Italian Tire manufacturer, Pirelli invited TireNews to partake in the excitement and glamour of the 2019 Pirelli Grand Prix du Canada which took place June 8th and 9th .
The exquisite summer weather, vibrant, colourful crowd and incredible setting contributed to making the TireNews visit a truly memorable experience. Not only did it offer the possibility of experiencing the race as insiders, we also discovered the underbelly of the refined setting of this world-class event which attracts racing enthusiasts from across the globe.
Since 2011, Pirelli is the main, and only supplier, of Formula One tires. This requires the tire manufacturer to develop and produce 1800 tires for F1 teams for each event. Tire preparation, which is closely supervised by F1 officials, is performed in a vast facility adjacent to the F1 team garages. To our surprise, Tire News discovered that these smooth and sticky slicks are mounted just like regular car tires, including the adhesive weights used for balancing. Each tire has its personalized barcode to prevent confusion or cheating while allowing them to be located at all times.
“Next, the teams proceed with tire selection,” explains Anthony Picock, from Pirelli, our guide for this behind-the-scenes tour. “The teams are required to choose among three tire compounds, from soft to firm. The selection is based on track conditions, vehicle set-up and driver preferences. As the track was slippery at the beginning of the race, a majority of teams opted for the softest compound, but as the race evolved, teams switched to a harder compound to improve durability.”
There’s a lot of science involved in selecting tires. While specific criteria applies to each of the four wheels in order to try and gain a competitive edge, explained the expert, in some cases they are designed to cool the brakes on days when track temperature is high.
While Pirelli invests colossal sums in research and development for all of its products, a significant portion of the budget is applied to F1 tires, as this racing series offers a high level of visibility which allows them to showcase their technology and know-how.
“Formula One gives us the opportunity to market our capacity to continually push the tire technology envelope,” explained Pirelli North America CEO, Marco Crola, to Tire News. “Our brand image is strong, it is recognized worldwide, and Formula One allows us to showcase our values in the core areas of technology, innovation, quality service and product reliability.”
As Marco Crola explained, 25% of its tire sales are of the original equipment variety on luxury and exotic vehicles. Most of the tires sold trough this channel are delivered to Prestige segment, a market that Pirelli controls at 50% and to the Premium segment in witch it has a 20% share. “ Replacement market represents a challenge that we have to answer by considering the specificities of every country we do business with. For this reason, in the north-american market, we have the winter-certified tires or, more recently, the addition to our catalogue of specific tires for SUV and pick-up trucks.
For Pirelli Canada President, Roberto Prieto, in no way does this ability to adapt detract from the brand’s prestige. He points out that, while Pirelli is the world’s 5th leading tire supplier, it distinguishes itself by the colossal sums it invests in research and development.
By working closely with vehicle manufacturers, Pirelli differentiates itself and is able to offer high-end products featuring the latest technology. Both Pirelli Directors spoke about the example of their new CyberTyre family of “intelligent” tires and the important role they will play in the development of safer vehicles. “Tires provide the only point of contact between vehicle and road,” he summarizes. “They have the ability to enhance driving aide technology by sharing important data with the vehicle, such as road surface conditions.”
Pirelli invited 120 guests to experience the F1 race and participate in a remarkable number of events directly in the new, exclusive, paddock area. Red carpet welcome, refined atmosphere and gourmet food were accompanied by exclusive activities and opportunities to meet with leading F1 team representatives and drivers. Important Pirelli clients rubbed elbows with large dealer group representatives and major distributors from across North America. As you will see in these images, Canada was well represented, as all of these people, united by their interest in tires, shared a truly unforgettable experience.