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How to tell which Pirelli tyre is which during the 2011 F1 season
How to tell which Pirelli tyre is which during the 2011 F1 season
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Mar 2011   |  8:24 pm GMT  |  169 comments

This season the performance of the Pirelli tyres is going to be a real talking point and absolutely central to the outcome of races.

In order to help the fans, journalists and TV commentators identify which tyre is which they have colour coded the tyres for quick and easy identification.

This will be useful in qualifying, to see whether anyone feels they can get through Q1 on a set of hard tyres (the difference is said to be as much as 1.5 secs on a lap between soft and hard) and in the race to see what tyres a driver puts on at the pit stops.

In the slick tyre range, for dry weather running, the silver tyre (right of picture) is the Hard, the White tyre is the medium the Yellow is soft and the Red is supersoft. These should be very easy to spot during the practice, qualifying and race on TV and in the grandstands.

Wet tyre (left) and Intermediate (right)

In the wet tyre range, the Orange is full wet and the blue is Intermediate.

You will be seeing the Silver (hard) and Yellow (soft) in Australia next week and at the next two races in Malaysia and China.

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One question for you James, just curious. What if last year when Bridgestone announced they’d quit F1, but with no tire manufacturer putting their names forward to produce F1 tires for the teams. What would happen then?



Bernie Ecclestone would revive his Avon tyre service from the old days!


I stick by my comments before. I think the rule to use both compounds in a race is redundant. I say bring them all and the teams choose. Most will settle on the same choices but someone will always try something different. We need different strategies to be viable to make people think about using them. Having everyone forced into the same routine is boring.

As for the white/silver thing. While under planned circumstances we shouldn’t see them on the track together, there’s no guarantee this will be the case. Poor planning if you ask me. What would have been so bad with using green?


Stop making F1 looking like a bowl of fruity pebbles.


😀 Fruit Loops


Better yet, get Wrigley to sponsor the tires, and paint them like Life Savers.


If a team thought there might be advantage in “brightening up” the sidewall script with a non-standard-colour paint marker, would that be regarded as “unsporting”, do you suppose?



The silver and white colors are a very smart choice from Pirelli. They will never be seen together in the same race weekend, so this means the tire choices for a weekend will be: white or silver on black (colors that look good on any race tire), and some other flashy color (red or yellow) on black. Someone at Pirelli is thinking, which is a good sign…

The only color clashing may be someone going from a wet tire (orange) to a super soft (red) when the track starts to dry up- which I don’t think will ever happen anyways…

In short, no need for green.


If they are introducing an extra hard tyre for Turkey what colour will that be?


On a Pirelli related note:

I needed new tires for my car. I had the choice between Michelin, Pirelli and Bridgestone.

Mechanic said, get the Bridgestone because they last longer than the Pirellis. He then said, “look at F1 too, it is obvious”.

Even though I know Pirelli made the ones for F1 weaker so they wear off faster, it surely is not a good marketing strategy is it?

I mean, I went for the Birdgestones, while the Pirelli was a bit cheaper, because subconsciously it still has an effect, i.e. Bridgestone=durability, Pirelli= fragile.

Again, knwoing Pirelli makes them weak on purpose for the F1 to spice up the show, it has a negative affect on their brand in the public’s eye.


I find that strange, especially with the fact that there has not been one race yet, also that it has been clearly in the media of everyone wanting tyres that degrade more.

I think the mechanic wanted you to buy the more expensive tyre. If you really want to know their opinion on the best tyre just ask the boss what tyres he has on his car, and if he points out his car and tells you, you know he is being honest.

Me personally I would choose Pirelli allday long just because they are the F1 sponsor, hence their marketing strategy has worked on me!

Also if you really think that having a Bridgestone tyre on your car is something to do with it lasting longer, then maybe you should consider that having a Bridgestone tyre will mean you are a boring person, and having a Pirelli means you are exciting!



I had a similar thought, that if I were buying tires and had a slightly lower IQ, I’d be more likely to assume Bridgestones would last longer and Pirellis would wear faster, until I read the treadwear rating, and still might be influenced.

It can’t help them, the image of fast-wearing tires, can it? Bridgestone is probably loving all this free marketing, “the Bridgestones we so much more consistent and long-lasting and faster” etc. that we’ve been hearing and will still be hearing in the initial races at least.

Personally, though, I buy Michelins if I want longest-lasting tires with lowest rolling resistance, or so I’ve heard to be the case.


The environmental question is important too.


Really? That’s interesting. Anyone else had this experience


I think its a good idea to have different colours for different compounds.

I also think the fact the tyres wiil wear more therefore meaning more pit stops will liven up races.

One pit-stops last season made races boring a lot of the time last season.

Edward Valentine

Let’s say the average time lost in a pitstop is about 20-25 seconds. Is it possible for a driver to conserve tyres (drive at .75 of a second a lap slower for 15-20 laps) enough to make one less pitstop while being able to have a net gain over those who drive more aggressivly but need to make an extra stop or will the tyres just “drop off a cliff” in terms of performance after a few laps regardless?


