Formula 1 Tyre Rules Change Again

Just a few weeks now till the opening of the new F1 season. Tyre equipment has changed to Pirelli from Bridgestone. Pirelli have finished their testing of development tyres at Abu Dhabi, using a 2009 Toyota F1 car as their test bed.

Then along came the “rule changers”.

This year the number of sets of dry weather tyres that can be used over a weekend of qualifying and racing has been reduced from 14 sets to 11. One complete set (4 tyres) has to be handed back before the start of the weekend’s second practice session, and two sets before the third practice.

Not only that, but the top ten qualifiers have to start on the same tyres as were used when setting their qualifying time.

This approach is aimed at having the team managers have a good look at their strategies, as some teams may opt to set slower practice times in order to have optimum tyre equipment for the actual race conditions.

Need more background information? Then have a look at “Tread Compounds for Formula 1”, and a heartfelt plea for the hair tearing stages that team managers already go through to choose the right tyre for the conditions, earlier in the “The Tyre Blog”.


February 4, 2011 at 3:10 am Leave a comment


It’s almost a cliche- the photo of a giant tyre dwarfing the man standing beside it, at some remote mining site somewhere in Western Australia. They always seem to populate the financial pages, and mining magazines.

They’re big alright- the wheels are large enough to accommodate the electric drive motors in the hubs- a 52 inch wheel rim is small fry. The dump trucks can carry loads over 250 ton, and they’re not exactly light themselves. All this is carried by 6 giant tyres.

They are shipped into the country in empty ore carriers from overseas, generally Japan. However, due to the mining boom, there is a worldwide shortage, and relatively few manufacturers tooled up to produce these tyres for use on extraordinarily large and expensive equipment.

The tyres are expensive, but downtime on the machines they equip is even more so. So mining sites maintain their haul roads in excellent condition, so that rocks or spoil cannot damage the tyres.

Thirty years ago, retreading these tyres was practised extensively, but eventually died out because of the economics of transporting them to a central factory and return, when the new tyres were delivered practically on the doorstep of the mines.

However, due to the shortage of tyres, and the skyrocketing cost of natural rubber, the economics of retreading (sometimes called relugging) are being examined again.

Rebuilding the tyres involves removing what is left of the old tread, preparing a surface to which new rubber will bond, applying new rubber, and sculpting it to a tread design compatible with the original tread. For this, massive machinery is required, so the investment is not undertaken lightly.

30 or more years ago, lugs of rubber prepared with a sticky base were heated, and hammered onto the prepared surface. Rebuilding a tyre could take two days by this method. The system has been mechanised to some extent. A continuous strip of hot sticky rubber is spirally wrapped around the tyre to a controlled profile. The result looks like “corrugated rubber”, and at this stage has no tread pattern.

A tread pattern-cutting machine, massively strong, is then used to cut out the surplus rubber between the tread lugs. This excess can then be used again, representing quite a saving in material.

Finally, the rebuilt tyre is loaded into a giant autoclave, bigger in diameter than the rebuilt tyre.
When I left the industry in 1989, these were 130 inches in diameter, 12 feet deep, and required a very large steam boiler and air compressor to fill them, taking three tyres at a time. Curing time was in the order of 14-16 hours. Vulcanisation was completed over 24 hours as the tyre cooled down. In fact, the internal tyre temperature continued to climb as the tyre was removed from the autoclave.

These tyres are BIG! 33.00 x 52 was the biggest 30 years ago. Bet they are bigger now!

In terms of conservation of resources, retreading these tyres makes sense. After all there are only so many ways that discarded giant tyres can be used to define a farm front gate, line a mining road, or impress a tyre service’s customers. Reliability of performance is still the prime requisite as far as the mines are concerned. It only requires one lug to fall off, or get torn off, and the machine is out of action.

One of my earliest memories of these tyres was at the bottom of the Avon Gorge in W.A., where a deep gorge was being cut to accommodate the then new Trans Continental railway. The gorge was so deep that at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, it was dark at the bottom at the work site. The Euclid scrapers had experimental Michelin Radial tyres on them, the tyres having been developed for use in the Sahara desert. When empty, the scrapers used to charge back at 30 m.p.h. with the driver hanging on for dear life, firmly belted to his seat, clad only in shorts and work boots, as the contrivance bucked and kangarooed along the haul road. That’s when I learnt that the tyres were the whole of the suspension system.

