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Formula 1 and formula E tires, a different approach

Appearances are deceiving


Different compound development and tread design as competition takes place on different kinds of circuits and different cars. Here are Michelin’s and Pirelli’s plans

Paolo Ferrini

You cannot judge a book by its cover. Single-seater, open wheels, great down-force packages. Although to the less enthusiasts these cars may appear substantially identical or at least similar, Formula 1 and Formula E “cars” are actually different from each other. Very different. And not just because the latter is totally electrically powered.

Take, for example, the tires. True, both championships use tires made from a single manufacturer  (Pirelli in Formula 1, Michelin in Formula E), however, the approach of the two manufacturers is diametrically opposed, due in part to the different needs of their respective competitions. While F1 grand prix take place on practically impeccable road surfaces, Formula-e is raced in large cities where, despite the good will of the organizers and local administrations, often drivers are called upon to contend with uneven road surfaces, manholes and even tram rails like, for example, in Zurich. Not to mention the inherent characteristics of the cars that will obviously affect the research and development process of the tires. In fact, while F1 cars are designed and built by each single team, Formula E cars are the result of the creativity of a single manufacturer: the Dallara factory in Fornovo ( Parma).


Single supplier, yet so many differences

If, on the one hand, the Italian manufacturer offers a wide range slick tires (7 different compounds) a full wet and an intermediate solution, Michelin, on the other hand,  focuses on a single tread pattern, designed to adapt to all possible weather conditions, including rain.

However, the differences do not end here. Just think, for example, at the respective sizes. If Formula 1 racers compete with 13" wheels (305/670 front, 405/670 rear), Formula E cars use 18" wheels (245/40 front, 305/40 rear). Therefore, even visually these tires look quite different: while Pirelli’s PZero need a shoulder able to perform part of the suspension work, Michelin’s Pilot EV2 recall the Ultra-Low-Profiles commonly found on high performance road cars.

Not to mention the significant – though “invisible” - contribution made by tire compounds. At the beginning of 2018, Pirelli expanded its slick tire range, raising the number of compounds from 5 to 7, with the introduction of a Superhard (recognizable by the orange band on the side of the tire) and a Hypersoft (pink band) option, to offer F1 teams highly specialized tires absolutely tailored to their needs. Michelin, on the other hand, continues to work on a single tire to facilitate a rapid technological transfer. Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4, for example, unveiled in 2016, greatly benefited from technologies developed in Formula E.

Different paths, but identical goals: high performance on the track and an ever-increasing number of final customer preferences. Talking strictly in technical terms, this year’s developments are more in line with an evolution of the tires rather than a complete revolution.


True colours

"For the 2018 season the basic construction of the PZero retained the same appreciated characteristics of the previous year, such as the possibility of pushing both new and used tires to their limits" says Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing for Pirelli. "The only real innovations consist in the availability of softer compounds that, in some cases, will require about two pit stops during a Grand Prix much to the advantage of a spectacular and uncertain race".

The pink Hypersoft, introduced at the beginning of 2018, is the softest and “fastest” tire Pirelli has ever produced and particularly suitable for race tracks that require high mechanical grip. However, extra speed and grip will undermine a tire’s durability.

Next, the Ultrasoft Purple, a low working range compound for use on tight and twisty circuits that place an emphasis on mechanical grip. The Ultrasoft warms up quickly and guarantees huge peak performance, but the down side of this is its relatively limited overall life span. Achieves maximum efficiency at fairly low temperatures, but has a rather limited duration. Not quite a qualifying tire, but goes in that direction with some interesting potential applications also during the grand prix itself.

The Supersoft Red, the third-softest compound in the range, is ideal for slow and twisty circuits, especially in cold weather. The supersoft benefits from an extremely rapid warm-up time, which makes it ideal in qualifying. The recent optimization of its footprint and temperature distribution ensures a perfectly uniformed contact enhancing grip and driving precision.

