Unlimited grip? Or terrible disaster?
Anyone who watches any motorsports at all will know the importance of tyres. They’re second only to driving skill when it comes to gaining time on track. The stickier your tyres, the faster you go, simple. It’s why UHP (ultra high performance) tyres exist, and beyond that, even extreme performance or trackday tyres; tyres with greater tread surface area and a softer, stickier compound, which allow them to grip harder to the tarmac.
Tyres don’t come much stickier, and cars don’t come any quicker than those in Formula 1. In fact, as the pinnacle of motor racing, F1 has the quickest cars on earth. They’re capable of going around corners with as much force as a fighter pilot experiences in a dogfight, and a lot of that is thanks to the tyres they use. The slick tyres that messrs Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Alonso, Ricciardo et al put on their cars every other weekend get so soft and tacky when they’re up to temperature that you could put your fingernail into them without much effort.
So if they’re that effective, surely they’d be the holy grail of trackday mods for your car right? Err, maybe not. YouTube channel Driven Media somehow managed to get hold of a set of the 13-inch soft compound Pirellis that F1 had been running for years before 2022’s switch to 18-inch wheels, and bolted them on to a Caterham.
Ok, perhaps that’s an oversimplification… First they CNC machined a set of adapters to fit the centre-lock F1 wheels onto the Caterham’s 5 lug nut wheel hubs. And then bolted them on. And boy do they look goofy, like the car is riding on balloons…
The results – probably surprisingly to anyone not familiar with the concept of “warming up the tyres” – were a hilarious letdown. All performance tyres perform at their best only after getting some heat in them, and F1 tyres need lots of it before they start gripping (about 100deg C is optimal). Without it, they’re even more useless at holding onto the road than even the hardest and most fuel efficient eco tyres, and as the Driven Media guys found out, heat is a perilously rare commodity on a cold, greasy British spring day.
Check out their video to see how they got on: