Why Are Formula 1 Tyres Shiny?

Pirelli via Twitter

Some of you more eagle-eyed Formula One fans may have realised a slight change to the overall look of F1 cars in recent years.

Whenever the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes teams roll out of the pitlane, the Pirelli tyres seem to have a plasticky sheen on their surface. Now, this shiny look disappears almost immediately when the driver smokes the rubber on pit exit, but the question still remains. Apart from making the car reflect the burning sun right back into our retinas, why are Formula 1 tyres shiny?

When Did This Change Happen?

The glossy look first appeared in pre-season testing back in 2019, and has been present on all compounds since the start of the same campaign. Even the new thinner tyres in use since the beginning of the 2022 season have the gleaming finish.

Creator: Mark Sutton | Credit: Mark Sutton / LAT Images
Copyright: LAT Images/Pirelli

What Is The Point Of A Shiny Tyre?

The engineers at Pirelli found that their softest compounds (C4 and C5) were so sticky that they were adhering to the moulds, leading to tiny bumps and crevasses in the tyres which reduced their grip and durability.

To combat this, they applied a thin chrome layer over the rubber to stop it from sticking to the mould, thus ensuring a smoother surface in the manufacturing process.

Creator: DPPI Media / Alamy Stock Photo | Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Copyright: Credit: DPPI Media / Alamy Stock Photo

Does It Affect Performance?

You might think the addition of a chrome layer would affect the performance of the tyre. But back in 2019, the head of Pirelli Motorsport, Mario Isola, assured us that this was not the case. “It is something that out of the pitlane will not change anything”, he said. Besides, the layer is completely sheared off within a few seconds anyway.

Creator: Mark Sutton | Credit: Mark Sutton / LAT Images
Copyright: LAT Images/Pirelli

So, there is your answer. F1 tyres are shiny because there is an extra layer applied for a more uniform and consistent manufacturing process.

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