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Formula 1 Tires Made With More Sustainable Rubber Still Only Last Half A Race

Formula 1 Tires Made With More Sustainable Rubber Still Only Last Half A Race

There are no two ways about it, Formula 1 is a big ol’ waste of natural resources in the name of entertainment, burning through fuel at each race, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the transportation of equipment around the world and chucking out hundreds of tires every weekend. Now, in an attempt to clean up its act, the sport’s tire supplier has switched to use some sustainably-sourced natural rubber in its compounds.

From this year on, Pirelli’s Formula 1 tires are endorsed by NGO the Forest Stewardship Council, reports Ars Technica. This means that the natural rubber Pirelli sources to produce its tires has met “the world’s most credible standards for sustainable forestry.”

The move is a small but significant step towards cleaning up Formula 1’s act, as it protects both the forests where rubber trees grow and the communities who tend to these natural resources. Sure, the amount of FSC-certified natural rubber in each F1 tire is just 15 percent, but you’ve gotta start somewhere, right? As Ars Technica explains:

“I believe that the certification is an important step in this direction because it’s not Pirelli that is certifying itself; it is a recognized third party that is giving us this certification, from the way in which we collect natural rubber, with respect of biodiversity, respect of the local population, the way we transport or use the natural rubber,” explained Mario Isola, head of Pirelli’s F1 program.
The synthetic rubber—chosen because it allows Pirelli to tune the characteristics it needs for the tires’ performance—is another area of attention. “Our R&D is focused on replacing the current material with more sustainable materials, keeping the same level of performance characteristics of the tire,” Isola told Ars.

The move will impact the production of more than 40,000 tires that are used in F1 each year, but I can’t help but feel like it’s a bit like applying a bandaid after a shark’s bitten your arm off. That’s because of the eye-watering number of tires Formula 1 uses every year, with some sets running minimal racing laps and others actually getting tossed before they’ve ever hit the track.

Depending on the track and the compound in use, drivers can expect Pirelli’s Formula 1 tires to last between 20 for the softest and 50 for the hardest sets. After this, the tires are stripped from the rims and scrapped, with many being used by a concrete manufacturer in the UK to fire its kilns.

Rather alarmingly, though, Pirelli knows a tire is being scrapped as soon as it’s attached to a wheel rim in F1, whether it’s raced in anger or not. As Ars Technica reports:

“When we fit a tire on a rim, even if it is new, we have to scrap it because of the bead and the stress that you put on the bead,” Isola said.
“But we made an investigation on wet and intermediate tires where the stress on the tire was lower compared to the slick tire. So the tires that we are going to fit but not use during the first half of the season will be dismounted and checked, and then we can use them in the second half of the season. If it doesn’t rain—obviously, we cannot control the weather—we are going to save roughly 50 percent of the rain tires,” he told me.

The move to reduce tire waste follows more stringent controls on tire usage that came into force last year.

During the 2023 season, F1 tested its alternative tire allocation in qualifying, which demanded drivers use the hardest rubber in Q1, the medium in Q2 and the soft tire in Q3. This was tested as a means of reducing the number of tire sets transported to each grand prix.

Read More: Here

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