That’s why this season is going to be so open. It looks like it won’t come down to outright pace in the car, but a mix of canny driving and smart strategy. Raw speed might get drivers to the front of the grid in qualy, but after that all the new variables kick in.

Edward Valentine

Indeed it won’t come down to outright pace, but what I’m asking is should there be any point to canny driving or will the new tyres drop off so significantly and very quickly thus negating the advantage given by conservative driving? I only ask this because I am a JB fan and though he is not the quickest on raw pace he may get the advantage with tyre mgmt.


Have you ever read so much moaning in all your life?! If I was Pirelli, after reading all this, I’d walk away, the fans do nothing but whinge.

Let’s remember that they are going out on a huge limb by producing less durable tyres for the sake of the show. For us. I think they deserve some more support, not just for that but for the color coding too. A racing wheel hasn’t even turned and already Pirelli have done more to engage the fans than bridgestone ever did… Pirelli > Bridgestone!


Completely agree!

Edward Valentine

Yep wholeheartedly agree!


To quote Pirelli’s press release:

“In order to make the differences between the prime and option tyre more pronounced Pirelli’s strategy is to offer a step of at least one compound between the tyres nominated for each race. If the track conditions require it though, this strategy may be revised.”

So the step between tyre compounds may be revised. This means we may end up with the white and silver tyres being used at the same event. If the Pirelli tyres prove to be too fragile, then it is conceivable that on a number of occasions the hard (silver) and medium (white) tyres will be used together. If they are, then it will be impossible to tell them apart when the cars are in motion.


Do you not think then that they may change the colour?


Yes I do. However it needlessly confuses the situation. It’s best to get it right and set in stone up front.

There is no regulation that enforces the gap between tyres specifications. In 2009, Bridgestone often chose not to have a gap (although they never used the hard and medium specifications together).

Given that Pirelli are a new supplier, their tyres degrade quicker than Bridgestone and the differences between their compounds is large, I can foresee they might not have the balance quite right. Hence they may want to bring harder tyre specifications without a gap to an event.


I understand your point but I think there intention was to have the 2 hardest compounds similar in colour as these will form the hardest tyre at each race.

I think they were trying to make it simple but as I say if they have to bring both the medium and hard compounds they will change the colour. I also don’t think this is there intention but I accept it could be an unlikely possiblity.


Yup, they have a shipment of light grey paint on standby.


I’m going to find it very difficult to cope with all this tyre nonsense on my old black & white portable telly…..


After 2 races and hundreds of laps watching the cars everybody will be familiarized with the tyre color and their´s specification.


Not to mention that I’m sure the TV commentators will be continually telling us what compound each driver is on.

It’s just not as complicated as some people are making it out to be. It’ll be fine.


58 comments on the colour of the words/logos on tyres that have been decided.

I believe people are colouring between the lines, and failing.


I thought it was quite a knowledgeable crowd here but the number of comments about white and silver has been surprising! They won’t appear together at the same race weekend people!!!!


We have a broad mix of knowledge levels here and that’s the way we want it.


I totally agree James. didn’t mean to sound eliteist! the on-board shots is a good point as the side walls of the tyre can’t be seen, the green stripe here obviously worked better.



Here’s an example of less-knowledgable: I wondered – is there also a radial coloured stripe around the middle of these tyres, that we can see from on-board-car cameras? Sometimes we only get blurred drives-past where it’s difficult to see the tyre wall colour, then cut back to on-board shots.


They could have pink polkadots…I just can’t wait to see them turning.


Something that would really, really help is having the tyre information on the live timing screen. Just one more column saying the type of tyre the driver has on would be awesome. Any way the suggestion can be passed along to those responsible?

About the colour selection…

Well, let’s see them on TV, but I think Yellow and Silver may look similar.


HARD: Yellow


SOFT: Blue


INTER: Green

WET: Orange

might be more discernible.

Do they want to avoid green because that was Bridgestone’s colour?


One more thing that occurred to me now on the topic of understanding what is going on!

Can the DRS system turn the car’s back/rain light on? It’d be one very easy way to show the system is in use.

At least as long as we get a back shot on TV.

Perhaps next year, if the system sticks, a new light (a line of bright LEDs on the edge) could be installed on the top of the wing.


Could go all out and have smoke trails installed. But seriously there was a Kers indicator broadcasted from the cars a few years ago which was made into quite a nice tv graphic I am sure there will be something similar this year. Good idea though!


They’ve taken the colours that are used in electric resistances, that’s why there is such a strange colour like silver.


Love it!!

There are people commenting on the most logical decision of keeping the harder 2 compounds closer in colour. This is so it’s easy to remember and yet people are complaining who don’t even know the rules!!!

Takes me back to the debate of the week where people want a return to ‘old racing’ forgetting that there wasn’t much racing in the past either!!


Do you know the rules? Please cite the regulation that enforces the gap between tyre compounds.

Love it!!


How about the rule that says they must stick to the colours? If they bring the 2 hardest compounds then they will change the colours. It really isn’t rocket science.

