The Italian technology
behind Formula One

The Italian technology behind Formula One
Photo credits: Fondazione Pirelli

Rain scudded down the long rosso corsa metal snout of the Ferrari 500, then cascaded between the two skinny front wheels clad in Pirelli rubber. The notorious Spa-Francorchamps circuit, renowned for its punishing, high-speed corners and unpredictable weather, threw everything it had at the great Alberto Ascari on that wet, early summer’s day back in 1952, but it wasn’t enough to stop him. 

Not only did he go on to win two drivers’ world championship titles back-to-back, but he achieved them with typical Italian flair. From that rain-soaked 1952 Belgian Grand Prix in June to the same fixture 364 days later, Ascari won every race in the series – a winning streak of nine consecutive GPs [a record only equaled by Sebastian Vettel in 2013]. 

Italian driver, Italian car, Italian tyres. This was – and indeed still is – one of the finest examples of automotive excellence at its emotive, evocative best. The Italian mastermind who put the winning combination together didn’t stop there, though. In 1975, Enzo Ferrari recognised the potential of Bergamo-based company Brembo’s braking systems and soon the scarlet Scuderia Ferraris were both breathtakingly stoppable on track and unstoppable in the Formula One championship.

Passionate about performance
Today, the story just keeps getting better for Italian automotive technology and design. Formula One pushes the boundaries of what is possible and demands increasingly innovative, imaginative and high quality solutions to achieve the next technological step. Perfectly placed to deliver this hi tech know-how is Magneti Marelli. As another brand from Italy synonymous with motor racing, this time since 1919, its famed motorsport division develops advanced electronic and electro-mechanical systems for F1®, including high performance engine-control, data-management and energy-recovery systems. 

This all-consuming Italian love affair with racing didn’t happen by chance. Through every decade, one element has been crucial to continued success; one that Italian automotive companies ooze from their collective metal pores: passion. Put together with performance and panache, it’s a formula that is incredibly hard to beat, and to deliver time after time.

Racing ahead
Pirelli knows this perhaps better than anyone. The gadgetry and technological wizardry that drives a modern F1® car is worthless unless all that pent-up power is transmitted to the track effectively. That is where the humble tyre comes in. Except the latest tyres are anything but. 

As the current exclusive Formula One tyre manufacturer for the 2014-2016 championship seasons, Pirelli is faced with the daunting task of producing tyres able to withstand the rigours of racing at the highest level. Not only that, but the tyres have to be developed and performance tested for all weathers, potential track conditions, temperatures and required longevity.

With a comprehensive range of slick tyres for each F1® team to choose from, available in five different compounds, as well as two types of wet-weather tyres, Pirelli is offering the best possible way to achieve traction, grip and control.

Put to the test
It takes more than dedicated research and the latest technology to achieve this. Testing is everything. Non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal, race-speed kind of testing. 

Imagine all 10 Formula One teams taking part in a 12-hour tyre test, driving more than 1,084 laps collectively at the Yas Marina circuit, Abu Dhabi – the longest ever single test in F1® history. 

Then imagine the first, specific wet-tyre test using contemporary F1® cars, held at France’s famous Paul Ricard circuit, using a state-of-the-art water system to replicate many of the possible wet-weather conditions drivers may face at a GP race anywhere in the world.

This is the kind of uncompromising, totally focused level at which Pirelli operates – exactly as F1® drivers have to.

Past victories, future triumphs
Ascari did precisely that at the 1953 Swiss GP, chasing his second world title. Despite dropping to fourth after losing the lead, the Italian dug deep and worked his way back to clinch the championship he had battled so hard for. Sadly, it was to be his last ever championship win… but what a win it was.

Passion, performance, panache. Ascari certainly knew the potency of this remarkable formula; he was the very embodiment of it, and the Italian automotive companies that support modern-day F1® continually strive to embody it, too.

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