Pirelli push to drop 13-inch wheels
F1 tyre supplier wants wheel rims 18-inches or larger as of 2016
F1 took a step towards low-profile tyres when Lotus did a demonstration run on 18-inch wheels at the Silverstone test. Tyre manufacturers are keen to move away from 13-inch wheels, which they feel are outdated in the context of developments in the road-car industry.
French company Michelin, believed to be the favoured choice of most teams as F1’s next tyre supplier from 2017, have made it clear they would prefer Formula 1 to use larger wheels. And Pirelli say they would be prepared to supply 18-inch wheels from 2016, the last year of their current contract, if F1 bosses want to make the switch.
Behind the scenes, Pirelli have been pushing for 19- or even 20-inch wheels. Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said the idea behind the test was “to show people what a current car would look like with a change in rim”.
The Lotus was driven by Lotus reserve driver Charles Pic, and Hembery said the test had: “confirmed what we knew, which was that the front tyre will create a very aggressive turn-in”.
Larger wheels would also have significant ramifications for car designers, since they have a major impact on aerodynamics, suspension and brakes. They affect the flow of air around the car and will require suspension with greater travel because the tyres currently account for a major part of the impact absorption of Formula 1 cars, and the current brake sizes would no longer fill the wheels.
High-profile 18-inch Pirelli wheels were demonstrated by Lotus in a test at Silverstone