Welcome to Zooming In: Your insider view into the technology and talent that keeps the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team racing at peak level. In this episode, learn how special tyres help us keep our dreams on track.
Ever since Formula E first electrified the world of motorsports, it has thrilled sports fans and tech lovers alike. You can see continuous technological advancement in almost every aspect you care to look at - from the driver’s halo to the steering wheel, from the braking systems to the batteries. But, just how far can you take a tyre? We asked Matteo Marini – vehicle dynamics and tyre engineer for the TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team – to give us the low-down on what makes Formula E tyres unique.
Unsurprisingly, Formula E tyres are very different from those used in other racing classes. For starters, they are standardised across the competition. Tyre sizes are identical across all teams. The front tyre width is set at 245mm and the rear tyre width is 305mm. This gives the driver enough footprint (the amount of tyre in contact with the road) to translate the power of the engine into forward thrust without losing traction, while maintaining accurate steering.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that, unlike other racing classes, a Formula E race allows no tyre-swapping (besides replacing damaged tyres, obviously). With no chance to change from “slicks” when it’s dry, to “wet” tyres when it’s raining, Formula E tyres have to perform in all-weather conditions. Travelling around the world, facing conditions that range between hot and cold, wet and dry (and anything in between), Formula E tyres have to be tough enough to last a full race – averaging around 200km - without failing.
Being a good all-rounder is not enough; in fact, the tyres must be even more precisely engineered. Not only must the tread be able to disperse water, it also has to grip harder in dry conditions. Which means finding the perfect rubber compound: soft enough to get sticky when it’s warmed up, but not so soft that it disintegrates before passing the chequered flag! Finally, there’s the “mean streets” factor – hazards that tyres encounter on city street circuits, such as manhole covers and divider walls.
According to Matteo, getting optimal performance from the tyres can shape the entire race plan. The driver must be strategic in free practice, as well as in the race, how and where to bring the tyres up to the optimal operating condition. Considering that tyre grip can vary by up to 30% during a single event, it becomes even more crucial to know exactly what’s happening with your tyres. This is, quite literally, where the rubber meets the road!
We hope you enjoyed this look into the tech that makes our world go round. Be sure to stay tuned for further episodes of Zooming In.