HRT's Pedro de la Rosa
triumphed in the annual Pirelli tyre-fitting challenge, which the Italian firm inaugurated at last year's Indian Grand Prix.
Back in 2011, the first year that the Indian Grand Prix
was run, Red Bull's reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel
beat Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery when it came to fitting a F1 tyre from scratch.
This year, it was an inter-team rivalry, as de la Rosa took on his team-mate and local hero Narain Karthikeyan in the Pirelli fitting area, watched by the international media.
Their task was a complicated one: to mount and fit a Pirelli F1 tyre in the quickest time possible, carrying out all the processes correctly and in the right order, under the watchful eye of a Pirelli fitter.
First a tyre has to be levered onto the wheel rim; then it must be fixed with a special glue before being inflated to the correct pressure and balanced with the right weight.
The whole process takes around two and a half minutes in the hands of a Pirelli fitter, but de la Rosa's winning time was two minutes and 47 seconds: 22 seconds faster than his team-mate. In the same amount of time that it took them to fit the tyres, the drivers are able to cover around a lap and a half of the 5.125-kilometre Buddh circuit at racing speeds.
As his prize, de la Rosa wins a 50 per cent scale P Zero wind tunnel tyre, used by Pirelli and the teams for aerodynamic development at the beginning of the season. The consolation prize for Karthikeyan was a set of Pirelli espresso cups.
“I think fitting the tyres is a lot harder than driving on them!" said de la Rosa. "The whole process is a delicate balance between precision and strength; there is a definite art to it. The hardest part is levering the tyre to the rim but the whole process is complicated.
“As well as being a lot of fun, this challenge really shows how complex and important all the work that goes on behind the scenes in F1 is, which most people do not get to see. It was a lot of fun and a great experience and I also came away from it with a fantastic prize”.
“Having sweated over exactly the same challenge last year, I really feel for Pedro and Narain! But at least they only had to fit one tyre each; our fitters will get through nearly 1800 of them this weekend...” Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery added.