Why do (most) Formula 1 tyres not have treads?

We all have seen tires with treads in our daily city commuters and sometimes we have seen sports/F1 cars with treads. But what about those that are smooth?

Tires with treads and “grips” are made to work in all weather conditions. Their purpose is to displace standing water in the circuit and hold cars to a maximum in wet conditions. For normal road tires, good grip is required to drive safely in the rain.

The long grooves were deliberately fitted to slow down the cars.

When you take the car for an MOT, apart from the dozens of checks to the car, one of the things they have to check for is the depth of tread left on your tires. Anything below 1.6mm is not allowed and can affect your breaking distance.

In dry situations F1 cars use very smooth tires with no tread. Why? What is the significance, especially in F1?

Let us discuss!

The tires without treads are called slicks. Having no treads increases the surface area of the tire in contact with the asphalt. More surface area equates to more grip. The bigger the better? Yes! Bigger, fatter tires means a grip like your grandmothers hug – Awwwww. The level of grip however varies for different compounds, the harder the tire compound, better is the longevity and longer is the time taken to get the tires to the best grip levels. Exactly opposite for the softer compounds. 

Slick tyres always have a more ‘soft’ compound, that means it gets very sticky when warm, the result is a lot wear and tear or quicker disintegration, hense why tyre changes during a race are common.

From the 2018 season there are 8 compounds for the slick tires which would be available depending on the circuit.

When you are driving around in your hatchback in city, you cannot pull in at a pit stop to have your tires changed when the clouds open, so normal cars need tires that can grip in all weathers. The tread patterns on the rubber do not help with grip, but are there to channel water off the road. If you let your tread get too shallow, the water cannot go anywhere and the wheels can skim along over the surface of the water. This is called aquaplaning and is nasty for a car on any road. This is incredibly dangerous for racing drivers because of the speeds they keep. Tyres are chosen dependant on the weather conditions. Dry weather races are usually faster and more exciting because of the extra grip the smooth tires can give on the racetrack.

Keep checking back for more Motorsport news! We go into depth of the mechanics of tires next!

Photos: Red Bull Racing