Pirelli are ‘everywhere’, can they fit in the F1 ‘bubble’?

Jamie Woodhouse
All drivers to get standard tyre allocations.

All drivers to get standard tyre allocations.

Pirelli’s motorsport chief Mario Isola says it will be hard for the company to comply with social distancing when the season starts because they are “everywhere”.

Formula 1 plans to get the 2020 season underway in July with strict rules to limit the number of people in the paddock, as well as their movement and who they interact with.

But for Pirelli who have someone in the garage of every team, it may well be a challenge for them to comply with the rules of this “bubble of isolation“.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Isola said: “I know the plan of Formula 1 is to keep the teams as a ‘bubble’ to avoid contact between teams. The problem is that we are everywhere.

“Pirelli is in every garage with one engineer, and we already discussed that. One question was if it is possible to allocate a space in the garage just for the Pirelli engineer, the tyres and Pirelli technician in order to avoid contact with the team.

“We also have to understand how to attend meetings inside the teams. I prefer if they can do that via video conference for example, because the problem is that if we have anybody in Pirelli that is positive, then the risk is that we spread the virus inside all the 10 teams, or everywhere in the paddock.

“It’s a problem that is not just affecting Pirelli, it is affecting all the companies and associations that have contact with all the teams.

“You can think of the FIA: the FIA has contact with all the teams, for example, different suppliers, helmets, or brakes or any other component that is available to more than one team. So we need also specific procedures and protocols for providers that have this kind of job inside the paddock.”

Pirelli were forced to scrap all the tyres that were sent to the Australian Grand Prix before its cancellation, and the subsequent postponed races left the company with a stockpile of tyres.

That would make it easy to supply the teams in the early races of a revised 2020 calendar, but Isola confirmed that Pirelli are working on flexibility plans for beyond.

“We need to be 100% sure that we are in a position to supply the tyres, otherwise the event cannot be organised,” he explained.

“We are trying to work with an approach of flexibility. “The current regulation says that we need to know the tyres in advance, by eight weeks for European events and 14 weeks for overseas events. Obviously this is not valid in this particular situation.

“That’s why we recovered all the tyres that were shipped to Bahrain, Vietnam, and we have been able to stop the tyres that were leaving for China. On top of that, we already started the production for another couple of events. So we have a stock of tyres that is available immediately for usage.

“We have some tyres in stock in Didcot, and we have some tyres in stock in our factory in Romania. Once we have the calendar, we just have to organise the trucks to bring the tyres to the event and the people to the events. The equipment for European events is slightly less complicated because we use trucks and not containers.

“But obviously we need visibility on a longer period, to be sure that we are able to supply not just the first or first couple of events but the rest of the season also.

“If we have the first part of the season in Europe and then we move to Asia, and America, in a very short period, it means that for production, it will be quite a busy period.

“We probably have to produce something in the region of roughly 35,000 tyres in probably a couple of months. Not in one year. You can imagine the impact on production. That is quite big.

“We are having discussion with the teams. And I have to say that they are quite flexible in order to find sensible solutions like, for example, standard allocation or some flexibility in this respect to be ready to supply in a very short period of time.”

The FIA-enforced Formula 1 shutdown doesn’t apply to Pirelli, so they have at least been able to do some work on developing their 18-inch tyres which are planned to be used in the series from 2022.

“Obviously we cannot do any outdoor tests. But last week we started our activities, for example with indoor testing,” Isola confirmed.

“We are not subject to the shutdown, like the teams are, so we are working and we can make some analysis or some prototypes to be tested with our indoor facilities before going on track next year.”

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