Pirelli gets the 2012 Formula One season underway, its second as sole supplier, by presenting the new range of tyres for the 63rd FIA World Championship at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi.
The key characteristics of the new tyres - developed by Pirelli together with the teams in response to the latest aerodynamic regulations regarding blown exhausts - are: squarer profiles, increased grip, and softer, more competitive compounds with consistent degradation.
The objective for the 2012 tyres is to ensure entertaining races that remain unpredictable all the way up to the chequered flag, with two to three pit stops per race and a strong emphasis on team strategies. The coloured markings on the sidewalls now change to become bigger and more easily recognisable, while the Cinturato name that has become emblematic in Formula One history returns: the tyre with which Pirelli raced and won in the 1950s. From 2012, Cinturato will denote the full wet and intermediate tyres.
Pirelli's Racing Tyre System also returns, with some new functionality. This is a platform created by Pirelli's engineers in order to record the behaviour and performance of each tyre: information that is shared with the teams and Formula One Management (FOM).
The presentation took place today at an international press conference hosted by Marco Tronchetti Provera, the President and CEO of Pirelli, Motorsport Director Paul Hembery, and Research and Development Director Maurizio Boiocchi.
Marco Tronchetti Provera said: "After the positive experience of last year, the teams asked us to continue providing tyres with the characteristics that contributed to spectacular races in 2011. And this is what we have done, optimising the compounds and profiles in order to guarantee even better and more stable performance, combined with the deliberate degradation that characterised the P Zero range from 2011. We're expecting unpredictable races, with a wide range of strategies and a number of pit stops: all factors that both competitors and spectators greatly enjoyed last year. The development work on the new compounds took place throughout the 2011 season, thanks to the impressive learning curve and reaction times from our engineers, who are ready to continue those evolutions during the season ahead."
New for 2012: more competitive compounds and 'squarer' tyres
Just as was the case last year, Pirelli will supply the teams with four slick tyre compounds - supersoft, soft, medium and hard - along with two types of wet weather tyre as prescribed by the FIA rules (see separate article). All the P Zero slick tyres will feature a brand new profile compared to 2011 and three of them (the soft, medium and hard) will also have new compounds. The new compounds are softer, with increased grip, better performance, a longer performance peak, but an unaltered overall lifespan. Of the wet weather tyres, only the full wet - the Cinturato Blue - has changed, while the intermediate tyre, the Cinturato Green, is unaltered (see separate article).
Also unchanged from last year are some fundamental characteristics that all six Pirelli tyres have in common: safety, reliability, structural integrity, driving precision, and fast yet distinctly different degradation curves among the assorted compounds. Pirelli's research and development methodology is the same as well. The design and testing of the 2012 tyres has benefitted from an on-going dialogue with teams and drivers, who contributed to the development of the new P Zero and Cinturato tyres over the last season. The results of on-track tests have been integrated with the data from simulation, which is able to recreate and predict tyre behaviour and performance in all the circuit and weather conditions of the 20 tracks that make up the Formula One calendar.
The evolution of the Pirelli tyres for 2012 has also taken into account the regulation changes introduced by the FIA regarding blown exhausts. This new measure, which should result in a reduction of aerodynamic downforce acting on each tyre, requires a wider and more even contact patch. This objective has been met by having a less rounded shoulder on each tyre and using softer compounds, which produce better grip and more extreme performance. The performance gap has changed as well between the different compounds, which all now perform better. During the 2011 season, there was a difference of between 1.2 and 1.8 seconds per lap among the different compounds. This year, the objective is to reduce that to less than a second: between six and eight tenths.
The compounds for the new season synthesise and build on the evolutions already carried out by Pirelli's engineers on the 2011 tyres. These have been formulated by Pirelli's Research and Development division in Milan, using the information obtained when experimental tyres were tested during free practice at grands prix in Sepang, Montreal, Silverstone, Nurburgring, Abu Dhabi and Interlagos last year, as well as the young driver test at Abu Dhabi in November. These tests used a total of 6,000 tyres, which covered around 11,000 kilometres. On top of that, Pirelli carried out five private tests in Istanbul, Barcelona (twice), Jerez and Monza, driving for 9,000 kilometres.
Pirelli's new Formula One tyres will make their debut at Jerez on 7 February, at the first official test of the 2012 season.
Racing Tyre System: Pirelli creates a passport for each tyre.
In order to develop the 2012 tyres, Pirelli's engineers relied heavily on the Racing Tyre System (RTS): a computer-based platform able to gather and process the performance data of every tyre during tests and races. The Racing Tyre System, developed by Pirelli's Information Technology department, allows users to monitor the performance, wear and behaviour of the tyres throughout every phase of their use. On top of that, the RTS tracks the life of each tyre from construction to circuit, updating, in real-time, its use, performance and wear rate. After each tyre has been made in the Izmit factory - where all of Pirelli's competition tyres are produced - the RTS registers the construction data of each tyre as a type of individual passport. The information on each tyre is built up as it arrives at a circuit and gets fitted onto a car. From that point on, the tyre's temperature, pressure and wear rate are all registered and made immediately available to Pirelli's engineers on the track, using special tablet computers, as well as to Pirelli's research division in Milan and to all the teams. This constitutes a virtual database that is continually updated, forming the starting point for analysis of each car's performance and future development of the tyres (see separate article).
