When you take the car for an MOT, one of the things they have to check for is the depth of tread left on your tyres. Anything below 1.6 millimetres is not allowed and can affect your breaking distance.
So why are some Formula 1 car tyres completely smooth?
The job of a tyre is to grip on to the road surface. Because the tyre is made of a very ‘grippy’ material there is a lot of friction between the tyre and the road. Friction is a very useful force that can slow you down and stop you slipping all over the place. Some Formula 1 cars use completely smooth tyres in dry weather. A completely smooth tyre has lots of contact between the rubber and the road so these smooth tyres give great grip for fast corners.
When you’re driving around in your hatchback in city, you can’t pull in at a pit-stop to have your tyres changed when the clouds open, so normal cars need tyres that can grip in all weathers. The tread patterns on the rubber do not help with grip, but are there to channel water off the road. If you let your tread get too shallow, the water can’t go anywhere and the wheels can skim along over the surface of the water. This is called ‘aquaplaning’ and is nasty for a car on any road, but could be much worse for a Formula 1 driver because of the speeds that they drive. So they can choose from a whole range of tyres to use during a race depending on the weather. Dry weather races are usually faster and more exciting because of the extra grip the smooth tyres can give on the race track.

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