For those of you who are new to F1, a brand-new set of F1 tires cost about $2500.
F1 tires are much more expensive than regular road tires. Even if you have an expensive car and want to buy the best performing tires, it would still only be a fraction of what an F1 tire cost. That’s because F1 is at the very pinnacle of motorsport where performance and safety needs are critical; and for that sort of money you’d expect nothing but the best!
Also, just like regular car tires, F1 cars have to change to wet weather tires in wet conditions – so they’ll need several sets of each type per race weekend.
To give some idea on how many sets per team: There are 8 teams competing in each race and each team has two drivers so that makes 16 drivers in total – which means up to 16 sets per driver across dry weather (slick), intermediate, full wet & extra wet compounds!
There are 5 tire manufacturers all fighting for an edge, and it’s increasing costs.
While there are currently only five tire manufacturers involved in F1—Pirelli, Michelin, Goodyear, Firestone and Continental—the rules governing the race have changed enormously since its beginning in 1950. As technology advances, heightened tire performance is one of the first things to improve as teams strive for an edge. Forty years ago, a set of tires could last an entire season; nowadays they barely last a weekend.
This development has been extremely expensive for manufacturers who have had to increase their budgets by tens of millions of dollars just to keep up with the competition. And that’s not including the millions more spent on testing new compounds and building tires specifically for each track.
The top teams use between 20 and 25 sets of tires per car in each race weekend.
Now that you have a better idea of how much the teams spend on their tires, we’ll look at the more relevant figure: how much does it cost for each tire? First, let’s analyze how many sets of tires are used in each race weekend.
The top teams use between 20 and 25 sets of tires per car in each race weekend. A typical race weekend is Friday and Saturday practice, qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday. Each car has to use three sets of dry tires and two sets of wet tires in qualifying. The rulebook states that each car must run at least one set of dry compound A tires during Q1 (which is usually run with a green track) and one set of dry compound B+C tire during Q2 (usually run with a rubbered-in track). In Q3 (the top 10 shootout), cars must use at least one set of dry compound A or B+C tires (depending on which was used less in Q2).
Each car has to use between nine and 13 sets of dry tires in the race. In addition to the three sets from qualifying, six were brought for free practice/preparation before qualifying; for Pirelli’s hard/medium/soft range that is currently being used, this amounts to three hards, one mediums, and two softs per car.
Tire manufacturer Pirelli came to F1 in 2011.
Pirelli came to Formula 1 in 2011 as the sole supplier of tires for all teams in the sport. This is part of a wider association with Formula racing, supplying tires to Formula 2 and Formula 3 since 1950. Pirelli’s involvement in F1 is also a return after being thrown out of the sport by FIA president Max Mosley in 1999.
F1’s tire technology has improved significantly since the early 90s.
- F1’s tire technology has improved significantly since the early 90s. Looking at the example of rain tires, where one team was often required to make a pit-stop while another would stay out, simply because they couldn’t fit their tires in the tread grooves. With today’s rain tires, it is rare that a full set will be required by teams who can take advantage of improved tyre composition and construction technologies to stay on track with less difficulty.
- Intermediate tyres have been developed further as well, with compounds available that can deal with unexpected bursts of wet weather without causing too much degradation over long periods. The super-soft tyres also show how far we’ve come; your first set might last two laps before giving up completely and needing replacing completely!
F1 teams spend a lot on tires and have had to shift to more durable tires because of cost considerations
In the early 90s, F1 teams would burn through a huge number of tires because of their lack of durability. The teams were spending over $900,000 per season on tires alone. This was too much for tire manufacturers at the time and they opted to leave.
While things stabilized when Bridgestone came on board in 1997, it wasn’t until 2005 that F1 went from having multiple tire suppliers to just one, which resulted in further cost savings. In 2013 Pirelli replaced Bridgestone as the sole supplier and has continued to drive down costs.