Pirelli brings around 1800 tyres to each grand prix, but the destiny of these tyres is mapped out long before they arrive at the circuit. The tyres for each race are made in a specific production run before the grand prix.
They are manufactured at Pirelli's state of the art motorsport facility in Izmit, just outside the Turkish capital of Istanbul. During the production process, each tyre is allocated a barcode provided by the FIA (the sport's governing body). This barcode is the tyre's 'passport', which is embedded firmly into the structure during the vulcanisation process and cannot be swapped. The code contains all the details of each tyre, making it traceable throughout the race weekend with Pirelli's RTS (Racing Tyre System) software, which can read and update all the data.
For European grand's prix, the tyres are then transported to Pirelli's logistics and distribution hub at Didcot in the United Kingdom. Once they arrive there, an FIA official receives a list of bar codes, which relate to the tyres that will be taken to the next grand prix. The FIA then allocates bar codes – and therefore tyres – to each individual teams at random. Pirelli itself is not involved in this process at all, meaning that the Italian firm cannot influence which tyres are allocated to which teams – although a rigorous quality control process in Izmit ensures that all the tyres leaving the factory are identical.
Once at the circuit, the tyres are then allocated to the teams in strict compliance with the list that has been previously prepared by the FIA. The bar codes allow both the FIA and Pirelli to ensure that the right teams, according to the regulations, are using the correct tyres.
Each team is allocated a Pirelli engineer, who works exclusively with that team for all of the year, but the database that every engineer works off allows the engineer to see only information relating specifically to his or her team over the weekend, so that individual strategies are not compromised. Development data is overseen by Pirelli's senior engineers, who monitor all the information in order to assist the research team in charge of shaping the next generation of tyres.
As Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery points out: “Even if we wanted to – which we certainly don't – there is no way that we could influence which tyres are being allocated to which teams, as this is a job taken care of entirely by the FIA once the tyres have left the Izmit factory. It is just another way that impartiality can be ensured among all the teams, which is a huge priority for us as exclusive tyre supplier. The way that our team engineers work also respects this confidentiality, which is always of paramount importance.”
Countdown to a grand prix
Before the grand prix:
*Pirelli, with the approval from the FIA, selects the tyres for the race – a softer compound plus a harder compound.
*Production of the tyre allocation begins at the Izmit factory in Turkey. We supply approximately 1800 F1 tyres for each race; about 700 more if the race is a GP2 round as well as 600 for GP3.
Two weeks before the grand prix:
*For European events the tyres for the race are transported by road from Izmit to Didcot: a journey of approximately 3100 kilometres that takes three days.
*The tyres arrive at the Didcot facility and have their bar codes scanned into Pirelli's system. The FIA (the governing body of world motorsport) is then notified of the bar codes.