(I was too busy on Thursday writing two entries about tyres to notice that Pirelli had thrown their hat into the F1 ring that day.)
Pirelli was founded in Milan in 1872. In 1974, Pirelli developed a wide radial tyre for the new Lancia Stratos rally car. Before that, racing tyres had been wide cross-ply with shallow sidewalls and radials were narrow tyres. These wide-radials have been the standard for motor-racing and sportscars ever since.
Pirelli are the World’s fifth biggest tyre supplier by turnover, their market being premium tyres for high performance cars and motor-bikes. They supply the control tyres for the World Rally Championship, the British Rally Championship, the Superbike World Championship and the British Superbike Championship.
In 1958, there were 38 F1 World Championship Pirelli-shod Maserati starts, probably customer cars, netting one pole position but no podiums.
After Goodyear’s withdrawal for much of 1981, Pirelli helped fill the gap supplying Fittipaldi and Arrows for some races and the debuting Toleman team all season. Pirelli was very much the third-choice tyre-supplier behind Goodyear and Michelin. In 1983, a one-year partnership with Lotus-Renault netted a pole position, a fastest lap and one third place. By 1985, Michelin had departed but Pirelli were still with second-string teams now including Ligier-Renault and Brabham-BMW. Pirelli began to have some better results and picked up their first victory at the ’85 French GP at Paul Ricard with Nelson Piquet taking Brabham’s last ever win.
Whilst other teams generally came reluctantly and left at the first opportunity, Toleman stayed with the supplier throughout. In 1986, the team was re-christened Benetton, and with BMW power, in Mexico, Gerhard Berger gave Pirelli their second win.
The Italian tyre company left Formula One for two years returning in 1989. The biggest impression made in their first two years back was due to their qualifying tyres. Pierluigi Martini in the last four races of ’89 qualified his Minardi-Cosworth 5th in Portugal, 4th in Spain, missed Japan, and qualified third in Australia. In the first 1990 race at Long Beach, Martini put the Minardi on the front row second to pole-sitter Berger. 1991 was Pirelli’s last year with the highlight being their third win when Nelson Piquet won the Canada GP with Benetton-Ford.
(With the Cooper/Avon article, I found a very good shot of their racing tyres but try as I might, I could not find a similar picture for Pirelli. However, Pirelli are sometimes best known in Britain for their annual calendar which is not sold but only given away as a corporate gift to important customers and VIPs. Whilst many of the pictures are of young attractive woman who have neglected to remember to wear their tops, the models are fashion models and actresses photographed by respected fashion photographers in expensive exotic locations, therefore the calendars are artistic, absolutely not soft porn. I am sure readers will understand it was purely artistic curiosity for which I spent half-an-hour with Google image-search investigating this (I may not know much about art…). Anyway, this picture was modest enough to be usable and about the least anorexic I could find.)