Another experience was at Dampier, W.A., when the salt mine there wanted to shift 12 million tons of salt in a hurry, away from the adjacent iron ore stockpile. Triple trucks (i.e. one more trailer than a double, weighing 101 tonne empty, (aluminium) were loaded with 160 tonne of salt, carried it 10 kilometres, dumped, and returned empty. Tyre size involved was a comparatively small 14.00-24, but the problem was that it was 52 degrees, and the tyres never had a chance to cool down. So the haul speed had to be restricted, and this cost money. So did blown tyres! At 68 km/h the tyres performed O.K., at 73 km/h they became unreliable. Quite a lesson there in “make haste, less speed”.

February 1, 2011 at 2:32 am Leave a comment

Maxxis Tyres Sponsors Australian Tennis Open

Maxxis tyres have announced that they will join Kia Motors in sponsoring the Australian Tennis Open during late January in Melbourne.

And no wonder! The Open is seen on television in over 157 countries, to a world-wide audience of over 500 million. Not only that, but 678000 spectators attend over the two weeks of the Grand Slam tournament.

That’s what is called exposure!

Unfortunately though, it looks unlikely that an Aussie will last past the quarters despite the urgings of the press, though Samantha Stosur may surprise, as she did in the French Open.

Just hope that Kia and Maxxis don’t leave any tyre marks on the court surfaces!

The glory days of Australian tennis are long gone, but that doesn’t stop our Seniors players indulging in a week of competitive tennis earlier in January at Newcastle. In tennis, anyone over 35 is regarded as a “senior”. The competition is divided into five-year age groups, from 35 to 80 plus. Your scribe has made it into the over 75’s N.S.W. team, and will be playing against teams from 5 Australian States and N.Z. The older they get, the more cunning they get.

So wish us luck. It costs us $168 to enter and buy the team shirt. After that, it’s all fun, fun, fun; and that’s what it’s all about.

I bet it cost Kia Motors and Maxxis more than that!

November 24, 2010 at 12:16 am 1 comment

China and India’s Tyre Manufacturing Growth

Recent figures from China Rubber Industry’s Association highlight the huge
growth in manufacturing capacity there. Taking 2009 production of 389 million tyres as the base line figure, tyre production rose 10.5% to 420 million in 2010; and is predicted to grow 50% in five years to 570 million tyres.

Meanwhile India’s economy is booming. The size of the domestic market is growing astronomically, so that at this stage, not a lot of production is slated for export. However, the pace of expansion is such that within five years it is predicted that India will be ranked in the top ten. The newest factory is designed to produce 10 million tyres a year- and that’s just the first stage for starters. Optimum size for a tyre plant used to be considered to be 16 million a year.

November 24, 2010 at 12:13 am 1 comment

Price Rises for Tyres Coming

The cost of natural rubber has reached an all time high of over US$3/lb; tyre prices in Europe are to rise by around 5%, so it appears inevitable that, after a due delay due to shipping from overseas, (all tyres are now imported) tyre prices will rise in Australia by around the same percentage.

Natural rubber is still used in the carcase and sidewalls of a passenger tyre, and a much greater percentage in heavy vehicle tyres.

October 12, 2010 at 4:24 am 4 comments

Pirelli Boots

Not so long ago, fitting a new set of tyres was referred to colloquially as “fitting new boots”.

Now it’s for real.

Pirelli have launched a fashion line of ladies boots based on their PZero line of tyres!

The “Gum Collection” of high heeled shoes includes dual tone rain boots, low cut shoes, passe-partout boots, and 8 cm high lace up half-boots..Wow!

These shoes offer soles based on the P-Lunga tyre, providing what Pirelli calls a “fusion of femininity and comfort”. Good tread pattern too!

But the colours are truly awesome. Can you imagine the ladies in industrial grey and anthracite ( read jet black); petrol and tyre black (???); bordeaux, and yellow.

That’s what is called “drawing a long bow” in the fashion industry. It just leaves us tyre blokes gobsmacked.

October 12, 2010 at 12:52 am 1 comment

Introducing the new hosereel tyres!

Every new car has at least 4 wheel rims attached to it. They are still there when the car is scrapped, except for the relative few that find other uses.

One of the most popular is as a hosereel, and probably hundreds of thousands are attached to garden and garage walls around the world.

As against that, over 150 million are scrapped each year alone, melted down and used again.

However, this is the only recorded case I can find, where the two uses have been combined- car wheel and hose reel at the same time. One thing for sure, the driver won’t get far. And the rim will only be suitable for scrap after this sort of treatment.

With the current trend to vehicles not having a spare, we can expect to see this more often.

Once, tyres were filled with grass to get you to a garage. Nowadays, you can’t even dislodge the beads to fill the tyre with anything at all!

September 23, 2010 at 4:09 am Leave a comment

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