HRT driver and former Pirelli tester Pedro de la Rosa has 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 Formula 1 tyre from scratch.
This year, it was an inter-team rivalry, as de la Rosa took on his teammate 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 Formula 1 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 teammate. 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 percent scale PZero 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.
De la Rosa, who carried out the bulk of Pirelli’s tyre testing in 2010, commented: “I think fitting the tyres is a lot harder than driving on them! The whole process is a delicate balance between precision and strength; there is a definite art to it. 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 Formula 1 is, which most people do not get to see.”
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery concluded: “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…”