Written by Nick Schonberger (@nschon); Photography by Brad Rogers

This feature appears in Complex's October/November 2012 issue.

Until now, the United States has never built a Formula One track from scratch. The world’s most prestigious auto racing tour gets a new jewel in November, when Austin, TX hosts the Formula One United States Grand Prix. Drivers will take 56 laps on the new 5.516 KM track, the Circuit of the Americas. Separating their cars from the ground will be the famous Pirelli P-Zero.

Pirelli produces two tires for its F1 range: one for dry weather (slicks) and one for wet conditions (equipped with grooved tread patterns). For each race, Pirelli’s motorsport team analyzes the conditions of the track and location to prepare the best possible tire for performance and speed—sometimes over 200 mph. The tires are fast, but they aren’t exactly durable. An ordinary car tire lasts about 10,000 miles. An F1 tire? About 125 miles, at most. 

Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, says, “We’re all very excited to be going to Austin later this year and looking forward to meeting the hugely enthusiastic racing fans in America. The American market is crucial both to Pirelli and to Formula One as a whole.” He’s been busy taking stock of Austin’s new course, using measurements and samples to digitally simulate the track and prepare the most effective tire nominations. When racers hit the asphalt on November 16 for the first practice laps, they’ll be burning the best rubber available.