Not a petrol head? Then you probably know Pirelli as the publisher of an exclusive pictorial calendar for motor trade executives featuring, until recently, persons who are not men with not many clothes on but, at least in the early days, with the Italian company’s tyres as props or with their tread pattern featuring on the bodies of the persons who were not men instead of traditional clothing.
About seven years ago, the 149-year-old rubber maker founded by Giovanni Pirelli moved away from the nearly nude caper cals to celebrating persons who are not men “for their accomplishments rather than their physical attributes”. This was about the same time (and I’m not making any connections or conspiracies here) that Pirelli became the sole supplier of tyres to Formula 1.
Now in F1 world, supplier doesn’t mean you give the teams free tyres in return for a free mention. Nup. While the tyres cost about $3k each, Giovanni’s company has paid over $500m for the privilege.
At least tyres play a big part in the performance and safety of each of the $15m cars. Gasper company Philip Morris, whose cancer sticks don’t form any part of the race cars, pay the Fezzer factory close to a mill a year in sponsorship.
Now the big Mission Winnow signs on the red Feezers don’t include pics of the exceedingly masculine, rugged cow persons from real western towns like Stepney, South Australia that were aimed at “post-adolescent kids who (were) just beginning to smoke as a way of declaring their independence from their parents” and who (the cowboys not the kids) were called Malboro Men.
Men like Wyoming rancher and longest-serving Malboro person, Darrell Winfield, who also gave his name to Paul Hogan’s favourite gaspers, Winnie Blues.
Don’t get me wrong. According to Phil, Mission Winnow is an “initiative to demonstrate our commitment to continuous innovation and development of new solutions that can expedite positive change for society”, not to sell smokes to kids. Disappointingly, Fezzer’s top drivers, Chuck and Carl, think this is OK.
Before we go back to rubber, this weekend the F1 racing is at the Circuit Paul Ricard down the bottom of France somewhere near Marseille and just across the road from, you guessed it, the Winfield Racing School. Anyway, the race track is named after Paul who marketed pastis, a poor (in alcohol and mid-altering power) relative to absinthe.
The old bloke and I often sip an absinthe after a few hours in the saddle (of the 1989 Beemer) despite the fact that someone said it “makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganises and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country”. Well, that’s a bonus.
I would be betting on a Hamo/Mad Max one two on Sunday, but if you’re a value better you can get 500 to 1 on Lance Stroll.
And I’d be betting on no Melbourne GP despite successive governments in Victoria forking out north of $60m a year to drive Albert Park residents crazy and criminal.
Now back at Pirelli. No one really like monopolies (well except the owners of the monopolies). And that’s particularly true among F1 drivers, whose lives and careers rely on four fat pieces of rubber. So, in the Baku race a fortnight ago, Max and Lance Stroll came close to that final podium in the sky when their Pirellis blew out.
Max was particularly angry when his Pirelli parted company from the rim at 320km/h. Look, I know a bit about the PR caper and the Italian company, now majority-owned by Beijing-based ChemChina, played it masterfully. Step 1: blame the drivers and the team. Step 2: have your own inquiry and then, Step 3: blame the teams.
Good strategy but we’ve seen this movie before.
Like in the 2020 British GP, where Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz all had front-left tyre failures. That was seven years after the 2013 British GP where six drivers had tyres explode, Hamilton’s happening after seven laps when he was leading and the rubber run-out put him into last spot for a while.
“Safety is the biggest issue. It’s just unacceptable really. It’s only when someone gets hurt that someone will do something about it. It’s a waste of time talking to the FIA and if they don’t do anything that says a lot about them.”
Lou told me at the time via the psychic internet.
And that was before the 2015 Belgian GP, where Nico Rosberg and Seb Vettel both lost front tyres and Pirelli blamed the teams without an inquiry.
OK, talking of the coming scourge: electric cars, my friend (and doesn’t this show how open we are to diverse – even though they are completely loony – views) Giles Parkinson edits Australia’s premier website for news and analysis about electric vehicles, and the transition to zero emissions transport, The Driven. As in “all this talk about electric cars has driven us madder than the side effects of Covid”. Anyway, his headline of the week is: Ex-Liberal leader in new venture to convert 60 car washes to EV charging stations.
Giles tells us that: “A new company chaired by former NSW Liberal leader Kerry Chikarovski has bought up 60 car washes around Australia and plans to transform them into ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations.”
Again, showing how diverse we are here, I really like Kerry, but can I point out a few problems. I don’t know about where you live but round my way there is a distinct shortage of car washes, or as we call them, cash washes.
Second, 60 electric charging stations could probably service all the world’s electric cars for the next 20 years.
Then there’s the company’s name. Bell Resources.
While it’s good to have a recognisable name, Bell Resources was majority-owned by corporate raider Robert Holmes a Court, then Alan Bond, then finally escaped its mortal coil last year after Australia’s longest and most expensive court case. Buona fortuna!