Time for grooves to go

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Here’s proof that the FIA isn’t capable of joined-up thinking.

1998: Slick tyres are banned and grooved tyres introduced to control cornering speeds and make racing safer.

2006: A single tyre supplier is announced for 2008, to control cornering speeds and make racing safer.

Does F1 really need both rules? No.

After the FIA announced that F1 would only have on tyre supplier Michelin announced their withdrawal leaving Bridgestone as sole tyre suppliers for 2007, one year ahead of schedule.

As F1 now has one tyre supplier, who can reduce cornering speeds when needed by providing a harder tyre, why does it still need grooved tyres?

After all, grooved tyres are not used in any other major racing category. And Bridgestone supplies ‘spec’ slicks to GP2 and the Champ Car World Series – championships that both have a far better quality of racing than F1 does.

F1’s use of grooved tyres rarely gets talked about as being a reason why racing in F1 is not as good as it is in other series. But I firmly believe it’s a major part of the problem. Here’s what Damon Hill had to say about it when I asked him last year:

For a pure sensation of driving grooved tyres are a disaster. There’s not one person, not one driver I know who doesn’t think so. All you have to do is go for half a lap on a set of slicks and suddenly you think the whole world’s changed.

Grooved tyres have contributed to reducing speeds but they have not contributed to the racing in a positive way.

I can’t see any reason for keeping grooved tyres, but slicks are not on the menu for 2008 according to Bridgestone.

In fact F1’s tyre package next year will stay basically the same, which is a worry given how poor the racing this year has been. Hopefully the banning of traction control will spice things up.

Photo: GEPA / Franz Pammer

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Tags: f1 / formula one / formula 1 / grand prix / motor sport

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Time for grooves to go”

  1. yes this is what Max should think about instead of standardising the cars …

  2. The slicks are to be back for 2009..

    And again, don’t mess what you rate as “good racing” and what causes a series to decrease its interest.

    F1 and GP2 have nothing in common.
    Speed, driver level and sporting regulations make them totally different.

    F1 is having problems that have nothing to do with it compared to other series but because of internal regulations that make the evolution of F1 proceeding to less spectacular actions.

    As said , over and over, plans are there for 2009 which will feature greatly revised aerodynamics and chassis.

    For 2011 even more dramatic plans are there to have both the specificities of F1 and what appeal people that are not into driving/technology I.E:the show.
    (yeah cause you know, when you’re into both, F1 today is just fascinating)

  3. When it comes to what the FIA says is going to be on the cars in a given year, as far as I’m concerned it’s a case of I’ll believe it when I see it!

    I hope slicks are back in ’09, but I can’t see why they couldn’t have been brought in for next year. As soon as they decided to enforce a single tyre supplier, they should have been thinking “right, that means we can get rid of grooves then”.

  4. to be honest I don’t think the tires are the main issue. Back in 2003/2004 we were still using grooves, and personally, I found those seasons very enjoyable (dispite ferrari dominating in 2004, the rest of the field provided good action, especially the 3 races that ferrari lost, monaco, spa, and brazil.)

    maybe slightly off topic, but are we still getting the CDG Wing next year?

  5. in 2009 max downforce will be down by 400kg so slicks will be there and help.

    Now one thing to know: the FIA was totaly overdriven by teams for years. FIA never knew 10% of the technical knowledge teams had.

    All their regulation were mere raw regulations to stop speeds to grow up, but they made regulations that made some other parts of the racing worse (the downforce reduction was one of them)).

    Now since last year FIA decided to start a cooperation with Teams and now uses experts (ricardo) trying to overcome their lag..

    With technology it will be easier for them to police developpement.

    The ECU of next year is one of them.
    The problem is that they want to standardize everything on the same scheme..

    The FIA has one fear: loosing control of the F1.

    That’s why they did not wanted slicks back. They saw the cornering speeds of cars (in 2004 they were just frightening) with grooved tires.

    Currently the plan is to slow down F1 cars by 5 seconds in 2009 and progressively increasing the speed in 2011 to make the cars 3 sec slower than this year.

    This plan is stupid but it translated the fear of FIA, they plan the big slow down of cars to be sure that if the engineers overcome them (which will be the case for sure) the speeds will be at todays level maximum.

    There’s far more than what you see on track, problems comes from many factors.

    But my point was: don’t think F1 is like GP2 or like F1 in 94.

    F1 is always changing, and that’s the usefulness of this series.

    The boring state of some races is to be changed but there’s more to see (in particular, explaining to people the specificities of each year driving/technological changes).

