The tires are one of Formula 1’s most important elements and it can become somewhat confusing when different terms are being used in relation to the tires. One of the terms you may often hear and wonder what it means in F1 is deg or tire degradation.
Deg or degradation in F1 refers to the thermal performance of a car’s tires. This refers to how fast the tire is losing performance as a result of the conditions, both in terms of the track and how the car is being driven. This is different from tire wear, which is the tire physically wearing out.
It’s important to understand exactly what tire deg is and how it affects the performance of the tires. This will help you to better understand what is happening during the course of a lap and across the race. We go through tire degradation in F1 in more detail below.
What Does Tire Degradation Mean In F1?
Tire degradation, also known as tire “deg,” refers to the thermal performance of the tires on an F1 car. Tire temperatures are crucial in Formula 1, and it can have a huge impact on how fast the car can go, and so tire deg is a vital thing teams must measure over the course of a race.
Some cars are able to get heat into their tires quickly, which will help them over qualifying laps. However, this may become a problem in the race if the tires retain their temperature and keep building up their temperature. Tires that are too hot will also lose performance.
The Importance Of Tire Temperature
When a tire is too cold or too hot it is not able to produce enough grip for the car. This means that the driver may struggle to keep the car under control. Drivers might experience spinning, sliding, tires losing traction when accelerating, or in some cases they may struggle to slow the car down under braking.
So, building temperature is important to ensure the tires have enough heat in them to provide enough grip, but not so much heat that they overheat and lose grip. This balance of temperature is linked to the thermal performance of the tire, which is where the term tire deg or tire degradation comes in.
What Is The Difference Between Tire Degradation And Tire Wear?
While many might think that tire deg and tire wear are the same thing, there’s actually a big difference between the two terms. It’s important to grasp this difference, as teams, drivers, and commentators might refer to one or the other as being a problem for a specific car.
While tire deg is the thermal performance of the tire, tire wear refers to the lifespan of the tire and how much of it has been consumed. A tire physically wears as it is being used, and with excessive wear drivers may experience blistering or graining. There are various things that can affect the tire wear, which we’ll touch on in a moment.
How Tire Deg Differs From Tire Wear
Tire deg on the other hand is all about how the tire performs. Over time, an F1 car’s tires will begin to physically deform at the molecular level. The compounds used in the tires begin to change shape, some temporarily and some permanently, under extremes of temperature. The process of deforming and reforming is known in F1 as the tire’s heat cycle.
This is a natural part of racing at high speeds, and it’s not exclusive to Formula 1. However, the Pirelli tires used in F1 are specifically designed to degrade over time, to force teams to respond to this using strategic pit stops. Tire deg is essentially a measurement of how much grip the tire can still provide, while wear is how much of the physical tire itself has worn away.
Tire deg has a significant effect on the levels of tire wear. When a tire begins to overheat, not only will the driver begin to lose grip from their tires as a result of the tire compounds becoming less ‘sticky,’ but the tires will also begin to wear out much faster than before.
This means that there will be less overall life in the tire, so it will not be able to last as long, and it will also mean that the tires have less of their physical structure left to provide grip. So, with high levels of tire degradation also come high levels of tire wear, and both lead to a decrease in grip for the driver.
How Fast Do F1 Tires Degrade?
Formula 1 tires can degrade extremely fast. They can degrade a lot even over the course of just one lap. How fast F1 tires degrade depends on the driving style of the particular driver, the track conditions, and the compound of tire the car is using. Soft tires degrade faster than hard tires.
In modern Formula 1 cars, the tires can sometimes degrade by the end of the lap if they are pushed too hard. This is especially true in qualifying sessions, as drivers will push their cars far harder than they would push in a race.
There’s also a wide range of tire deg across the cars during the race. Some cars are able to get heat into their tires quickly, which will give them quick opening laps and out laps after a pit stop. Other cars might struggle with overheating tires and need to slow down more in order to cool the tires down to avoid excessive degradation.
What Does Falling Off The Cliff Mean In F1?
Falling off the cliff in F1 refers to a car’s tires losing lots of their grip very quickly, leaving the driver with very little grip all of a sudden. This happens towards the end of a tire’s lifespan, usually forcing the driver to pit. Falling off the cliff leads to longer lap times.
High Deg vs Low Deg F1 Tracks
One of the most influential factors to consider when it comes to the degradation of F1 tires is the condition of the circuit that the cars are driving on. Some circuits are worse for tires deg than others, and there are some key differences between these circuits that cause the variance in tire deg.
Each circuit is unique, and teams can combat high tire deg by adjusting their setup. The team can adjust the camber and toe for example, or alter the car’s downforce levels.
Choosing The Right Tires
Pirelli also takes careful consideration in terms of which tires they bring to each track. Tracks with lower deg allows them to bring softer tires, and tracks with higher deg requires them to bring harder compound tires. This helps the teams to cope better with the track conditions.
Drivers will have the soft, medium, and hard tires available to them at each track. However, the compound of each of these tires can vary. There is a range of five different tires that Pirelli can bring to each track, namely the C1, C2, C3, C4, and C5 tires. The hardest compound on the list is the C1 tire and the softest compound is the C5 tire. Soft tires will degrade faster than harder tires.
Track Factors That Influence Tire Deg
The track temperature might be the most obvious factor that will impact the temperature of the tires. In hotter climates, such as in the Middle East, the track temperature can become very high during the day, which can cause the tires to overheat quicker.
In cooler climates, such as during the European races, the track temperature can drop significantly. This is when drivers begin to struggle to control the temperature of their tires and tend to take longer to get them into their ideal operating window.
The track surface is another important factor that can influence both tire deg and tire wear in F1. Each Formula 1 circuit is made of a different mixture of tarmac compounds. This gives each circuit a unique surface which influences the tire temperatures.
Some circuits ae more abrasive than others. This is great for grip, as a circuit with more abrasive tarmac will lead to more friction between the tires and the surface of the track. However, this added friction will also cause the tires to heat up much quicker, leading to high tire deg.
The higher tire deg then in turn leads to higher tire wear, but more abrasive surfaces also increase wear just by the fact they are quite rough. On abrasive circuits, Pirelli will bring their hardest compound tires as they will be able to provide enough grip, while also being able to withstand the higher tire deg from the added friction.
Tire deg or tire degradation in F1 refers to the thermal performance of the tires, which is different to the physical wear of the tire. Tire deg is basically a measure of how much grip an F1 car’s tires can provide, and tire deg always increases over time, which in turn increases tire wear.