The dou­ble world cham­pion writes ex­clu­sively for F1 Rac­ing


We should never be afraid to change when change is needed. I was very in­ter­ested to see Pirelli and Lo­tus test­ing 18-inch wheels on a For­mula 1 car at the re­cent Sil­ver­stone test, be­cause change is long over­due in this area. When I drove a Lo­tus at Paul Ri­card last year, I loved the down­force and the power of the brakes – but I had a very un­com­fort­able feel­ing that I put down to the size of the tyres. The 13-inch wheels cur­rently used in F1 are too small for the out­side di­am­e­ter of the tyre, and that cre­ates a false feel­ing through the car­cass as it is sub­jected to cor­ner­ing and steer­ing forces. The con­tact patch of the tyre is the car’s only con­nec­tion with the track sur­face; if the side­wall is too high then you get a deec­tion as the car turns, and this slows down the steer­ing re­sponse as well as mak­ing the car roll over the tyre, which re­sults in a lack of pre­ci­sion.

At the end of Paul Ri­card’s main straight you have a very fast right-hand cor­ner, Signes, and I was try­ing to take it at-out when I got this strange feel­ing through the car. My mind icked back to Indy­Car, rac­ing at high speed on the ovals. When I com­peted in that se­ries, wheel di­am­e­ters were much big­ger, which made the steer­ing more pre­cise at high speed.

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