… Why would Pirelli *want* to produce a rapidly degrading F1 tire?

Formula1 represents the pinnacle of automotive performance… a balance between incredible automotive effectiveness (adhesion, acceleration, braking, aerodynamics…) and system life (long enough to take the checkered flag and live within the rules for multiple races). Why would Pirelli supply tires that quickly lose performance, degrade, shred, and go flat? I do understand that as a “sponsor” they want to have their name mentioned during the races. I would think, however, that most the mentions of the brand are in very negative contexts. Would I really go out and buy a tire whose primary advertising centered on short life and quality degradation? I think not…. Personally, Pirelli tires are at the absolute bottom of my list for replacement tires.

I also understand that Bernie wants more changes of lead and passing during these contests. Well the F1 field seems to be doing that quite well without Bernie’s meddling with Pirelli’s tires… So, Bernie and Pirelli, let’s make some tires that are truly worthy of both of your brands… then let the drivers and constructors battle it out on the circuit…

4 thoughts on “… Why would Pirelli *want* to produce a rapidly degrading F1 tire?

  1. The short answer to the questios posed by the headline is “because they were asked to”.

    Here’s the long answer: F1 has had a single tyre supplier since 2007 when Michelin left the sport, leaving Bridgestone as the only tyre supplier.

    At the same time the sport’s governing body introduced a new rule saying there could only be one tyre supplier.

    From that point, supplying F1 tyres became a question not of creating the best-performing tyre, but simply producing enough tyres to cater for 20-odd teams throughout the year. Performance ceased to be a priority.

    Thus Bridgestone produced conservative tyres – at times drivers were able to complete race distances even on the softest compounds they brought to races (e.g. Sebastian Vettel at Monza in 2010).

    This made life far less challenging for the drivers and produced processional races. When Bridgestone announced at the end of 2009 they would not supply tyres for the 2011 season, F1 began looking for a new tyre supplier who would produce more challenging tyres – tyres that would degrade, tyres that would require looking after at times, tyres that would produce more exciting races.

    Pirelli have fit precisely that brief, and it’s to their credit that they’ve done so in spite of the opportunity for the uninformed to take cheap shots at their road products off the back of it.

    1. Thanks for an excellent overview of the recent history of tires in F1 Keith… What F1 has asked Pirelli to implement however is (in my opinion) tarnishing the Pirelli brand. In the past, I understood the move to a single tire mfg, I understood the move to multiple formulations, but asking a tire manufacturer to purposely provide tires that “go off” at a seemingly unpredictable rate would be like asking Tiffany to make some jewelry for a movie that began to rust… it blemishes the very property that a tire manufacturer would want to enhance.

      I am quite sure than Bernie and Jean were persuasive in their “request” for tires that had variable performance over time, but F1 seems to be attempting add complexity that is now somewhat overshadowing the skill of the driver and the performance of the constructor… and, in my humble opinion, from a fan of F1 for decades, is moving from an actual “race” towards “entertainment.” …but I digress, irrespective of the race quality or outcome, I am still amazed that Pirelli would tarnish their image by producing a tire that would not live up to the Pirelli tires that I would buy for my car… Best, J

      1. I see your point, but I don’t agree.

        The importance of tyre management has been restored to the important place it held in F1 before we were lumbered with Bridgestone’s conservative spec tyres.

        When we had tyre wars, it was common for drivers to have to look after their tyres because they operated on the limits of tyre performance. There are countless examples of this in Grand Prix history from Nuvolari to Schumacher.

        Cost and safety issues make a tyre war undesirable these days. Besides which, there was always the problem of one team or driver getting hold of vastly superior bespoke tyres and ruining a season of racing (2002, 2004).

        With Pirelli we have the best of both worlds: all the qualities of a tyre war without the drawbacks. I think that reflects very well on them.

        And don’t forget there are other branches of motorsport where they operate as competitors and do very well – such as GT racing.

      2. …and here is Christian Horner’s comment in a BBC article after Spanish GP:

        “Horner agrees with most senior figures in F1 that the fluctuation in form is being caused by this year’s Pirelli tyres.

        The teams are finding them hard to understand – with teams’ performances compared to their rivals changing from race to race, day to day and sometimes between practice sessions.”

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