Tires are an important part of Formula 1 and they have been a massive focal point of the sport for many years. From tire wear to the 2022 rim size changes, tires have been a hot topic for a long time. But many wonder what happens to used F1 tires, and if they are recycled.
Used F1 tires are crushed in order to fit them into containers. They are then shipped to the UK where they are burned at extremely high temperatures as fuel for a cement factory. Pirelli are currently exploring other recycling solutions for used F1 tires for the future.
It might not sound like a great solution for a sport that is focusing on becoming more environmentally friendly. However, we’ll take a closer look at this issue below, as we find exactly what happens to old F1 tires after a race weekend.
What Are Considered Used Tires In F1?
Formula 1 tires are considered to be ‘used’ as soon as they are fitted to the rims of a Formula 1 car. As soon as the rubber is on the rim, the tire is deemed used, no matter if it has traveled zero miles or gone the equivalent of a full race distance.
Most of us would consider tires to be “used” once they’ve done a couple of thousand miles and begin to show signs of wear. Naturally, you would imagine that a Formula 1 tire will reach this level quickly with the huge amounts of friction and lateral load that is put through them when the car goes through corners. But they’re deemed used as soon as they’re put on the rim.
Removing the tires from the rims of a Formula 1 car can cause damage to them. They’re designed to stay on the rim at all times, even through the massive amounts of load that is put through them when a Formula 1 car corners at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour.
When a Formula 1 tire is removed from the rim it can leave small cuts or damaged areas on the tires that would pose a danger to the drivers if they were used again on the cars. So, Pirelli strictly states that tires are considered to be ‘used’ as soon as they have been fitted to the rims. It’s purely in the interest of safety.
Are F1 Tires Reused?
F1 tires are not reused. For safety reasons, Formula 1 teams must use new tires at each Grand Prix weekend. Pirelli will always bring new tires to each Grand Prix and old tires will not be reused at a new event, and instead will be recycled as fuel in a UK cement factory.
This is mainly done for safety reasons. The tires that Formula 1 cars use must be in great condition in order for them to be safe. With the cars traveling at up to 210+ mph, the tires can’t have any kind of damage or wear on them or there is the risk of them failing at high speed and putting the driver in danger.
F1 tires wear out fast. They have been designed for performance over durability, which means that they do not last long, but they perform very well. Most tires can’t last a full race distance at racing speeds, and the softer the tire the quicker it will wear out. Reusing old and damaged tires is simply not safe for the sport, as the tires are already on their limits.
What Does It Mean When A Driver Is On Used Tires?
Throughout the race weekend, we often hear about drivers bolting ‘used’ tires onto their cars, which may seem contradictory to what was described above. However, these ‘used’ tires are also referred to as “scrubbed” tires, and this is when they have been used for one or two laps.
Scrubbed tires are still safe to use as they have not been removed from the rims of the car. The tires remain on the rims and at all times throughout the course of the weekend. Scrubbed tires do not have a shiny layer of rubber on the surface of the tire, which is the tell-tale sign that they are not new. This top layer of rubber has been “scrubbed” off after being used for a lap or two.
Are F1 Tires Recycled?
F1 tires are recycled after they have been used. However, they are not used to create new tires. After being used on an F1 car, the rubber is practically unusable again in the form of a tire, and so it is instead used as fuel in a cement factory.
F1 tires are first removed from the rims and then crushed before being packed into a container. The container is then shipped to the UK where they are sent to a cement factory. The cement factory will then burn the tires and use them as fuel.
This might seem to be bad for the environment, but it has been reported that this method of ‘recycling’ tires produces fewer harmful gasses than the standard incineration process that is normally used for old tires. F1 and Pirelli are currently considering other solutions for recycling the tires in a more environmentally friendly way. It’s currently unclear exactly what this solution will be.
What Happens To Old F1 Tires?
Formula 1 goes through a huge number of tires at each race weekend. Each car is given 13 sets of tires for every race weekend, which equates to 1040 individual tires for every single race. Over the course of the season that equals to a total of nearly 24,000 tires between all the cars.
In the past, the tires were often left at the circuit or sent to new circuits where they could be used to build tire walls. These barriers that are built from old tires that have been used are helpful in the case of a crash as they cushion the impact and protect the driver. However, F1 tires nowadays aren’t big enough or thick enough to be used practically in tire walls.
F1 Tires Can’t Be Sent To The Next Venue
Pirelli usually scraps around 560 wet and intermediate tires every race. When there is no wet weather, these are often brand-new tires that have no mileage on them. You might be wondering why teams can’t simply use these same tires at the next venue since they have not been used.
The problem is that the Pirelli tires are sent to each venue weeks in advance as they are normally transported by cargo ships. This is because it takes a lot of containers to transport the number of tires that need to go to each Grand Prix. Cargo ships are also a much slower form of transport than other methods, so they need to be loaded and sent weeks in advance.
On the other hand, teams transport their cars using cargo planes in order to get to the next venue with a quick turnaround time. In order to get their parts to fit into the plane, the teams must strip the tires off the rims as the tires take up too much valuable space.
Tires At The 2020 Australian Grand Prix
The Australian Grand Prix of 2020 was set to be the season opener of an exciting year in Formula 1. However, the Grand Prix weekend was canceled at the last minute due to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Pirelli and all the Formula 1 teams were already in Melbourne ready to go, 1800 tires were sitting in the pit lane at the Albert Park street circuit. These tires had all already been fitted to rims, and therefore were considered ‘used.’
As these tires had already been fitted to rims, Pirelli had to scrap all 1800 tires that had been brought to Australia. These tires were sent to the cement factory to be used as fuel.
Pirelli said in a statement that even though the tires had no mileage on them they were not confident to refit them onto the rims. Stripping the tires off the rims puts stress on the beads, which could lead to a tire failure with the high G-forces that these tires must withstand. Plus, they weren’t sure how long it would be until they could race again anyway.
Used F1 cars are recycled as fuel in a cement factory in the UK. The used tires from each F1 race weekend are crushed and sent to the UK in containers, where they are then burned at high temperatures as fuel. F1 tires are considered used as soon as they are put onto a rim, regardless of mileage.
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