Tyres are an essential part of F1; without them, we simply couldn’t race. As the evolution of F1 changes over time, so do the tyres and what is needed from them. However, with teams going through thousands and thousands of tyres every year, what actually happens to them once they’ve been used?
F1’s current tyre supplier is Pirelli. Although Pirelli has been involved in F1 since the very first World Championship event back in 1950, they became the exclusive tyre partner back in 2011, taking over from Bridgestone. It’s a deal that’s been extended to 2024, too, with F1 clearly happy with what they’re achieving together.
In fact, just last week, Pirelli concluded their testing of the new 18-inch tyres that will be used from 2022 when the F1 regulations change. The testing has seen 4,267 laps completed on ten tracks around the world and an outstanding 20,000km covered, which is half the earth’s circumference!
However, with so many compounds available, and 13 sets of dry-weather tyres being supplied to teams for each race weekend, you can see that teams get through a LOT of tyres. That’s potentially 1040 individual tyres used up and down the pit lane over a weekend, and that doesn’t even include wet-weather compounds! Times that by 23, the number of races on next year’s calendar, and you can see why we wondered where all these tyres ended up.
Now, when we think about a big collection of tyres, our minds go straight to The Simpsons and the Springfield Tire Yard. Fortunately, that isn’t the case at all. Apart from the odd tyre that might slip through the net and get made into snazzy coffee table #InteriorGoals, they are actually recycled.
Once a tyre has been ‘used’ – more on that later – they are all brought to the UK. The tyres are crushed to fit more efficiently into fewer containers before being shipped to a cement factory near Didcot, Oxfordshire.
The tyres are then burnt at very high temperatures for energy generation, which according to Sky Sports’ Ted Kravitz, “doesn’t create a lot of the harmful gasses that tyres can do when they are incinerated”.
This is a productive solution, but Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing, has been very vocal that they’re currently investigating other alternatives for the future.
Now, on to what Pirelli defines as a ‘used’ tyre.
A Pirelli tyre is considered ‘used’ once it has been fitted to the rims. It might seem an odd rule, but it’s done in case there’s any damage caused when the tyres are removed from the rims. Better to be safe than sorry.
Last year Pirelli revealed that they had to demolish around 1800 tyres when F1 was scheduled to race in Australia. This was because the tyres were already fitted to the rims on Thursday. However, the race was cancelled the following day, so the tyres would never be used.
It’s a big task and one that sometimes might go unnoticed if there’s not a tyre scandal or upset of some sort. *cough cough* The 2021 Baku Grand Prix *cough cough*.
What do you think Pirelli should do with the spare tyres? Let us know in the comments below.