Jumping behind the wheel of a car to navigate treacherous snow-covered roads in the freezing chill of mid-winter is not a welcoming prospect. Unless, that is, your vehicle is fitted with cutting-edge winter tyres that you can trust.
Whether cruising in snowy mountains or dashing around a busy city, innovative winter tyres, the result of decades of development, can help control grip in adverse conditions when combined with careful driving. They also allow the driver to enjoy the essence of their car, its feel on the road and its potential to lift the spirits.
Pirelli was one of the first companies to develop winter tyres. Over the years its R&D team has worked to create market-leading premium and prestige winter tyres that put the closely-linked tyre characteristics of safety and performance first, while maximising durability.
Winter tyres are designed to perform at their best whenever the temperature drops below 7°C (44.6°F) – the point at which summer tyres start to stiffen, losing their grip and braking efficiency.
They embrace brand new tyre concepts to combat skidding – the critical moment when traction is lost between the rubber and the road surface – by maximising the all-important contact between tyre and tarmac.
Pirelli continually creates and tests new rubber compounds that remain softer and more flexible in colder conditions. New tread patterns are developed and refined to enhance a tyre's ability to bite snow and displace water. Meanwhile, a sophisticated network of sipes – fine cuts in the tread – – optimize the tread compound flexibility and enhance the tyre to stick on snow.
Pushing for peak performance
It is not just the tread pattern and chemical compound of the tyre that can be honed to improve performance. The anatomy of the tyre as a whole, including its shape, is rigorously analysed in Pirelli's labs to ensure that all elements of the structure work in harmony.
Different combinations are used to meet the demands posed by cars with different profiles and behaviours. The P Zero™ Winter, for example, is designed for the sporty prestige sector, while the Scorpion™ Winter delivers maximum stability and control when used on SUVs, which are typically taller than sports cars.
And to optimise performance even further, Pirelli works with many high-end automakers to co-develop bespoke – or homologated – tyres for their cars. The result is a dedicated tyre that enables a driver to control their vehicle beautifully even in the worst winter conditions.
Safety and performance clearly come first, but durability is also a key issue for winter tyres as cold tarmac has an aggressive effect on rubber. Pirelli is also committed to creating products that last well despite the heavy wear and tear they receive over the season.
Perhaps surprisingly, the most important factor to consider in abrasion rates is the tread pattern rather than the number of miles/km covered. The goal is to establish a pattern that maximises safety and is well balanced between the centre of the tyre and the edge, as well as between front and back. The more evenly it is balanced, the longer the lifespan of the tyre.
Driving style, of course, also affects the rate of wear. In winter, the rule for all drivers is gently does it – whether cornering, braking or accelerating. Driving more carefully not only means tyres are less likely to lose traction – and winter tyres can halve the stopping distance – but also that they will last longer, too.
Enjoy life below 7°C
Pirelli – the tyre supplier of Formula One and a wide range of other motorsport events – has great admiration for driving skills. But in winter conditions such skills are not always enough. Drivers need the right tools for the job, carefully crafted winter tyres that give them the confidence to enjoy life below 7°C – whether on the hectic urban sprints of city life or long journeys in the snow.