Pirelli’s Track To Street Technology

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Never was Formula One made more relevant to our daily road cars at the turn of 2014, where the distinctive shriek of a naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre V8 was replaced with a more familiar-sounding with 1.6-litre turbo, albeit V6 engine.

One can debate to no end about any practical use of racing technology in from a purebred race car to a standard family car, but there have been many advances over the past 30 years. More notable examples include: The automatic gearbox with paddle shifters and electronic driver aids.

Perhaps the biggest and least understood technology transfer can be found in one of the biggest components of the car: Tyres. F1 teams struggle with tyre strategy, while regular car owners struggle to see the similarities. After all, an ordinary car tyre is a steel-belted radial designed for years of use, while a F1 tyre only has to last for one race.

Founded in 1872 by the young Giovanni Battista Pirelli, Pirelli today is a leading global tyre manufacturer with a distinctive focus on high-end premium tyres with high technology. Pirelli’s experience in Formula 1 began back in the 1960s and has lasted to this day, with 2011 being the year when Pirelli became the sole supplier for the F1 racing teams. Highly regarded as the pinnacle of motor racing, F1 has helped Pirelli to reduce development times, and be the ideal test bed for concepts, ideas and experience to be transferred directly to the production tyres.


Everyday cars still do benefit from the high-grip super soft compounds subjected to thermal stress by screaming engines, punishing downforce and blazing fast cornering speeds. Ever notice how your tyre seems to have more grip when the weather gets hotter? An everyday tyre has to grip like a F1 tyre, yet last long enough to keep you happy and work on wet roads.

According to Pirelli, the F1 track is only a final testing ground for the development process that all their tyres undergo. Where the real tech transfer occurs is in the design stage. F1 tyre designs are first tested in the simulator, which exaggerates conditions beyond what a race car is actually subjected to.

The same tyre simulator has also been applied to the design of production tyres and includes high-speed and maximum-load testing and a highly accurate analysis of how both carcass and compounds behave under extreme conditions. All of this enabling Pirelli to achieve the highest possible performance and safety levels.

Currently, Pirelli has a growing portfolio of more than 2,000 homologated tyres, obtained with prestigious and demanding vehicle manufacturers, which require tyres that are designed to bring out the best in their cars. Pirelli engineers design these tyres using the same materials and assembly and testing techniques adopted for Formula 1 tyres.

Even a regular driver shopping for a new tyre is like an F1 team having to choose their tyres for a race. Three different compounds of dry tyre are available to each team at every Grand Prix weekend and drivers must make use of at least two during the race. Current F1 tyre suppliers Pirelli have a range of seven dry-weather compounds: hypersoft (pink), ultrasoft (purple markings), super soft (red), soft (yellow), medium (white), hard (blue) and super hard (orange). Even if it rains, Intermediate (green) and wet-weather (blue) Pirelli tyres have full tread patterns to fight off aquaplaning. The intermediate tyre can disperse up to 30 litres of water per second, while the full wet tyre can disperse 85 litres per second.

Celebrating over 110 years in motorsports, Pirelli’s advanced Settimo Torinese facility continues to produce both the performance-oriented P Zero tyres along the special compounds for tyres used in F1. Not resting on its laurels. Pirelli intends to further innovate by engaging with electric and driverless vehicles over the next ten years. Pirelli has already been working on these future trends, in particular in terms of developing tyres for electric vehicles and solutions and services for connected vehicles.

Given its unwavering pursuit for perfection, Pirelli will soon be further cementing its place as a proud leader beyond automotive not before long!

For more information on Pirelli, please visit www.pirelli.com.


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