Apart from the fact they are black, round and made of rubber, there are few similarities between Formula One and general road tyres.
Imagine if you had to wrap your tyres in a blanket to ensure optimum performance or pull over to the side of the road and change them when it started raining. Not to mention the fact we moan like anything if they wear out in under 20,000 miles – let alone 100!
F1’s racing tyres are wider than a normal road tyre with a rigid internal structure and a high shoulder. They are designed to allow cars to go as fast as possible, while offering ultimate grip.
While on the other hand, an ordinary car tyre is designed with many different elements in mind. It must last for a reasonable amount of mileage, be low on road noise and capable of controlling the car in unpredictable weather conditions, give a firm yet compliant ride, operate in a wide range of temperatures and still give the grip levels needed to stop the car in the shortest distance possible.
Having said all that, tyre performance is a crucial part of the overall performance of both cars, because it is what connects each vehicle to the ground.
So since Pirelli signed on as F1’s sole tyre supplier in 2011, it is not surprising that it has endeavoured to use the research and development advances it has spent an absolute fortune on to improve the road tyres it produces for the mass market.
F1 tyres from track to road
Advances made by the Italian tyre maker have slowly trickled down into tyres fitted to many vehicles on our roads today. Here are just a few specific examples of how Pirelli engineers have brought their know-how and experience gained on the track into play when creating everyday tyres:
• The P Zero Silver was the first road car tyre derived directly from Pirelli’s experience providing tyres for Formula One. Developed for sports cars and sporting saloons, it launched in 2012 and focused on durability. It ensured the maximum level of performance even after long distances. According to Pirelli, it shared the same mathematical modelling process with its Formula One equivalent. In particular, the design and development took place using the same state of the art computer simulation, which allows the tyre’s performance and behaviour to be assessed under an extremely wide range of conditions.
• The Cinturato P7 Blue road tyre, which was designed to enhance wet weather performance, was specifically created using the lessons learned from the extreme wet weather performance of the Cinturato F1 tyres. Upon its release in 2012 the Pirelli Cinturato P7 Blue was the very first tyre to be awarded an ‘AA’ score by the new European tyre-labelling, which grades all new tyres on performance. It also reduced wet braking distances by 9% compared to direct rivals. It uses the same research and modelling processes as its F1 counterpart. Today the range boasts the most “AA” rated sizes in the world.
• The new Connesso P Zero demonstrates another example of how the world of motorsport tyres has crossed over to the world of road cars. Launched in 2017 this tyre connects to the drivers phone to help them keep a constant eye on important tyre information. A small 100mm sensor is stuck to the inner side wall of the tyre and monitors things like pressure, temperature and tread depth in real-time and sends them to a Pirelli app. This technology has been present in the motorsport for a while, but it is the first time it has made its way out onto the public road. Fully embracing the F1 theme, these Pirelli tyres are offered with a striped sidewall in four main colours.
It is also worth pointing out that Pirelli’s commitment to creating F1 tyres pushes the R&D teams to keep reaching new heights. This ultimately helps to create cutting edge tyres for the mass commercial markets.
The future of F1 tyres
Pirelli tyres F1 contract runs out at the end of 2019 and it will be interesting to see what happens next.
Michelin tyres, the company that introduced the radial tyre into F1, were contenders to take over the contract in 2015. But the FIA stuck with Pirelli.
The French tyre manufacturer had expressed concern that it could not square the challenge of producing Formula One tyres with the demand for producing road car tyres. It believed there was not enough scope to transfer the technology from racing to road cars. Clearly F1’s voracious appetite for a wide range of compounds with a short lifespan, did not fit Michelin’s agenda or purpose.
After all, if certain F1 developments can be transferred to the road, they have to be practical and affordable, even at the supercar end of the market.
Denna Bowman, Head Office