Why Do Race Cars Change Tires?

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Have you ever wondered why do race cars change tires? It seems like a strange thing to do, especially when the tires are in good condition. Well, there is a reason for it! In this blog post, we will discuss the different reasons that race cars need to change their tires.

We will also talk about how changing the tires can improve the car’s performance on the track. So, if you’re curious about why do race cars have to switch out their tires, keep reading!

Why Do Race Cars Change Tires?

Compared to road car tires, race car tires are extremely soft. This gives the tire an enormous amount of grip to help race cars around corners at extremely high speeds.

However this means that a race car tire can last as little as just a few laps before the rubber has worn off. This means that during the course of a race, a race car tires need to be changed at least once if not more.

In some races, teams have been known to run out of tires as there is a maximum amount allowed in each sport.

How many times do race cars change tires?

As we all know, race cars are capable of extreme speeds. Nascar and Formula 1 cars regularly hit close to 200mph in a race. And when they’re going that fast, the tires take a huge amount of abuse. The tires have to grip the road so the car can make turns, but they also have to deal with the immense amount of force that is being put on them.

This force causes the tires to wear down until the tires need to be changed. During a normal Formula 1 race, cars will change tires between 1 and 4 times. In the Nascar Daytona 500, up to 15 sets of tires are allowed, but normally a car will stop between 5 and 8 times.

In Formula 1 at least 1 stop is mandatory, but the total number of times a race car will change tires during a race will depend on a number of factors.

Race Tactics

One of the main reasons that a race car will change tires is due to race tactics. For example, if a driver is in the lead and wants to maintain their position, they might change tires to get fresher rubber and more grip. Tactics also vary depending on when rival teams decide to pit for new tires.

If a driver is trying to make up time, they might change their tires more than once to have fresher tires for longer. This gives the driver more grip and allows them to race faster. However, extra pit stops for new tires adds approximately 20 seconds per stop, so there is a trade-off between time and grip.

Alternatively, some drivers choose to pit less and drive on tires for longer. This conserves time but gives the driver less grip which means that their lap times become slower the more the tire wears down.

Tire compound

Another decision that drivers and teams need to make before and during a race is what compound of tire to use.

The different compounds offer different levels of grip and durability. For example, a softer compound will offer more grip but will wear out more quickly. A harder compound will offer less grip but will last longer.

The decision of which tire compound to use is a difficult one. The drivers need to have enough grip to be able to drive fast, but the teams also need to make sure that they don’t have to pit too often.

The tire compound that is used will also be affected by the weather conditions. For example, if it is raining, the track will be wet and the tires will need to have more grip. In this case, a softer compound tire might be used.

If the track is dry, a harder compound tire can be used because grip is less of an issue, but harder compounds will not be as fast as softer compound tires.

Weather Conditions

Another factor that will determine whether a race cars will decide to change tires is the weather conditions. If it begins to rain during the race, cars will need to change to wet tires that are better suited for grip in the rain. Wet tires feature tread patterns and grooves and are made from a different compound than dry tires.

If the track is wet but drying out, some drivers might start the race on wet tires and then change to dry tires once the track has dried out. This is because as the track dries, the grip of the wet tires decreases and it becomes faster to drive on dry tires.

Different Tracks

Another factor that determines how often race cars need to change tires is the track that the race is being held on.

Some tracks are harder on tires than others. For example, street courses or short ovals place more stress on tires than long ovals or road courses. This is because there are more turns and the cars spend more time turning, which causes the tires to wear down more quickly.

As a result, race cars on street courses or short ovals will need to change their tires more often than cars on long ovals or road courses.

The type of track can also affect the compound of tire that is used. For example, a harder compound might be used on a street course because the surface is rougher and the tires need to last longer.

Safety Car

The safety car is another factor that can cause race cars to change tires. If the safety car comes out on track, it restricts the speed of the cars while the incident on track is being cleared. This presents an opportunity for drivers to pit and change their tires without losing any time in the race.

This is because the safety car will be driving slowly and all of the cars will be bunched up behind it. If a driver pits while the safety car is out, they can change their tires and not lose any time.

The safety car can also be used as a strategy to help drivers who are struggling with their tires. If a driver is having trouble with grip, they can pit while the safety car is out and change to a different compound tire that might offer more grip.

This has sometimes caused massive controversy, including in final race of the 2021 Formula 1 Championship where a safety car allowed Max Verstappen to put on fresh tires on the final lap of the race against Lewis Hamilton who was on older tires.

This allowed Max overtake Lewis and win the world Championship.

Damage to tires or car

Finally, another reason that race cars might need to change their tires is if there is damage to the tires or the car. For example, if a tire is punctured or has a cut in it, the driver will need to pit to change the tire.

If there is damage to the car, the driver might need to change tires to avoid making the problem worse. Collisions are a common occurrence in racing and if a car needs to pit for a repair, the team will use the opportunity to also fit fresh tires and save time from needing to pit again further into the race.


In summary, race cars need to change their tires for a variety of reasons. The main reason is to get new tires with the correct compound for the current conditions. However, other factors like the type of track, weather conditions, and safety car can also cause race cars to change their tires.

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If you have any questions then please leave a comment below or get in touch via email or through social media and we will read and respond to every comment, email or question. Thanks for reading!

How quick can a race car change tires?

Pit stops during a Formula 1 race can take as little as 2 seconds once the car has pitted for new tires! Nascar pit stops take longer, up to 15 seconds as there is a limit to the number of mechanics allowed to work on the car at one time.

How long do race car tire last?

This depends on how soft the tire compound is. The softest tire may only last a few laps, and harder compounds can last up to 100 miles, which is still far less than normal road cars.

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