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 deection 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.