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Inside the technical challenge of 18-inch F1 tires

Jul 12, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

F1 Testing At Silverstone - Day Two Getty Images

Lotus technical director Nick Chester has shed some light on the challenge that the engineers and designers in Formula 1 could face if Pirelli’s prototype 18-inch rimmed tires are adopted in the years to come.

Pirelli piloted the concept tires at Silverstone earlier this week, with Lotus test driver Charles Pic completing 14 laps using them. The Frenchman said that it would be a big challenge for the sport if they were used, and Chester echoed his words.

“The 18-inch Pirelli tires are obviously very different to the tires used in F1 now, so we viewed it as a shakedown run – simply a case of ‘let’s see’ for Pirelli, rather than a performance run,” he explained.

“The bigger size meant we had to trim the floor and change the ride height to adapt to the different loaded radius of the tires. Some of the suspension set up also had to be modified, such as the cambers. These were very basic revisions to enable Pirelli to evaluate the concept for the future and see what the bigger wheels look like on the car.”

If the tires are to be adopted in F1, all eleven of the teams would have to be in favor, and they would not be introduced until 2016 at the absolute earliest. Chester inferred that such a big lead-up would be required thanks to the challenge posed by the tires.

“Having 18-inch tires would have a big impact on design,” he said. “We would want to be testing in the wind tunnel for at least a year ahead of their introduction.

“The ride height and suspension packages would have to be changed and the tire profile itself would be very different. It would be an interesting challenge.”

  1. mcseforsale - Jul 12, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    The type and location of the unsprung weight, along with the lack of available tire volume for tuning (using temp/pressure ratios) would also be broken. 18″ tires don’t belong on the cars. The 13s are too small however, too. Something along the lines of 15″ would allow more brake diameters and still retain a great deal of tuning options with the tire volume. Oh, and wheel weighs more than air, too.

  2. techmeister1 - Jul 12, 2014 at 3:18 PM

    Actually fans seem to like the 18″ wheels based on a poll Ferrari conducted. The change to 18″ diameter is so that Pirelli can use their R&D budget for tech that transfers to other race series and street tires as virtually all modern high performance cars use 17″ or larger diameter tires. Spending fortunes on F1 tire tech for a 13″ wheel that is 50 years outdated isn’t good business practice. 15″ would not make a lot of sense either as they are not used on any serious performance street cars. Switching to 18″ tires would certainly be far easier than the massive rules change for 2014.

  3. actuatormz3 - Jul 13, 2014 at 1:00 AM

    Question, why does a tire change need the approval of all 11 teams when the engine change this past year didn’t (unless I wasn’t paying attention and they did approve it).

    • Luke Smith - Jul 13, 2014 at 5:56 AM

      Without the engine change, Renault and Mercedes would have quit the sport and Honda wouldn’t have come in. It would have been a spec-series with Ferrari engines. It was pretty much unanimous that the change was needed.

      • techmeister1 - Jul 13, 2014 at 2:24 PM

        I highly doubt that Renault and Mercedes would have quit without the engine change. The fact is V-6 engines have more relationship to current car production and the need to downsize engines and increase fuel economy. Virtually every major car maker has or is developing a series of turbo 4 cyl. and 6 cyl. engines because of the absurd U.S. 54.5 mpg CAFE mandate and outrageous crude oil prices – which are not going to ever get cheaper. The regenerative energy systems are also of value to car makers so it’s obvious why these were part of the ’14 rules. You can bet electric super or turbo chargers will start showing on production cars in the new couple years as a result of F1 R&D.

        The fact is Mercedes could not afford to have not succeeded this time around in F1 so they needed to get the job done at whatever the cost.

        Pirelli is saying that the 11 teams must agree or they won’t go down the 18″ tire path because it’s not worth the verbal abuse in the media and on social networks. The whole point of a tire maker being in a race series is to promote their tire brand. Few companies actually make money by supplying race tires in a series. It’s the millions of tires that consumers hopefully buy they makes a tire company spend millions annually to produce tires for a race series.

  4. worknman24hours - Jul 13, 2014 at 12:42 PM

    I’d like to see chromy 25’s on the cars!


    Yo Yo dog,check ma ride!

  5. bryangus - Jul 15, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Isn’t this exactly what Michelin said they wanted to do when they said they would come back to F1 if they could build bigger low profile wheels like are used by Audi in prototype racing. And the teams and Bernie all said no way.

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