On their return from Monza, Bibiana Campos Seijo talks to the Williams F1 team about tyre performance, fuel and the chemistry of racing

On their return from Monza, Bibiana Campos Seijo talks to the Williams F1 team about tyre performance, fuel and the chemistry of racing


Sam Michael, Technical Director

How closely related are race and road tyres?

They’re not at all related. F1 tyres are slick tyres and have no tread, while the side wall has a very high profile due to the 13in wheel rims. We also use very soft compounds for the tyres to create more grip, and so the wear rates on race tyres are much higher than those of road tyres. 

How important is tyre temperature in F1 racing?   

It is the most important item: if the tyre is outside its working temperature range, a lot of grip will be lost and our lap time will suffer.  

How important is the car-tyre balance?  

It is crucial to lap time to have a balanced race car. By balance I mean that it doesn’t have too much oversteer (rear axle limited) or understeer (front axle limited) so optimising the tyre performance for each axle is critical for the race.  

Are race and road fuels different?  

Yes. The composition is different - race fuels are ’cleaner’ to avoid having some of the contaminants that road car fuels inevitably attract - but they are closely regulated by the FIA (F?d?ration Internationale de l’Automobile) to ensure that we are road relevant. F1 fuel technology in areas such as biofuels aims to lead road cars in this field, using EU targets as a benchmark.  

Do you use your own fuel blend?  

Yes, we use our own blend of fuel, which is specifically tuned for the Cosworth engines that power our cars. To optimise their performance we measure power, fuel consumption and sensitivity to temperature.  

How have building materials changed through the years?  

Significantly - especially with the introduction of carbon fibre, which is now used a lot in F1 cars. Carbon fibre, alongside highly developed steels and titanium and aluminium alloys, dominates F1 nowadays.  

Will the cutting edge developments we see in F1 today end up being deployed to road cars?  

Many cutting edge developments are already seen in road cars today, such as those in braking systems and gearbox technology. Even some of the processes that we use in F1 to achieve our very tight timescales are now also being employed by some car manufacturers. F1 continues to be an incubator for technological developments, shown at Williams with the development of flywheel kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS), a technology which we believe has an important part to play in the future of road cars. Through our subsidiary companies, we are developing flywheel technology for other small to large applications, such as lifts and mass transit systems. It has already been successfully employed, notably in the race winning Porsche GT3R, and has a positive looking future. 

Component chemistry

Chemistry is very much the concern of some of our suppliers. This is the case in tyres, where the behaviour of the rubber compounds is dependent upon chemistry. We must understand the behaviour of these compounds under different conditions and why they behave in that way. In the composite constructions of the car, the chassis, the aerodynamic loaded surfaces and even suspension members, the chemistry and resulting characteristics of the binding matrix resins are critical to the performance of the components and we work with suppliers to attain what we require. This is also the case with structural adhesives upon which the integrity of the car is dependent.



Patrick Head, Director of Engineering



While an ordinary car tyre is made for durability - typically a life of 16,000km - and is made with heavy steel-belted radial plies, race car tyres are designed to be light and strong, withstanding anything up to 1 tonne of downforce and 4g and 5g lateral and longitudinal loadings. They are constructed from nylon and polyester woven in a complicated pattern and will last, at most, for 200km. The softness of the tyre rubber can be varied by changing the proportions of the three main ingredients added: carbon, sulfur and oil.

Racing tyres work best at high temperatures, typically between 90 and 110?C.

F1 tyres are filled with a special nitrogen-rich air mixture, designed to reduce variations in pressure with temperature.

An F1 team will use over 200,000 litres of fuel for testing and racing in one season alone. These can be of up to 50 different blends, specifically tuned for different circuits or weather conditions.

Source: The official F1  website