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Pirelli happy to stay in F1 as long as the price is right
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Pirelli happy to stay in F1 as long as the price is right
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 May 2011   |  10:26 am GMT  |  13 comments

Pirelli’s impact on F1 has been impressive this season. Despite negative noises from drivers during winter testing, where at times it looked like F1 could be more about pit stops than about racing, the first three races have provided real variety in strategy and the feeling after the Chinese Grand Prix is that the balance was about right.


What is really exciting for me about this season is that F1 has done something that it has always found it hard to do and that is unlearn something that it’s learned.

In aerodynamics, electronics and all areas of F1 car performance the teams have learned so much in recent years and when framing the rules they never seem to be able to go back to something which is better for racing, rather than engineering.

But the tyres this year are an exception. They have been designed to degrade and to last 20 or so laps and this presents teams and drivers with choices about how they want to race, which has led to overtaking as cars are out of phase on new tyres. Looking back on the Bridgestone years now, you can see how long life conservative tyres were really not in the interest of good F1 racing.

The Pirelli race tyres are made in a factory close to the Istanbul circuit, 50,000 of them a season and this weekend the chairman of Pirelli, Marco Tronchetti Provera, has been here to give his thoughts on the start the company has made and to make the point that they will stick around as long as the costs are right.

“We have a three-year contract, and we want to learn together with the teams how to do anything that helps to have more attractive and fascinating races,” he said. “We have achieved our targets until now and we want to continue. F1 is a long term project if it is affordable. If it is a formula that is not too costly, then we are ready to continue. We left because of the costs, we came back because it was affordable and we will stay if the teams are providing us with an opportunity to stay.”

Last year Pirelli was selected to be the sole tyre supplier, beating Michelin to the deal. One of the criteria was that the Pirelli tyres were cheaper and they would supply more sets than Michelin.

Then to underline the point about unlearning what we’ve learned, he said, “We reached a target that is much more difficult than building tyres that last for the entire Grand Prix. The tyres perform well, we pit twice for the highest speed in different circuits so our tyres are performing, the structure is okay and the formula is such that they last as the circus wants.”

This weekend with loads of 1,000kg going through the tyres in Turn 8, which the cars are in for almost 8 seconds, the tyres face their sternest test to date. The likelihood is that we may see three stops being the fastest way to cover the 58 lap race.

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13 Comments
  1. PaulL says:

    Why is it impressive they’ve unlearned how to make long life tyres?

    They’ve just cast off some optimality.

  2. Red5 says:

    18 inch low profile tyres. Makes more long term sense for F1 and especially for Pirelli.

  3. . says:

    “where at times it looked like F1 could be more about pit stops than about racing”.

    And now the races are more about looking after tyres, managing tyres, saving tyres, tyres, tyres, tyres than about racing.

    Tyres were always important to F1, yes, but now they totally dominate everything.

    It feels like most of the time, the commentators talk about tyres, rather than F1 racing, the cars or drivers.

    Not F1, but T(yres)1.

    1. S Quilter says:

      Hmm, we don’t seem to have been watching the same formula.
      Mr Allen’s blog was balanced and informative (as always), but you seem to have ignored that.

      “It feels like most of the time, the commentators talk about tyres, rather than F1 racing, the cars or drivers”

      What utter tosh, we have not had a more fascinating, exciting or unpredictable start the season in many years (probably before grooved tyres anyway).

      I can listen to a reasoned and balanced counter argument all day long but just going on about the tyres alone is missing the whole bigger picture.

      I’m loving this season and long may Pirelli remain in F1.

      1. Doc-ric says:

        Only thing I’d change about tyres is the FIA rule that has drivers use both soft and hard rubber at least once in a race.
        Pirelli is doing a very good job and this season start is fantastic.

      2. . says:

        You proved my point. You praised the tyres for giving you great races (in your view), not 1 word about the cars or the drivers.

        And that is exactly how commentators talk about it too. A huge piortion of race commentary is about tyres, how can you deny that? Today also during qualifying, all I heard was tyres, tyres and tyres.

        Tyres dominate F1 too much now to the point where manufacuring bad tyres for entertainment purposes is accepted. It is not about producing the best they can anymore.

        This season I yet have to see 1 real racing overtake. I saw lots of passes like on the highway though.

    2. Paul Kirk says:

      I agree with you, Red 5, “tyres, tyres, tyres,” that’s all we’re hearing, at the expence of other more interesting information! Hopefully as the season wares on the comentators will get tired of talking about tyres all the time and start discussing other stuf! The other thing that concerns me is the fact that drivers can’t drive fast because they’ve always got to look after their tyres, they can’t risk getting close to the limit otherwise it’ll shorten the life of the tyres.
      Bring back real racing!
      PK.

      1. James Allen says:

        Check out a vid of James Hunt commentating alongside Murray – I guarantee you he’ll be talking mostly about tyres.

  4. Erik says:

    Yes thank you Pirelli for sticking to your guns before seaons start – a period in which the media and the padock relentlessly slammed your product. While most predicted doom and gloom (without a single race being run) some of us saw the exciting racing that was coming and for holding firm thanks again!!

  5. Rich C says:

    Well done, Pirelli!

    And lets watch those costs, eh!

  6. Robert McKay says:

    A good point about unlearning what we have learned…although presumably at some point the teams will re-learn and the impact will be lessened.

    I remember the year of no tyres changes (2004?) – was very interesting for the first two thirds of the season but the teams adapted and the races altered accordingly.

    Pirelli might need a few more new tricks over subsequent seasons to keep the teams off-balance.

  7. S Quilter says:

    I thought, amazingly enough, that Eddie Jordan (was it him?) actually said something very interesting today in the BBC F1 Qualifying show, that Pirelli need to keep the teams guessing as far as working out what compound goes off at what lap on a given circuit. I’m sure they have some very expert people working it all out. I really hope Pirelli have the confidence to push the envelope and keep the teams on their toes!

  8. Don M. says:

    There is one more thing to unlearn… To force the teams to make at least one pitstop they were required to use both types of tyre in the race. Now that the tyres degrade there is no need for that rule and no real need for having two types of tyre.
    That could save Pirelli some cash and help them stay in F1.

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