F1 Pirellis: no average rubber
THE OTHER BLACK GOLD: There's more to F1's Pirelli tyres than frantic wheelchanges during pit stops.
MILAN, Italy – Pirelli, the sole tyre supplier to Formula 1, takes around 1800 tyres to each grand prix, but the destiny of these tyres is mapped out long before they arrive at the circuit.
The tyres are manufactured at Pirelli’s motorsport facility in Izmit, just outside Istanbul, Turkey and, during the production process, each tyre is allocated a barcode provided by the FIA.
This barcode is embedded into the tyre structure during the vulcanisation process and cannot be swopped. It contains all the details of each tyre, making it traceable throughout the race weekend with Pirelli’s RTS (Racing Tyre System) software.
HOME AND AWAY
For European grands prix, the tyres are transported to Pirelli’s logistics and distribution hub at Didcot in the United Kingdom where an FIA official receives a list of bar codes. These bar codes – and therefore tyres – are randomly allocated to individual teams. Pirelli itself is not involved in this process at all.
Once at the circuit, the tyres are then allocated to the teams and the barcodes allow both the FIA and Pirelli to ensure that the right teams, according to the regulations, are using the correct tyres.
Each team is allocated a Pirelli engineer, who works exclusively with that team for the year, but is privy to information relating specifically to his or her team over the weekend, so that individual strategies are not compromised.
Data collected is overseen by Pirelli’s senior engineers, who monitor all the information in order to assist the research team in charge of shaping the next generation of tyres.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Even if we wanted to – which we certainly don’t – there is no way that we could influence which tyres are being allocated to which teams. This is a job taken care of entirely by the FIA once the tyres have left the Izmit factory.
"It's just another way that impartiality can be ensured among all the teams, which is a huge priority for us as exclusive tyre supplier.”
COUNTDOWN THROUGH AN F1 GP
Before the grand prix:
Pirelli, with the approval from the FIA, selects the tyres for the race – a softer compound plus a harder compound.
Two weeks before the grand prix:
For European events the tyres for the race are transported 3100km by road from Izmit to Didcot.
One week before the GP:
The trucks set off from Didcot for the race, normally arriving on the Monday before the race takes place. The 18 fitters set up the fitting area and the barcodes are confirmed again with the FIA.
Five days before the GP:
The fitters start fitting tyres onto the rims. It takes an experienced fitter 2.5 minutes to fit one tyre from start to finish: for all the tyres of the weekend they need two days.
The teams own the wheels: they are brought to Pirelli at the circuit for the tyres to be fitted onto them.
During the GP weekend:
The sporting regulations determine that one set of the harder dry tyre must be returned after the first practice session, with one set of the softer and one set of the harder compound to be returned before the start of the third practice session.
A further set of softer and one of the harder compound must be returned before the start of qualifying. This means that each driver has six sets of the dry compounds (three of each specification) available for qualifying and the race.
After the GP:
All remaining tyres, both used and unused, are taken off their rims and then transported back to Didcot. When they arrive, the tyres are taken to a specialised plant where they are shredded and then burned at very high temperature to produce fuel for cement factories and by-products can also be used for road surfaces and other industrial applications.