Five questions to Mario Isola: Pirelli racing manager

Five questions to Mario Isola, Pirelli racing manager 01

Formula 1 is rightly considered the leader of the motorsports. It is, undoubtedly, the most popular sport among high-speed addicts and the first choice of those interested in the grand apparatus of technological research employed to develop always better and faster vehicles.
The research is not only focused on the fields of engine mechanics and aerodynamics; a great deal of research is also carried out in the development of one of the most important variables in grand prix, i.e. the tyres and their use.
It is a joint research: Pirelli’s is concerned with the potential of the tyre and its reliability, and every team with the difficult task of setting their cars in order to limit the tread consumption during the race.
For both Pirelli and the teams, aiming at perfection is the real challenge, and it requires practice, experience and strategy.
Mario Isola is Pirelli Racing Manager and the key figure that connects the world of F1 teams with that of the only tyre developer in F1, Pirelli.

What first attracted to you to motorsport?
“I grew up watching Formula 1®, so of course, as soon as I was old enough, I started pestering my father to get me a kart. We bought an old, cheap kart and it went quite well, so after a year or so he got me a proper kart, in the cadet 100 class, and then I was rarely out of it. I competed in karts for about 10 years and motorsport has been a key part of my life ever since. Karting was really good fun, and although I was certainly never at the level of the drivers we are working with now, a background in competition really helps me to relate to the feedback that they give me in my current role. I had the good fortune to be karting with some drivers who went on to achieve a lot: the first time I met Max Papis, for example, when I was working at Pirelli, he said to me: ‘don’t I know you from somewhere before?’ And it’s true: we were karting together when we were teenagers!”

You started in Pirelli as a test driver and now you’re racing manager: is that the realisation of a dream for you?
“I have to say that it is really. I actually became a test driver by accident: I’d applied for a job with Pirelli and during the interview it came out that I’d done a bit of driving before. A few days later one of the test drivers left and they called me back to do a driving test at Vizzola. So I turned up, was shown round the track, and told to choose either a BMW or a Volvo for my assessment. I chose the Volvo, as I thought that with front-wheel drive it would be easier! I had no idea how it had gone but they told me after a couple of weeks that I had got the job. That led me to research and development of road car products, and then I finally got to the motorsport department – which is what I had always been aiming for – working on the FIA GT Championship. And here I am now.”

Five questions to Mario Isola, Pirelli racing manager 02

Which forms of motorsport do you take part in as a hobby?
“Unfortunately I don’t have much time to take part in as much motorsport as I would like. When I was young it was all about Formula 1® for me, but then I learned to love rallying and wanted to give that a go. I really admire rally drivers: it takes a special type of bravery and commitment. So I got my rally licence and the first rally I took part in was with my colleague at Pirelli, Matteo Braga, as co-driver! I was then lucky enough to take part in rallies that varied from Mexico to Croatia to China and really enjoyed it. More recently I took part in Auto Cross, which was great fun. I had a fantastic time and hope to have the chance to do that again this year.”

Motorsport isn’t for everyone though. What inspired you to dedicate your life and career to it?
“It’s a passion really. I love cars, mechanical things, driving. In the past I also worked for a safe driving school, which taught me a lot. So motorsport is just a passion that’s always been there, as well as a really stimulating environment to work in. It’s a job that demands so much from you that if you don’t have this passion it’s really hard to make it work. There’s also a strong human side to motorsport: it’s like a big travelling family.”

Pirelli is celebrating 110 years of motorsport: what’s been the most satisfying moment of your Pirelli career?
“There are so many to choose from! But one is when we won the FIA GT Championship in 2005 with the Maserati MC12. The project started in 2003, with the car and tyres being developed in parallel, and it was the first big programme I was involved in. We did four races in 2004 and at the last race of the season we were first and second in Zhuhai. As the cars crossed the finish line I was showered with water by everyone at Maserati: I’ve still got the pictures somewhere! In 2005 we went on to win the title, not just because the car was fast but also because it worked so well together with the tyres. When we won, against other strong tyre manufacturers, that was a fantastic feeling. It’s moments like that, when you know you have done your job to the best of your abilities, that are really satisfying.”

Read more