more, you would see all the teams finding the optimum setup and strategy, and they would all do the same thing. That would mean everyone would pit together, and there would be no strategy gains to be made in the pit lane.

Far from spicing up the action, this would reduce it to merely a procession. It’s a fine line for Bridgestone to tread, and what they really need is the competition that comes from having another supplier on the grid. That is not going to happen for a few years yet, so we will have to wait and see what Bridgestone come up with for 2009.