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Why F1 Tires Are Shiny (Full Explanation)

When you see F1 cars leaving the pit lane with a fresh set of tires on, you may notice a rather vibrant shine emanating off the new rubber. This may have led you to wonder why F1 tires are shiny and whether it affects the car’s performance in any way.

F1 tires are shiny due to the chrome plated molds that are used during the manufacturing process. These molds prevent the tire from sticking and causing irregularities on the tread. The shine doesn’t affect the tires’ performance and usually wears off by the time the car has left the pit lane.

Pirelli F1 tires are also a key part of promotional events, where they will be coated in wax and made to look even shinier than usual. In this article we will discuss the reason that Formula 1 tires are so shiny, as well as going through the manufacturing process from start to finish.

Why Are F1 Tires So Smooth?

F1 tires are smooth because it makes them provide better grip. Slick tires are manufactured without the grooves that you’d see on standard road tires, as more rubber making contact with the surface of the track means more grip for the drivers, which means higher speeds. 

Having slick tires on means that drivers can take on corners at higher speeds without the fear of skidding or spinning out. However, not all F1 tires are completely smooth, with intermediate and full wet tires featuring grooves that can disperse high amounts of water during rainy sessions. These grooves allow water an escape route from under the tire, something that smooth slick tires cannot do.

The tires don’t tend to stay smooth for long, with high track temperatures leaving them vulnerable to degradation and even blistering and graining. This happens when the rubber and synthetic materials begin to melt, sticking to the track and reattaching themselves to the wheel, creating an irregular and rough surface to the tire.

The manufacturing process that goes into making an F1 tire also plays a part in creating that original smoothness. Tires are vulcanized and cooked in special chrome molds that form them into a consistent, smooth shape. The tires must come out perfectly smooth every time, in order to ensure every tire on every car is standardized.

Why Do F1 Tires Look Shiny?

Pirelli uses molds with chrome plating to make the tires used in F1. This gives them a nice shine when they are first put onto the cars. However, the shine doesn’t last long, and by the time the cars are out of the pit lane it is usually gone. Pirelli began using chrome treated molds because softer tires became difficult to remove from the old molds.

This is because during the vulcanization and cooking part of the process, the softer compounds would become very adhesive, sticking to the sides of the molds, sometimes creating imperfections in the tires. This doesn’t happen with newer molds, helping to produce a more consistent product guaranteed to get through the FIA’s quality control process.

This method has been used since 2018, when the shiny tires made their first appearance in F2. They have become commonplace in Formula 1 since 2019. Pirelli were keen to point out that the shine has no impact on the way that the tires perform, and that the shine is purely a by-product of the manufacturing process. 

KEY POINTS

• F1 tires are smooth because slick tires provide the most grip on a dry track

• The tires are made using very precise processes to ensure they’re all standardized

• They are shiny as a result of the chrome molds Pirelli uses to make the tires

Why Are F1 Show Tires So Shiny?

When the new season rolls around, F1 teams look to show off their latest car in the best light possible. F1 show tires will be coated in wax or oil to make them look extra shiny, new and eye-catching. These tires won’t be used for racing, and so it doesn’t matter what modifications are made to them. 

This, along with the natural shine from the manufacturing process, ensures the tires look their absolute best for promotional events. Extra focus was on the tires for the start of the 2022 season, as it marked the first year that 18-inch tires were to be used in F1, replacing the previous 13-inch models.

Promotion Is Key

There is ultimately a very corporate side to Formula 1, where they will attempt to show the sport at its most glamorous. As Pirelli are the sole tire provider for F1, promotional events present an ideal opportunity for them to show off their brand in its best light, which is the main reason that they will gloss up their tires as much as possible. 

This isn’t to everyone’s liking, with many believing that it makes the tires look as though they are made out of plastic rather than rubber (and they likely are made of a different, non-race-ready compound). However, the global commercial appeal of F1 means that Pirelli would much rather have an eye-catching wheel being photographed rather than a realistic looking wheel!

How Are F1 Tires Made?

Research & Design Phases

The process that goes into making a Pirelli F1 tire is long and laborious and takes place in multiple countries. The process starts at Pirelli’s HQ in Milan, where the research and development team test compounds and structures that the rubber is made from. When they feel they have the right structure in place, they will send their designs over to Romania and Turkey, where manufacturing begins.

Stress & Durability Testing

When the factory workers have come up with a prototype, the tires will be shipped back to Italy, where they will undergo stress and durability testing from various purpose-built machines to make sure that they are up to standard. These tests will try to simulate every possible race situation to make sure no stone is left unturned. The successful tires will then be sent out for on-track testing.

Mass Production

The tires that are deemed track worthy will then be noted and mass produced ready for use in Formula 1. Each tire is digitally tagged, so Pirelli can log how many have been made. The tires will then be vulcanized and cooked in chrome plated molds to ensure they are perfectly round and safe for use in F1. They are then tested again before being given the go-ahead to be distributed to the FIA. 

Pirelli will supply around 1800 tires per race weekend, and around 40,000 per season. Pirelli also supply tires for Formula 2 and Formula 3, meaning the job they do is a huge manufacturing and logistical feat.

What Happens To The Tires After The Race?

Once a tire has been fitted to an F1 car, it can no longer be reused. After a race, many of the used tires will be sent off to cement factories where they’ll be shredded and used as fuel for the cement making. The cement will then be used to repave roads as part of the FIA’s efforts to improve public road standards around the world.

Final Thoughts

F1 tires are shiny as a result of the chrome plated molds used during the manufacturing process. The shine rarely lasts past the pit lane as the asphalt on the track begins to degrade the outer layer of the tires. The shine has absolutely no effect on the performance of the tires.