What is the difference between Dry Tyres and Wet Tyres?
This weekend saw intense competition at the Formula One track as the title run-in looms. However, the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium brought an added twist due to the ever changing weather conditions.
The race started on dry tyres but rain was predicted within minutes. The problem F1 drivers face is that it is absolutely crucial to be on the right tyre at the right time.
Differences in the types of tyre in F1
There are a number of different tyres in motorsport racing with dry tyres having hard or soft rubber compounds. The following takes a look at some of the various tyres used:
Dry tyres (slicks): These are the most used as they are only useful in dry conditions. They feature only four small grooves with the majority of the surface area flat so it touches the road. The large surface area induces more contact with the road.
Intermediate tyres: These tyres are brilliant for the conditions that the drivers faced throughout the weekend. They have the ability to be used in damp and drying conditions. They feature more grooves but also in a V shape pattern. This is to displace the water from under the tyres to the side helping the tyre to grip the road.
Wet tyres: These are only used under heavy rain conditions and when the race track is wet. They feature lots of blocks in the tyre tread which help to pick up the water and displace it.
Race day tyre choices
The qualifying session used predominantly intermediate tyres but the early race conditions meant drivers had to start on slicks. Within minutes many of them were pitting for intermediate tyres as the track conditions changed with a small downpour. The drivers had to pit as the dry tyres simply did not provide any grip in the wet with several cars flying off the road and involved in accidents.
Alonso gambled and went to the full wets, however the rain never materialised and he soon had to put on the intermediate tyre – showing how crucial it is to be on the best tyre which is most suited to the particular conditions.
This chopped and changed throughout the race but the tyres to be on were the slicks and intermediates. Hamilton ended up winning the race, albeit with a small excursion through the gravel run-off area.
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development said:
“Spa has such a long lap that you cannot be on the correct tyre for an entire lap as the conditions can vary from very wet to damp to dry over the undulating 7km of this fabulous track. Judging the level of grip, even when you are not on the correct tyre, is a very important aspect of the art of driving a racing car, so it was a pleasure to watch this art in practice.”
Road car tyres
As you may realise racing tyres are a lot different to road tyres, for a start they are made from a softer compound, and you don’t get such a different range. There are many choices of car tyres available with a set of winter tyres becoming more popular in the UK. Okay, you may not be racing on the road so there may not be any performance issues but the extra grip they will give in the wet and snowy conditions will help a great deal.
So can you drive on dry tyres in the wet or visa-versa? It is dependent on the conditions but certainly not in F1, unless you have the skill of Ayrton Senna.