When the rubber meets the road on Formula 1 racetracks, Pirelli P Zero tires are legendary. After 30 years and 1,000 homologations since the first P Zero appeared, Pirelli is at long last launching the latest addition to the iconic tire line that made history on the sports ultra-high performance field. The company has now hit the gas and extended its P Zero line with a focus on “custom” high performance tires engineered for street use on specific models. More than 100 P Zero homologations will be available by the year’s end to assure a “perfect fit” on everything from Bentleys to Volkswagens. And that includes the new P Zero Corsa, an evolved cousin of the Formula 1 tire that started it all.
During SEMA in Las Vegas, Pirelli’s top North American executives made a dramatic presentation to unveil the P Zero lineup. “We’ve desired to work more closely with the consumer, so the launch of the new P Zero and All Season Plus is another sign of Pirelli’s strong commitment to the US market,” said CEO Piergiorgio Dinelli from the stage of the stunning Keep Memory Alive Center in North Las Vegas as models strutted the catwalk to emphasize Pirelli’s “perfect fit” message. “We’re proud that this product, tailored specifically for the US, has been produced locally here in North America.” Pirelli’s annual production now exceeds 4 million tires for North America alone.
Once more, Pirelli is banking that the “Zero” will reinforce its global prestige and boost its premium category presence. The company’s initial objective for the P Zero was to meet the growing demand for performance, reliability and safety. Over the years, the P Zero family has grown to include P Zero Rosso, P Zero Nero, P Zero Corsa, P Zero Trofeo and the P Zero All Season Plus, which was developed expressly for the North American Market. The new P Zero meets the same needs as the prior versions while further reinforcing Pirelli’s Perfect Fit strategy, which insists on a precise made-to-measure solution for each car model. Along the way, the Research and Development team set additional goals to improve road-holding at high speed, reduce noise, decrease rolling resistance, improve even-wear consistency, and deliver better aquaplaning performance.
The new P Zero has three variants. For sports cars, the P Zero has been tailored with a less sculpted tread design, favoring dynamic performance. For luxury sedans, the pattern has been adapted to feature a deeply grooved external shoulder to better absorb road surface impact for comfort. The third design, the new P Zero Corsa, relies on aggressive tread design more closely related to the P Zero motorsport slick tires.
To verify Pirelli’s claims, I joined CEO Dinelli for Rides & Drives at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to road test new P Zero tires on high performance cars, including Porsches, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Audis, Teslas, and Dodge Chargers. “There are no simulators here, just you and the cars,” said Enrico Bertaggia, CEO of Dream Racing which staged the closed course drives with his team of racing pros. “Just turn the keys and let the tires take all the punishment you can throw at them. They’re ready of anything.”
With a professional racing pro in the shotgun seat, I first took P Zeros for a spin on the inside road course in a Porsche 911 S. Two things became immediately clear: I’ve been meant to drive Porsches my whole Porsche-free existence, and I need to add new performance tires to my shopping list because from now on I’m going to drive my pokey Prius like it’s never been driven before.
The wet/dry course set the stage for the next trial: two timed runs to test the gripping power of the P Zero All Season Plus in slick weather conditions. No matter what I did on the track in a Dodge Charger – sudden turns, acceleration, and braking on wet asphalt – the tires gripped for a comfortable drive, with no slips or slides. Also notable was a lack of cabin noise from the tires, not even in the dead-silent Tesla Model S on my second run. The P Zero tread-pattern is designed to reduce cabin noise by using an out-of-order sequence of grooves that disrupt air percussion volume.
The hallmark of the new P Zero is its ability to deliver maximum stability at the highest speeds, much like Formula One tires do at the pinnacle of motorsport. So, by the time we reached the third trial on the outside road course, I was on an adrenalin high, ready to kick the $%^& out of those tires, determined to push them past their limits to force the Zero’s “Seal Inside” and “Run Flat” capabilities following a puncture and air loss. It didn’t happen. Ignoring gentle braking cues from my pro coach, I hit the curves hard in a Porsche GT3 then a Lamborghini Aventador SV LP750, passing two drivers on one lap, and without experiencing a single handling glitch, despite my underestimation of S-curve lengths at speeds nearing 100 mph. The F1 Bead technology makes tire behavior more predictable – even when I steered too stiffly and braked nervously around a few course twists. And for the most part, the tires barely made a sound. The only squealing I remember hearing over the roar of the engine was me while hitting a straightaway speed of 172 mph, a personal best.