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Pirelli tires play a big role in Formula One

For the second consecutive year, Pirelli will be the sole tire supplier for F1

Published: February 13, 2012, 5:00 PM

Tires are key factors in racing, particularly at the very highest levels. They can easily be the difference between winning and losing.

The pinnacle of motorsport is Formula One, where technology runs rampant and engineering and innovation rule. With the 2012 Formula One season just around the corner let’s take a look at the tires to be used this year and some stats.

Pirelli is the sole supplier of tires for GP racing and lest you think this is a niche market amounting to just a few tires, consider that the company provided more than 36,000 tires to Formula One teams last year – 24,000 dry tires, 4,600 wet and 6,000 for testing. It says 23,900 of them were used.

Teams accumulated a total of 307,657 km on Pirelli tires during testing, qualifying and races last year in temperatures ranging from 6 degrees Celsius during testing at Valencia to 49 degrees at Abu Dhabi.

The vast majority – about 30,000 – of the race tires were recycled during the year, but more than 10,200 kilos of rubber was deposited on tracks around the world during competition because these especially grippy tires had an average lifespan of only 120 kilometres. No tread life warranty was offered!

The F1 tire has to cope with some pretty serious extremes. The top speed recorded last year was 349.2 km/h during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Barcelona (Spanish Grand Prix) and Suzuka (Japanese GP) are the toughest tracks on tires and Monza the easiest overall. In terms of tire loading, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal is the easiest on the entire circuit, according to Pirelli.

Formula One teams made 1,111 pit stops last year including 22 for drive-through penalties and a quartet for stop-and-go penalties. The fastest pit stop of the year occurred during the Chinese Grand Prix when the Mercedes team changed all four tires in 2.82 seconds.

Those who say there is little overtaking in F1 would be surprised to learn there were 1,120 attempts in 2011, 126 of them in the Turkish GP and 125 in the wet at the Canadian GP. Obviously with television concentrating on the front end of the grid, we’re missing some action further back.

In addition to making and transporting all those tires all around the world, Pirelli has a major presence at each Grand Prix. It takes 52 people to deal not only with the tires, but guests as well. Pirelli personal representing 10 nationalities and speak 11 languages. The company served 28,612 meals at its hospitality tent, including 43,250 cups of expresso and 1,220 kilograms of pasta.