Formula 1 hasn’t always been about the tyres, even though it may feel like it.
There was a time when you weren’t even allowed to change them during a race, but ever since Pirelli took over as the sole tyre manufacturer for F1 in 2010 racing has become more and more about looking after your tyres and keeping them in the right temperature window.
The same is true in this year’s F1 game too. In F1 2019, almost every race is a 1 or 2-stopper in dry conditions, and what determines how many trips down pit-lane you’ll be taking is how you much punishment you give your tyres.
The temptation is to go flat out for the entire race, after all, that’s what most fans seemingly want the real-life sport to be like. However, this rarely ends well, as you may be fast at the start of your stint, but you’ll lose around 20 seconds every time you change your four wheels and tyres. Think about it, is it worth gaining two or three-tenths of a second per lap if you need to make a couple of extra stops? Probably not, as overtaking is as hard in this game as real-life.
There is a practice programme available in career mode which aims to improve your tyre conservation, and while this is helpful, it goes overboard in the saving department. This guide will show you how to improve the life of your tyres without compromising your lap times too much. This is an especially helpful guide when you’re not driving for one of the top three teams, as the midfield is so close and anything you can do to up your performance will help.
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The easiest way to preserve your rubber has nothing to do with your driving style, but often the way in which you set the car up for a Grand Prix. There are some aspects which directly affect the rate at which your tyres wear, such as the camber and toe angles, which both come under suspension geometry in the car setup screen.
These angles define how much of the wheels contacts the road, the lower the angle, the more tyre surface touches the tarmac and the more grip is generated. However, this does have the adverse effect of increasing your tyre wear, so you need to be careful with how little these values are.
Unsurprisingly, the pressures at which the tyres are set to also alters the rate of wear of the tyres. The higher the pressure, the higher the rate of wear, thanks to the increase in temperature of the surface.
Finally, the transmission also sets the rate of wear, as a more open or unlocked setting will decrease tyre wear, as the rubber is doing less work this way.
Other alterations to your setups can help too, even the aspects that you wouldn’t think would, such as the aerodynamics. If you increase the front wing angle by a couple of points, you’re able to round corners more easily than before. You’d perhaps think that would increase your tyre wear, after all, you’re going through a turn at a higher speed than before, but you’d be wrong. Instead, the wear remains the same, if not slightly less, due to the increased downforce that the wing generates.
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The rear tyres are the ones that tend to “fall of the cliff” of performance first around these tracks and it’s arguably easier to preserve these tyres than the fronts. If you have traction control turned on, this section doesn’t apply to you, for the rest of us, though, here’s how to extend the life of your Pirellis.
Saving your rear tyres boils down to one thing, preventing wheel spin. Wheel spin is caused when the surface your tyres are accelerating on doesn’t have enough grip to allow all of your power to be planted.
To decrease the wheel spin, you can either be gentler when applying the throttle out of low speed corners (imagine there’s an egg between the throttle peddle and the floor) or take a higher gear through said corner. Anybody that drives in real life will know that lower gears produce more power in road cars and the same is true for F1 cars.
If you drive with manual gears, you can take this a step further by short shifting, when you shift up a gear at lower revs than normal. This will hurt your overall lap time, but the life you preserve in the tyres could save you from doing that extra pit-stop.
Excess tyre wear on the rears can also be caused by sliding or drifting through corners and this will affect the fronts as well.
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The front tyres take the brunt of the force when going through long and/ or fast corners. So, the high-speed circuits are usually the ones which are front limited, such as China, Spain and Britain. Taking the smoothest line with the least amount of lock on the steering wheel is the easiest way to limit front tyre wear.
The second method is simple, go slower through the corners. Braking a few metres earlier and shaving a couple kph’s off the speedometer can make a big difference in how high the temperature of the tyre surfaces get. For the fronts, limiting thermal degradation (that caused by high temps) is key. The general rule of thumb is to avoid going over 100 degrees Celsius (212 F), that’s when the damage is done.
Using the methods outlined in this article will preserve your tyres by 5 laps in a 50% race and maybe 10 laps in a 100% race. That can make the difference between a 1 and 2 stop and save you around 15 seconds in overall race time, which is huge in F1.