    Did you know that driving with Traction Control required for pilots to control it entering a turn and at the exit of almost each turn?

    did you know Locking Slip Differentials affected the braking technique? (the so called left foot braking)

    did you know pilots adjust their braking balance on track?

    There’s so much on F1 many people don’t know about, if they knew then watching races would be far more interesting for them.

    But i do think a guy not being able/not willing to overtake is a problem.

  6. For better racing, it’s quite simple, mechanical grip not aerodynamic grip. That’s what we want!!!!

  7. People usually do not become interested in all the technical aspects unless they become interested in the F1 racing… Can’t expect to keep old and get new fans, just because “Locking Slip Differentials affect the braking technique” or because “pilots adjust their braking balance on track” or because “Traction Control required for pilots to control it entering a turn and at the exit of almost each turn”… majority of F1 fans will never care about this …

    So yes, I agree, there is much more to see in F1 than racing, but the racing is the basic part of it … And this part is deteriorating despite all the technological advances and hundreds of millions spent. Getting rid of traction control is a step in right direction, but there other things to get rid of and grooves are one of them…

  8. I totally agree with you on it.
    Racing (in the sense of competition) is deteriorating that’s true, i’m really for the 2009 aeros revamp.

    The TC ban to me will be one more interesting fact, it will require pilots to adapt and that’s another point specific to F1 (actually, again one not really unknown point is that some pilots that transitioned from michelins to bridgestones adapted their driving style better than some other, alonso did it quite flawless , hekki kovalainnen only discovered he had to change his driving style 2 gp ago), so it TC is bring back (in another form) latter i don’t mind as soon as it changes the style of driving.

  9. There are at least two reasons for keeping grooved tires:
    1. sudden rain—ever see what happens with a slick on a wet track? No control!
    2. lower cornering speeds—bring back slicks & corning speeds will go up.

  10. I don’t think grooved tyres offer advantages over slicks when it comes to rain falling on a dry track. The grooves aren’t designed for clearing water. In fact I think the opposite is true – as slicks present a larger block of rubber to the track they retain temperature and therefore grip better than grooved tyres in that situation. I certainly remember Martin Brundle saying something like that during the Argentinian Grand Prix in ’98, which was the first time rain had fallen on a dry track under the grooved tyre rules.

    As for cornering speeds, as said above, that can be controlled by Bridgestone’s choice of compound.

  11. “There are at least two reasons for keeping grooved tires:
    1. sudden rain—ever see what happens with a slick on a wet track? No control!
    2. lower cornering speeds—bring back slicks & corning speeds will go up.”

    1.Did you watch the German GP? Grooved tires didn’t work too well either.

    2. So now all ‘grip’ is made by massive down force, so in essence we have the same cornering speeds, except if one (of the many) down force devices breaks, your totally F’ed.

    Almost all corners have been made much safer over the past couple years. But your right who wants close racing and fast cornering speeds anyways. I say we put traffic lights and pedestrian walk ways, I want racing to be as much like my drive to work as possible (at least I actually pass people when I’m late for work!)

  12. bring back slicks and lower the aerodynamic stuff that will slow the cornering speeds down and allow cars to get close to 1 another encouraging overtaking. max mosley is an ****

  13. Let’s hope for the aerodinamic revolution in 2009.

  14. Don’t know about the grooved tyres, but i also think FIA is terrifing about loosing the control over the teams.

    I bet all the teams when they hear a new rule, they already have a little basis, some experience they had from previous races/tests. They work on the solution before the problem exists.

    FIA takes desicions that don’t have a real clear basis. Like the CDG wing. They supposed everything, they didn’t test it on a real car.

    Keith: here you have a video onboard of a lap at the long Buenos Aires track: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=MAKqs6jIfNI

  15. Regarding the tire manufacturers… Call me a conspiracy theorist but I do not believe both companies wanted to compete. The return on investment is nil.

    Does anyone really believe that Goodyear, Bridgestone, or Michelin sales are affected by the presence of one supplier?

    Let’s get real here. Please :)

  16. Keith did you see the question put to Nigel Robuck about 2005 tire rules?

    Ask Nigel

    The suggestion being that racing was far improved when tires weren’t changed in the pits. Any thoughts?

  17. Keith & Dan M:

    It’s true that `dry’ tires with groves aren’t as good in the wet as `wet’ tires with their special groves to channel water out away from the tire, but grooved `dry’ tires are vastly superior to slicks in the wet. Even at slow speeds, slicks can be impossible to drive.

  18. should we be asking serious questions why they build race tracks that dont allow much overtaking and, why they keep dumbing down all the great tracks.

  19. He’s always prepared….

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