The Soft Yellow is one of the most frequently used tires in the range as it represents the best possible balance between performance and durability able to provide a competitive advantage both in the early stages of the race, with a full tank, as well as towards the end of the race.

The White Medium is theoretically the best compromise between performance and durability as it is very versatile coming into its own on circuits that lean towards high speeds, temperatures and energy loadings. 

Ice Blue is the second hardest tire in the range. Designed for circuits characterized by high loads on tires, with abrasive surfaces, fast corners and high ambient temperatures. The compound takes longer to warm up but lasts much longer, becoming a key element in race strategies.

The Superhard Orange was introduced as an “insurance policy”, just in case the performance of the 2018 cars didn’t match expectations, so the plan – and the likelihood – is for it not to be used at all. With every compound being one step softer in 2018, plus a brand new hypersoft that is effectively two steps softer than the 2017 ultrasoft, the superhard now provides a tire at the opposite end of the spectrum too.

The Intermediate Green are the most versatile of the rain tires (dispersing approximately 25 litres of water per second at full speed), and can be used on a wet as well as a drying track.

Wet Blue extreme wet tires disperse up to 65 litres of water per second at full speed and are the perfect solution in heavy rain. The latest evolution of the Cinturato Blue means that this tire is more effective and therefore more durable even when the track is drying.


Michelin wagers on All-weather tires

In the world of racing, Michelin’s Pilot Sport EV is considered a revolutionary tire, at ease in both dry and wet conditions as well as in a wide range of temperatures. Furthermore, its size and tread design makes it similar to a standard road tire, which facilitates quick technological transfer.

As in the case of the Pilot Sport 4,  first unveiled in 2016 which greatly benefited from technologies developed in Formula E. At the start of the third season, Michelin introduced the Pilot Sport EV2,  which marks a decisive improvement in mileage thanks to a 16% improved rolling resistance and reduced weight, 5 kg for each complete set of tires. All this, while maintaining the performance in terms of grip and lap time unaltered.

"Michelin has always believed in this racing format right from the beginning and has embraced this new championship as a founding member," recalled Pascal Couasnon, director of Michelin Motorsport. "Formula E is now a platform of innovation and communication chosen by the most important brands in the world. The contribution of this Formula to the evolution of the automobile and sustainable mobility is quite obvious and Michelin wants to be a part of it, along with the FIA, Alejandro Agag and its teams, as well as all the other manufacturers involved".

Bibendum’s research and development facility is working non-stop on the new generation tires that will debut in the fifth season of Formula E. "After developing the first innovative high Energy efficiency 18-inch competition tires for single-seaters, Michelin will continue to develop and transfer this technology also to next season’s championship" says Couasnon, director of Michelin Motorsport. Hence, all we can to do is wait for the next racing season.



F1 tires as design objects? On the eve of the French Grand Prix, Pirelli and Ixoost, a Modena-based company and maker of exclusive audio systems, presented a hi-fi system that integrates a state-of-the-art bluetooth speaker inside a replica of a Wind Tunnel Tire, a Small-scale F1 tire used in wind tunnel testing.

For Formula 1 teams, wind tunnels are the key to studying the secrets of aerodynamics, in search of maximum performance, and even here tires play a fundamental role. From the small-scale model of the tire (the Wind Tunnel Tire, in fact) Pirelli P Zero Sound tuned by Ixoost was born, a scaled-down replica of a PZero racing tire. The acoustic system integrates a powerful 100 Watt DSP amp and is equipped with a 100 mm mid-woofer and a 25 mm silk-tweeter, entirely made in Italy by Ixoost.

Equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 APTX technology, Pirelli P Zero Sound is a wi-fi system able to connect to smartphones and other devices with the same technology, optimizing the digital transmission of the audio signal, ensuring a flawless quality of the sound at all times.

Pirelli P Zero Sound is available in 9 different colours, inspired by those used by Pirelli to distinguish its racing tires. Thanks to its captivating shape and limited size (diameter: 330 mm, max depth 200 mm), this design object can provide an original touch in any context.

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