Throughout the course of a Formula 1 weekend, we often hear the commentators talking about a “green track” and track evolution. These are important factors when trying to predict lap times, and many fans may wonder what green track and track evolution mean in F1.
A green track in F1 is when a track is used for the first time during a session. This means that it has less grip. As the cars drive around the track, they lay more rubber down on it, which gives it more grip, and so the track “evolves” throughout the weekend, allowing the cars to go faster.
There are some factors that influence the track evolution over the course of a Grand Prix weekend, and the track can either improve or it can get worse. In the article below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about green tracks and track evolution throughout a race weekend.
What Does Green Track Mean In F1?
A green track in F1 refers to a circuit that has very little grip on it. This is because the track is essentially clean. The tarmac on its own does provide grip of course, but not the maximum possible amount of grip that the drivers need to race at their fastest.
The track will mostly be green when the drivers first arrive on Friday and the cars head out onto the circuit for their first free practice session. At this point the track won’t have very much grip, especially if it’s a circuit that is prone to having dust or rain land on the track.
One of the best examples of a green track that has very little grip on Fridays is any of the Middle Eastern tracks, such as Bahrain or Abu Dhabi. These tracks often have a lot of sand and dust on them when the cars first head out onto it, and the cars will struggle for grip, especially during the early part of the first free practice session.
This is one of the reasons we often see slower lap times during the first couple of free practice sessions of the weekend, and the drivers can go faster and faster as more laps are done by the cars. As the cars drive around the circuit they begin to move the dust (or water in the event of rain) off the racing line.
What Rubbered In Means On An F1 Track
When the track is “rubbered in” it will provide the cars with much more grip, and it allows them to drive faster than before. As the cars drive around the circuit, they lay more rubber down on it. The extra rubber the cars lay down on the track helps their tires to stick to the tarmac better.
As the weekend progresses, you may notice that the racing line – the fastest way around the track – will begin to look darker. By the time we get to qualifying you can usually see a distinct racing line on the track, which is much darker than the rest of the tarmac.
This dark line is rubber that has been laid down by the cars as they constantly drive on the same piece of tarmac. The darker the line is, the more rubber there is on the track, and the more grip it will give the drivers, and this is why the qualifying lap times can become much quicker than the qualifying simulations that drivers do in FP3.
On circuits that are very green, such as the Middle Eastern circuits early in the weekend, it’s always better to stick to the racing line as much as possible. Going off the racing line will cause the tires to lose a lot of grip, and we often see the drivers running wide or even spinning if they have gone off the racing line as they end up driving on the dust or sand.
What Is Track Evolution In Formula 1?
Track evolution refers to how the circuit evolves throughout the course of a session. As the cars drive around the circuit, more rubber is laid down, which gives the cars more grip and allows them to set faster lap times than they did before, even without altering their setups or engine mapping.
We sometimes hear the commentators mentioning the track evolution factor when talking about the differences in lap times between practice sessions and qualifying. Drivers can sometimes go up to two seconds faster between Q1 and Q3 in qualifying based on track evolution.
Some circuits have stronger track evolution than others. This is specifically the circuits that are very green at the beginning of the race weekend, and so we might see the lap times become dramatically faster. Other circuits might have less of a track evolution factor, and this is where we see similar lap times across the entire weekend.
What Helps Track Evolution?
The main factor that influences track evolution is rubber being laid down on the track to provide better grip. The more cars going around the circuit, the quicker the track will evolve and the more grip the cars will have by the end of Grand Prix weekend. As a race car’s tires wear out, some of that rubber attaches to the track, which provides grip for other cars driving over it.
This is important to consider, especially since Formula 1 cars aren’t the only cars that are driving around the track during a Grand Prix weekend. There are various other support races that also take place on the same track between F1 sessions, such as the W Series, Formula 2, and the Porsche Supercup.
These cars can also help the track evolution over the course of the weekend. This is often why a track can evolve so much during a Grand Prix weekend, as there are almost always cars out on the track during the day, even if it’s not Formula 1 cars. Every car that races lays down rubber and influences track evolution.
Sunday is usually the time the track evolution is at its best. Following several practice sessions, qualifying sessions, and races, between Formula 1 cars and the support series, the track can improve drastically in the space of two days.
How Does Rain Affect Track Evolution?
If it rains during the weekend, the rubber that has been laid down on the track can be washed off. This essentially resets the track evolution, and the circuit returns to its green state, as if no cars had been going around it to keep adding rubber to the racing line.
Often when the circuit has had some rain overnight or even in between sessions, the drivers will be warned to take it easy because of the lack of grip that they might experience. Drivers can sometimes be caught out by this, and accidents are more likely to occur on the now green track.
How Can This Affect The Drivers?
After a rain shower the track will be green again, even if it’s not wet. Drivers will always keep this in mind, but it can be difficult to readjust in the middle of a race weekend. Drivers use practice sessions to fine-tune their muscle memory and pick out their braking points to be able to set the fastest possible lap times.
If there’s some rain between Free Practice 3 and Qualifying for example, drivers need to quickly adapt to the new track conditions. The drivers would have programmed themselves to where the grip is on the circuit and how fast they can go through the corners, and most will expect to do the same in the upcoming session.
However, with the track evolving backwards, the drivers won’t have as much grip as they had beforehand, and oftentimes they might find themselves braking too late or running wide in some corners. With the track suddenly providing less grip than before, drivers won’t be sure of how they need to drive their cars after going faster throughout the weekend.
In some cases, the track can be even worse than it was during the first free practice session. The track might become greasy and slippery, providing an even greater challenge for the drivers. This can happen when a track has recently been resurfaced or if there is dust or sand close to the circuit.
Why Do The Drivers Avoid The Racing Line In The Wet?
If there’s a sudden rain shower during a session such as qualifying, or even during the race, we sometimes see the drivers moving off the racing line when braking and going through corners. This might seem counter intuitive, as the racing line is normally the fastest way around the track.
However, once the rain begins to fall, the rubber that has been laid down on the track becomes extremely slippery. Driving on the racing line (the area of the track that has been rubbered in) can become like driving on ice.
Drivers may end up locking their brakes or running wide through corners if they stay on the racing line in wet conditions. Driving on the more abrasive side of the track that has no rubber on it often provides more grip in the rain than driving on the rubbered-in side of the track. However, if it’s really wet, the drier racing line usually still provides more grip than elsewhere on the track.
When a track is green, it means it doesn’t have much grip. As the ca.rs go around the track, they will lay rubber onto the tarmac, which gives the track more grip. As the weekend progresses the track rubbers in, and this is known as track evolution. Rain can quickly wash this rubber away.