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Report: Pirelli now eyeing 19-inch F1 tires, not 18-inch

Aug 5, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

F1 Testing At Silverstone - Day Two Getty Images

During last month’s Formula One test session at Silverstone, Lotus reserve Charles Pic turned laps on Pirelli tires fitted with an 18-inch rim.

But while Pirelli motorsports director Paul Hembery (pictured, with one of the 18-inch tires) said that he got good feedback, he did say at the time that a 19-inch tire could be “probably more interesting going forward.”

Sure enough, Hembery’s now confirmed that his company’s focusing on 19-inch tires for future seasons as F1 ponders ways to become more road-relevant.

“We are doing a lot of work – probably focusing on 19-inch now, if I am really honest with you,” Hembery said according to “We are carrying on our work internally on those developments and so from our point of view, it goes ahead.”

The F1 teams would have to give their consent for such a tire change.

After Pic tested with the 18-inch tires – which could be introduced as early as 2016 if necessary – Lotus technical director Nick Chester explained how a bigger tire would have major impact on car design and would need an extended testing calendar leading up to a debut.

As for what the width of the 19-inch tires would be, Hembery said that would ultimately come down to several factors.

“I think that depends on what package of aero changes they are going to make and what they think they might do with the suspension,” he told Crash. “We have heard talk of some form of active suspension. I am not sure if that is going to happen or not.

“But there is a lot of aspects they are talking about which could change what we do with that.”

  1. mcseforsale - Aug 5, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    This is dumb. More rotating weight, more unsprung weight, less sidewall for pressure tuning, etc. All to make a bunch of DUB fanboys happy who know little to nothing about racing a car. The target audience for this probably has never even been on a track, let alone tried to race with rubber bands wrapped around their wheels. Plus, they will have wheel durability issues with this. mark my words.

  2. zydecobro - Aug 5, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    The only good that can come for this is bigger an better brakes

  3. techmeister1 - Aug 5, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    Actually there is a lot more to this proposal than just appearance. 18″-20″ tires are what other pro race series use as do many modern super cars so from an R&D expenditure POV it makes perfect sense for F1 to get with the times so that tire companies are not wasting a lot of time and money on 1950’s technology no longer used by anyone else.

    There is nothing about an increase in wheel diameter to 18″-20″ that will hurt F1 performance per se. Other pro race series have no issues with these wheel sizes and F1 should not either. It would also allow the F1 teams to invest there R&D budgets on tire/wheel sizes used on current production Mercedes/McLaren/Ferrari/Lotus production vehicles.

    • mcseforsale - Aug 6, 2014 at 9:59 PM

      tech, that doesn’t make it anything else than marketing propaganda. 18-20″ wheels serve no purpose other than better turn in, which is only theoretical since that can be manufactured into the existing tires. The added stiffness and lack of tuning with the sidewalls will make F1 go through an entire re-engineering cycle. The added weight, both rotating and unsprung, will cause some serious design issues with the current suspension geometries and power output curves. That’s why there has been near-zero comments from the drivers or engineers who’ve tried this on F1. All of the crap you’re hearing is coming from marketing departments within F1 and Michelin/Pirelli. Anyone who’s actually raced on a track with both types know that the taller sidewall allows more tuning flexibility and is lighter due to the MOI of the rotating mass of the wheel being further toward the outer diameter of the wheel assembly.

  4. testover6370 - Aug 6, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    But the only reason road cars have such big impractical wheels is because buyers felt the need to compensate for certain personal shortcomings and apparently feel big wheels do that, and all the rest of us now have to put up with big, heavy, stiff, expensive big wheel setups on our road cars. I’m fortunate that my Miata’s wheels are “only” 16 inches.

    • techmeister1 - Aug 6, 2014 at 1:27 PM

      No the use of 17″-20″ wheels on modern high performance cars is not due primarily to personal shortcomings when installed by OEM car makers. Your conclusions about weight, etc. are also not necessarily valid either.

      The reason car makers use these tire/wheel combinations is because they generate higher lateral grip and that’s what most consumers expect. The lower profile sidewall results in increased stiffness that keeps the contact patch in a more desirable shape on the pavement under high lateral loads compared to a higher profile sidewall tire. To use lower profile sidewalls and maintain an ~25″ tire diameter popular with most OEM car makers, requires larger diameter wheels. Modern wheel design allows for very light wheels so the overall tire/wheel package remains similar and in some cases better than with a smaller diameter wheel and high profile sidewall. To make stiff sidewalls in a higher profile sidewall tire requires a significant increase in mass which also retains more heat – both of which are bad for tires.

      In addition as noted above the larger wheels allow for bigger brakes and better cooling which are very important on modern high performance cars with lots of HP and more weight than ever. The need for larger brakes is a big factor for OEMs in addition to the gain in lateral grip.

      If you look at skid pad test data from the ’90s and then from modern 17″-20″ tire/wheel combos you can see the gains. Many folks have updated earlier Porsches, Ferraris, etc. as an example with larger tire/wheel combos and seen significant improvement in lateral cornering performance, so it’s not just theory but reality.

      When it comes to aesthetics there are always going to be differing opinions and that’s fine. As far as F1 is concerned IMO it would be best for all parties concerned to update to the current 18″-20″ tire/wheel technology.

  5. worknman24hours - Aug 6, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    15 inch tires worked on cars racing and otherwise for decades.

    I am very disappointed that street cars and trucks have become game for massively expensive tires and rims that do absolutely nothing better then the fifteens that came before them.

    As far as F1 cars,I fail to see why they need to have such huge rims if the cars are not going to increase in size to make them look right.

    Another way to make F1 cars more expensive.

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