F1 for dummies: do all f1 cars fit Pirelli tyres?

Motorsports enthusiasts are well aware that Formula 1 is not an individual sport. The drivers take centre stage but there is frantic teamwork involving dozens of people behind the scenes. Each of the ten racing teams is a unique blend of personalities, knowledge, strengths and weaknesses that are expressed in the preparation of the twenty cars vying for the title. Each car is unique, studied down to the tiniest detail and calibrated according to strategies, conditions and objectives. So, if the championship is all about developing custom components and setups, why do all Formula 1 cars fit Pirelli tyres?

PIRELLI IS THE GLOBAL TYRE PARTNER OF FORMULA 1

The brand with the stretched P logo is the protagonist of all Grand Prix events. But it has not always been so. Today, all cars competing in Formula 1 (as well as those in Formula 2 and Formula 3) fit Pirelli tyres but for many years more than one tyre manufacturer was present at every Grand Prix as the championship supplier. Back in 2007, FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the regulatory body of the championship) introduced the single-tyre supplier rule to prevent competition between suppliers opting for maximum performance over safety and to keep costs down. Pirelli has been the Global Tyre Partner of the Formula 1 World Championship since 2011 and this will continue, according to the existing contract, at least until the end of 2024. It means that all teams are provided with the same tyres and, for each GP, they are supported by a team of Pirelli technicians who offer their support, information and monitoring to manage the supplied tyre set in the best possible way.

THE HISTORY OF PIRELLI IN FORMULA 1

Throughout history, there have been 10 tyre suppliers in Formula 1 and Pirelli is one of the longest-running. The “prehistory” of Formula 1 dates back to the first motor racing competitions at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, almost all cars were open-wheelers, but the first ones really resembling today’s single-seaters did not arrive until the 1920s. Although the early Formula 1 cars raced until World War II, the first Grand Prix valid for the world championship was the one held in 1950 on the legendary Silverstone track in Great Britain. Pirelli was there and was sure to make its presence noted. It equipped the Alfa Romeo of the winner Giuseppe Nino Farina, at the end of the first modern Formula 1 season well before the single-tyre supplier days. Pirelli is the only tyre manufacturer that has competed in Formula 1 with all sizes during the history of the championship, spanning from the tall and narrow tyres with sculpted treads of the 1950s, the 13-inch rims, the slicks, the wide footprint model of 2017 that offered a considerable increase in cornering speeds and set new lap records to the technological revolution in 2022 with the debut of the 18-inch rims. Being the single partner of the championship has allowed Pirelli to gain experience, professionalism and some of the most advanced technologies in the world, which are exploited to develop road tyres made for everyday motoring. Formula 1 has been Pirelli’s most important open-air laboratory for many years now.

PIRELLI FORMULA 1 TYRE DEVELOPMENT

The teams and the drivers play a key role in the development of Pirelli’s Formula 1 tyres. Test sessions are held during the year on some of the circuits where Grand Prix races are held to try out the new prototypes to keep the range constantly updated and approved by the people who will be using them to contend for the title. Testing by the drivers comes at the end of a long development process that started in Pirelli’s headquarters in Milan. This is where the original tyre design is created with the help of the most modern modelling and simulation technologies that allow work to be done digitally, optimising time and reducing waste. The project follows the target letter guidelines set by the championship organisers to define the standards that the products must meet. After that, the prototype is made. It needs to pass an initial phase of testing in the indoor labs and then move on to track testing, using a representative variety of different cars, tracks and conditions. Feedback and requests for adjustments are gathered during the test sessions and the prototype is finally approved towards the end of the season. It is then sent into production for use in the following year’s championship. The regulations require that tyre models are not changed during a championship, unless for safety reasons invoked by Pirelli itself and then agreed with the teams and the sporting authority. All tyres have an identification code for tracking purposes. Each tyre will go exactly where it is meant to go and after each race, if used on the track or just mounted on a rim, it will be sent back to the Pirelli plant at Didcot in Great Britain for disposal. The tyres produced are subjected to rigorous quality checks to ensure that they are fault-free to stress tests on a random basis to examine their behaviour at the limit. Pirelli has two factories specialising in the production of motorsport tyres, in Slatina in Romania and Izmit in Turkey. The Formula 1 tyres are made in Romania. From the factory and through the management hub of Didcot, the complex logistics machine takes off and culminates in the final arrival of some 2300 tyres at the circuit hosting the Grand Prix soon before it starts. And then on to the next Grand Prix.

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