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NASCAR Tires vs F1 Tires: How Are They Different?

While there are similarities between NASCAR and F1 tires, there are some major differences too. Different tracks, bankings, turning degrees, and race lengths call for the need for dramatic differences between NASCAR and F1 tires. 

NASCAR tires and F1 tires differ in the types of compounds used for races. NASCAR will go with 1 tire compound per race, while F1 cars can use up to 3 dry compounds. F1 tires come in a total of 5 different dry compounds and 2 wet ones, while NASCAR’s Next Gen tires are primarily softer compounds. 

Below, we will outline the type of tires NASCAR cars and F1 cars use before diving into detail regarding their differences. We will discuss wet and slick tires, before discussing which tires are easier to change. We will finish by talking about their respective wheel sizes. 

What Tires Do NASCAR Cars Use?

NASCAR cars predominantly use slick tires provided by Goodyear. Unlike tires on a production vehicle, NASCAR tires are tread-free, as it allows them to maximize tire grip and therefore gain more speed. The use of slick tires, however, is one of a few reasons NASCAR does not often race in the wet. 

Besides their slick design, NASCAR tires are also radial instead of bias ply for most events. The Bristol Dirt Race, however, requires NASCAR cars to use grooved, bias ply tires so the cars can have better grip on the track’s dirt surface. NASCAR can race on wet surfaces at certain events, and during those events, they will use a wet tire, which also features treads. 

For most of its existence, NASCAR has turned to Goodyear to supply its tires. There have been times when Goodyear did not serve as the exclusive tire supplier to NASCAR. NASCAR initially went with Firestone, but Goodyear entered the scene in 1954, resulting in a 20-year tire war before Firestone withdrew from NASCAR in 1974. 

Goodyear entered a brief war with McCreary Tire & Rubber Company in 1978, but the major war came against Hoosier, once in 1988-89, and again in 1994. However, both wars resulted in catastrophic incidents, and they were short-lived, with Goodyear emerging as the winner. 

What Tires Do F1 Cars Use?

F1 cars use slick tires provided by Pirelli, the exclusive tire supplier since 2011. These tires come in the form of 5 dry compounds and 2 wet compounds. The dry tires are slicks, with no treads, while the wets and intermediates have varying grooves to help displace water.

Like in NASCAR, F1 tires are meant to wear down quickly. This forces teams to make at least one pit stop for fresh tires, which, in theory, can turn the tide of a race by adding a layer of pit strategy. In a dry race, drivers must each use at least 2 different dry compounds of tire.

The dry tires range from C1 to C5, with C1 being the hardest and C5 being the softest. Of the five types of dry tires, F1 tells its teams a few weeks ahead of time which three types are allowed to be used for a specific upcoming race. 

Which Compounds Are Used Where?

Harder compounds are used on tracks that demand energy from the tires, such as when there are a lot of fast corners and the track temperature is higher. Softer compounds are generally used at tracks where the conditions are cooler or there are more slow corners.

You can tell which compounds are being used for each F1 event given the color on the sidewall, with white being the hard, yellow being the medium, and red being the soft. F1 also takes both sets of wet tires to each event, with blue stripes representing full wet tires and green representing the intermediate. 

Like NASCAR tires, the dry F1 tires are slick. The wet tire compounds are not slick, with the full wet tires possessing deeper grooves than the intermediates.

KEY POINTS

• NASCAR drivers will only use one tire compound during a dry race

• F1 drivers have a choice of 3 dry compounds per race

• Formula 1 also often races in wet conditions, requiring the use of wet or intermediate tires

NASCAR vs F1 Slick Tires

While NASCAR and F1 both use slick tires, they are both designed for very different types of racing. This is because the differences in track surface and banking will require different tire compounds so each respective car can compete at peak performance. The tires also wear at different rates.

Tire Wear

F1’s slick tires will wear down faster than NASCAR slick tires because of the shorter race lengths. NASCAR tires often last for the duration of one full tank of gas, which explains why they opt for four-tire changes along with a complete refuel during the early stages of the race. 