The Cinturato returns: a world champion in the 1950s
The 2012 season marks the return of the Cinturato name to the pinnacle of world motorsport: a brand that is not only linked to Formula One but also to the entire industrial history of tyre manufacture. The Cinturato made its debut in 1951 on Juan Manuel Fangio's Alfa 159, taking him to championship victory, and was often seen on the podium along with another Pirelli tyre: the Stella Bianca, which was fitted to the Maserati and the Ferrari 375. The Cinturato competed in Formula One right up to the mid 1950s, after which it became a road car tyre for the most sporting and technically advanced cars of the day.
The Cinturato tyre really made its name as a benchmark in the automotive industry throughout the 1960s, when it was at the forefront of mass motoring.The innovative technology, developed for the Cinturato in the 1950s, took its name from the radial belt (or 'cintura', in Italian) that went all the way around the tyre carcass, initially made out of textile fibre and later out of metal. This innovation paved the way for wider tyres that were able to cope with the higher cornering speeds reached by cars from the 1960s onwards. Today, as well as denoting Pirelli's wet weather Formula One tyres, the Cinturato identifies one of the most successful products in the global tyre industry: the Cinturato P7, which perfectly illustrates Pirelli's brand values of performance, safety, durability and energy-saving.
Pirelli's Formula One team
Pirelli will supply a total of 45,000 tyres for the entirety of the 2012 Formula One World Championship. The tyres for the top level of world motorsport will be produced at Pirelli's dedicated competition facility within the factory at Izmit, Turkey, which is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world. Pirelli's engineers have put in place state-of-the-art machinery and innovative technologies to make tyres that are perfectly suited to the demands of grand prix racing (see separate article).
At races and during official tests, the Pirelli F1 team numbers 50 specialists, from engineers to technicians. Each Formula One team relies on one dedicated Pirelli engineer, as well as on the entire squad of technicians and fitters.
Pirelli's F1 team is made up of people who come from all four corners of the globe, but is based in Milan: Pirelli's Research and Development headquarters. This department has always been at the heart of the Pirelli Group's cutting-edge technology and employs 1,000 researchers, located in five centres around the world. Motorsport has consistently been Pirelli's most important research laboratory, from which the Group has developed some of the industry-defining innovations in the tyre sector.
The tyre supply agreement to Formula One marks the pinnacle of Pirelli's presence throughout the world of motorsport, in which the Italian firm has been involved since 1907 when it won the Peking-Paris road race. Pirelli is also the exclusive supplier to some of the world's most important motorsport championships, both on two and four wheels - such as the GP2 and GP3 Series and the World Superbike Championship. On top of this, the Italian firm supplies more than 70 national and international race and rally series, having been the exclusive tyre provider to the World Rally Championship from 2008-2010.
Formula One and sustainability
Following on from the Pirelli Premium strategy, dedicated to the design of products and solutions that combine the highest standards of performance and safety with respect for the environment, the Formula One tyre supply agreement is also inspired by criteria of environmental sustainability. In common with all of Pirelli's other motorsport tyres, heavily aromatic oils have been eliminated from the P Zero production process. The industrial processes used in Izmit are based on energy and water efficiency and the reduction of harmful emissions like carbon dioxide. Special attention is given to the re-use of production remnants and used tyres. The waste handling protocol includes the recycling of used Formula One tyres for either the generation of new primary material or energy production.
The total output of the tyres made throughout the 2011 season - 28,600 for races and 6,00 for tests - were all recycled.
Pirelli's attention to sustainability is also shown by its recent confirmation in the Dow Jones Sustainability STOXX and Dow Jones Sustainability World Indices, where the Group has been the leading company in the 'Autoparts and Tires' sector for six consecutive years.
Pirelli in the Middle East
Pirelli is among the market leaders in the Middle East, an area that has witnessed a consistent increase in the Ultra High Performance sector over the last few years, where Pirelli leads the way. Pirelli's local headquarters is in Dubai, importing tyres from Europe from the most prestigious range in the line-up: the P Zero family. These have been developed for the most powerful sports cars currently on sale, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Aston Martin and Bentley. Pirelli also has a strong presence in the local market for bus and truck tyres, which are made at Pirelli's facility in Alexandria, Egypt. The industrial and logistical hub, located at Izmit in Turkey, produces tyres for both cars and commercial vehicles and is also fundamental in servicing Middle Eastern markets.