Italian GP was the last European F1 race to feature the grooved tyres (not much though due to rain). There are only four more fly-away races left this season and then the grooves (along with other ugly things) will be gone, hopefully for good. Hated by many fans the grooves have been with us for 11 seasons since 1998. Back then in 1998 Goodyear was still F1 tyre supplier and Bridgestone started only their 2nd F1 season after their 20 year hiatus. Now however we are about to see the last of them. Here is a brief look at the short history of modern grooved Formula 1 tyres.
Originally with 3 circumferential grooves on the front tyres and 4 on the rear ones they were introduced in order to slow down the cars. From 1999 the front tyres received the 4th groove as well.
In 1999 and 2000 all the grooves were supplied by Bridgestone, the sole tyre supplier at that time. But then in 2001 Michelin re-entered the sport after 16 year absence starting several years of tyre war not known since Michelin and Pirelli departed in 80s. The tyre rules remained pretty much the same until 2005 when the single tyre rule was introduced. The tyre changes were banned, the drivers could only use one set of tyres during qualifying and the race (with some provisions for punctures and wet weather conditions). Some say it was an effort to end the Ferrari dominance. If that was the case it worked.
This rule only lasted for a year. The Indianapolis Michelin fiasco, Kimi Raikkonen’s high speed tyre failure at Nurburgring contributed to the decision to bring the tyre changes back in 2006. The events of 2005 also lead to introduction of single tyre supplier and control tyres from 2008. Following the withdrawal of Michelin from F1 the single tyre supplier and control tyres came to effect in 2007, a season earlier than planned.
To spice up the racing a bit and keep people talking about tyres Bridgestone guys have been supplying two different tyre compounds – soft and hard (prime and option or option and prime) – each car having to use both sets during the race. They marked the softer compound with a white dot on the sidewall for the 2007 Australian GP. Nobody could however see it and so from the 2007 Malaysian GP onwards the softer compound tyres have had one of the grooves painted white …
So four more racess to go in 2008, the last four for the grooves. When the F1 returns in 2009, the cars will sport slicks, last seen in F1 racing back in 1997 …
More on 2009 Formula 1 cars in previous posts:
2009 Formula 1 cars – The rear wing
2009 Formula 1 cars look – The most obvious differences
Photos: Williams/LAT, Renault/LAT