How Many They Can Use

Depending on the event, NASCAR designates a specific number of slick tires that teams can use, with the number hovering between eight and 12, often depending on the track surface’s age. For the 2022 race at Richmond, for example, NASCAR teams were allowed to use nine sets of tires, one more set than the base number of eight, because of the aging surface. 

F1 is different, as they are allotted 13 sets of dry tires for the weekend, with eight soft sets, three mediums, and two hards. However, they must hand back two sets following the first, second, and third practices, taking the total down to a maximum of seven for the race. 

NASCAR vs F1 Wet Tires

Like F1’s wet tires, NASCAR’s wet tires are designed to add grip to an otherwise slippery racing surface. They are also slower tires thanks to the grooves reducing the contact patch of the tire with the track surface. You rarely see NASCAR use these tires, and they will instead opt to delay an event instead of going with wet tires because they are substantially slower. 

If the track is just damp or if there is minimal standing water, F1 cars will normally use the intermediate wets. They will use full wets if there are a lot of puddles or if the grip level is just too low with the intermediates. However, the full wet tires can overheat quickly on a drying track, as can intermediates

NASCAR started conducting tests with wet tires beginning in 2021, using specific compounds for Martinsville and another specific compound for Sonoma. They will use wet tires for road courses, and they have used them sparingly over the years, such as at the rain-shortened 2021 Circuit of the Americas race

So far, F1 has the more effective rain tire. The 2021 NASCAR race at COTA was still shortened by rain despite the rain tire because of the spray from the back of the cars, leaving drivers unable to see what was in front of them. This can be an issue in F1 too, as we saw at the 2022 Japanese Grand Prix. However, F1 still races in the rain despite this. 

Are NASCAR Tires Easier To Change Than F1 Tires?

NASCAR tires aren’t necessarily easier or harder to change than F1 tires, as both pit stops require a lot of choreography. NASCAR wheels and F1 wheels both use 1 lug nut, but while F1 teams have pit crews of about 20 people, only 5-6 NASCAR pit crew members are allowed over the wall at one time.

NASCAR and F1 races last long enough that the teams must change tires during the event. NASCAR races are often longer than those of F1, and they require more tire changes, while an F1 race could see just one tire change on most of the cars, but sometimes they will require 2 or 3+ stops. 

More People

NASCAR and F1 pit stops are very different as well, with F1 stops comprising more crew members tasked with ultra-specific roles. With so many more members on the pit crew (up to 20, vs NASCAR’s 5 or 6 that go over the wall), F1 tires are changed much faster than NASCAR tires.

In NASCAR, the tire changer must remove and replace the lug nuts while the tire carrier or jack man must pull off and replace the tire on the right and left side of a NASCAR car. This often takes between 13 and 16 seconds. 

In F1, teams have three individuals tasked with handling just one tire. So, with four tires on an F1 car, that equals 12 team members just to change the tires. One member of the group will remove and replace the lug nut while another removes the tire, and a third replaces the tire. The process often takes fewer than three seconds. 

F1 vs NASCAR Wheel Size

NASCAR cars and F1 cars went through several changes for the 2022 season and beyond. Initially, NASCAR wheel sizes measured in at 15 inches (38 centimeters). When they rolled out the Next Gen car, NASCAR wanted the wheels to better match those of their manufacturers’ showroom counterparts, so they bumped the wheel size to 18 inches (46 centimeters). 

The latest F1 cars also feature 18 inch (46 centimeters) rims, up from 13 inches (33 centimeters). The move to larger tires made the cars heavier, and it also meant pit crews had to adjust to using larger, heavier tires. 

Final Thoughts

NASCAR tires and F1 tires have some similarities, but there are vast differences between the tire compounds used in each sport. NASCAR cars will use 1 dry compound of tire per race, while F1 teams will have 3 to choose from. F1 also frequently uses wet tires, while NASCAR rarely races in the rain.