All pirelli are trying to do by having the white and silver is to have a common theme as there intention is that one of these tyres will be the hardest at each race. For me it is common sense but het I’m not pedantic!!


Because I imagine they want a seperate colour for the soft and supersoft as they are there performance tyre. I can only assume this as otherwise they would have just had a 2 colour formula.

Also, if you have lets say a purple/blue for the softer and super soft. Then a white/silver combo for the harder tyres people will get confused between which is which. One standardisation of white/silver is hard is easier to remember (for the casual viewer) as any other colour will be soft.


If it’s just common sense then why aren’t the two softer compounds also similarly coloured to continue this ‘theme’?

Because it’s not a theme, someone just got lazy and didn’t open a colour chart. Either that or they just hadn’t woken up properly when they chose them.


What Id like to see is the lowest quarter of my TV screen have a dashboard graphic with all the information from the car you are viewing, preferably from the drivers viewpoint. In the bottom part of the TV the BBC should put a dashboard like you are playing a F1 game. It could have the KERS bar, wing setting, speed and revs, g-meter, coloured wheel symbol showing what tyre type is on the car, the lot!! Everything you need to know could be on a dash like graphic onscreen all the time. But having said all that, I can absolutely gurantee that with MB and DC doing the commentary this year, we are going to be told more detail during this season than weve ever heard before about the cars, tyres and strategy developments. These 2 wont miss a trick because theyre too good. Im looking forward to the commentary almost as much as the racing this year!! #:)


Problem is, the BBC don’t control the on-screen graphics. That caomes through the FOM feed


FOM should show us more then. They’re up to so many things, the brake balance, fuel mixture, KERS status, the wing, when they can use the wing, how many ounces are left in the drink bottle (well, strike that), but I’d like to see more of HOW they’re doing what they’re doing, than just what they’re doing. If that were made public, it would be the same for everyone, having their data visible and seeing everyone else’s steering wheel settings.

When a race gets boring it would be something to stay interested about, “Oh look, my favorite driver is overheating his left-front tire, or has turned his engine down, what’s that going to do to us in 10 laps?”


I think you are right, you will get a lot of insight this year in commentary


Hi James,

Last year, you mostly saw the teams pitting their drivers a lap apart, but with the “drop off” of these new tyres being both severe and relatively sudden, do you see there being a big issue with both drivers needing to pit on the same lap??

How would you expect the teams to manage this situation??



Good question. A lot will be down to the drivers, but remember the one who pits FIRST is going to gain 4-6 seconds over the man he’s racing through new tyres performance. An advantage to the car following another


Is anyone else on here colour-blind?

Can’t they just put a number on them?

1 supersoft to 4 hard. Too simple?


Now that wouldn’t be very easy reading while the wheels spins at over 300 km/h, would it?


Sorry, there was a bit of irony intended there.

However, I would point out that for me, I can’t ‘read’ the colour at any damn speed.

There’s no problem really as the commentators will talk about which grade is on the car interminably.

My plea should be: can’t we just have tyres?

hold on, couldn’t they paint the numbers in different colours?


Do you think you could read the number on a spinning tire? (:


I don’t think I’m the only one asking this, but wouldn’t it be better to put the colours on the live timing screen than on the side of the tyre? I’d love to know at a glance what everyone is up to, e.g. faster laps by backmarkers, but the cameras tend to focus on a handful of front-running drivers.


+++ That would be good for sure…


White and silver are too close. Silver should be replaced with green making it very obvious.


SILVER and WHITE won’t run on the same weekend. Why is it so difficult to grasp.


Ok, I’m sure most people understand the White and Silver won’t run on the same weekend.

However, you must concede that the whole point of this tyre colouring exercise is to help distinguish between the individual compounds, not just between the softer and harder compounds on a given weekend, otherwise there would just be 2 colours like with Bridgestones, right?

So, with this in mind, no-one will be able to tell the difference between White and Silver in screen and we’re back to relying in the commentators telling us which one we’re racing during a weekend… and with no further ado, we’re back to square 1!

I find it funny that such an oversight can be made with such a simple solution, especially to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place.


Green should only be used if the tyres are manufactured from an ecologically sustainable, recyclable material.


Probably for about the fifth time now – The white and silver marked tyres will not be run together at the same race.

It will either be a combination of Red and White or of Yellow and Silver.

Should it ever be necessary for White and Silver to be run together (unlikely) it would not be beyond the wit of Pirelli to identify the compounds in a clearer way.


More like the 25th time.


To all of those moaning about the silver and white colours being hard to distinguish, please understand that these tyres won’t be running together within the same race!
And we will know in advance which of the two is running where, so no issues there.
And right because silver and white tyres won’t be ever running together this is exactly the reason why they were not colour coded in a very different shade.
Hope some of you will be able to grasp the logic!


Yes you are right Tex.


I grasp the logic, but what I don’t grasp is, if you’re going to make them different at all, why not make them distinguishably different. Look at that line of tires, it looks silly with the last two almost the same. Put green at right.

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