Pirelli 18 inch tyre, Monaco, 2015

Pirelli prepared to offer 18-inch wheels and ‘smart tyres’ in F1

2018 F1 season

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Pirelli says it is ready to supply new technologies to F1 if the sport decides it wants them.

The Italian manufacturer has been the sport’s sole tyre supplier since 2011 and its current three-year contract ends after the 2019 F1 season. The sport’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media intends to overhaul the regulations in subsequent seasons, which could lead to a change in tyre specifications.

Pirelli CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera said the company would welcome new technological challenges which come as part of that. These could include increasing F1 wheel sizes from 13 inches, which are seldom seen on road cars, to 18 inches.

“We are open,” he said. “Obviously they have to find the right regulations and the teams [need to be] ready to adopt it.”

A change in wheel size would have implications for F1 suspension design. Tronchetti Provera said this would require development work.

“We obviously need testing cars. They have to develop [different] cars for 18 inches. The shock absorption between suspension and tyres, different shoulders, different sizes, everything has to be tested and it takes time.”

The possibility of increasing F1 wheel sizes has been considered before. Pirelli tested an example of the larger rims and lower-profile rubber in 2015.

One drawback of the lower-profile rubber for Pirelli would be less space on the sidewall to display their logo. However according to Tronchetti Provera they do not prefer either format. “We are happy with 13, we are happy with 18,” he said.

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“We will find a way to have proper branding and shoulders that can be combining technology and marketing. It’s something our people are able to do.

“We showed the 18 inches tyres three years ago. We started thinking much in advance.”

Smart tyres, which feature sensors built into the surface rubber to give instant data on tyre performance, is another technology Pirelli could bring to F1. The manufacturer has recently introduced the technology to the consumer market.

“I think that if it helps the sporting aspect we are ready also with sensors,” said Tronchetti Provera in response to a question from RaceFans. “This is something the teams have to consider in additional value to the flow of information they have.

“We already mentioned that we are ready to start testing. We want to know what information they want that [is] useful for that. So we are here to continue to help the evolution of technology and the show.”

Pirelli’s 18-inch wheel demonstration

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 69 comments on “Pirelli prepared to offer 18-inch wheels and ‘smart tyres’ in F1”

    1. Oh, NO, please go away with your junk as far as possible!

      1. This, so very much. If F1 is to be the pinnacle of performance, we can’t handicap the cars with this nonsense!

    2. One drawback of the lower-profile rubber for Pirelli would be less space on the sidewall to display their logo.

      It amuses me no end how often this comes up. Given the amount of trackside advertising, I’d say no one’s at risk of going away after seeing an F1 race and wondering “Oh, gee, I wonder who makes the tyres for F1. Could it be Heineken?

      1. EB (@ebchicago)
        1st June 2018, 11:49

        It comes up even though you have the president of the only company it effects saying it doesn’t matter. If Pirelli doesn’t care then it really isn’t a drawback at all is it?

    3. Matteo (@m-bagattini)
      1st June 2018, 8:42

      I’d love to see 18 in. wheels on track, they look much more aggressive. Also, the challenge they offer is fascinating: stiffness on wheels would increase and more stress would be transferred to the car.

      1. Which would mean more body roll, higher ride heights, slower cornering speeds. How’s that for exciting?

        1. I’ve always hated tall rims. They look hideous even on street cars imo. This is really a personal preference thing, but like Nathen said it would really screw up handling, especially center of gravity. Please no !!

          1. What are you guys talking about? If the outside diameter of the tire is the same for 18″ wheels as for 13″ wheels nothing changes. I think I’d prefer the 15″ Indycar size…..

            1. Well, you’re forgetting how the tall tire is working as suspension. If you make the tires smaller because the rims got bigger, they’re gonna have to make something else do that work. And it’s gonna be either the suspension or the chassis. And the FIA basically killed Lotus because they tried to make that work with the chassis. No double chassis. So it’s going to be the suspension to do the work.

              And it’s also an objective truth that the big rims with small brakes look horrible.

            2. No Nathan, I’m not forgetting that. What I said was that for the same diameter tire things such as roll center, c.g. etc as commented about above won’t change. The geometry would stay the same. Yes, there would have to be changes because of the work the large tire sidewall does now but that’s another story.

        2. @nathanbuilder Maybe you need a lesson in reality.

          1. That’s not really an argument, now, is it?

    4. I’m curious – assuming the same overall diameter – does the unsprung weight go up or down by moving from 13″ to 18″?

      1. I would assume up, most of it on the 13” is air and while the magnesium alloy forged for the wheels is very lightweight (I don’t know the density of the Pirelli rubbers, I do know however that tyres aren’t only made with it, so if I were to guess I would say that for the same volume of tyre and rim material, the rimwould be lighter, because the density of the magnesium is very low, and the manufacturing process (modern forging) makes it even lighter) it would still increase the overall weight of the assembly. (does it make sense?)

        Another thing that should be taken into account, probably, is the size of the brake disc, going to 18” means they could fit bigger disc as well @phylyp

        1. @johnmilk – yeah, it’s exactly that lack of awareness of the exact density of the alloy and compound used that makes me wonder.

          But I think you’ve definitely answered it with your follow-up – teams will definitely look at larger brake discs to shorten braking distances, and that will in all probability increase the unsprung weight compared to today’s setup.

          1. @johnmilk, @phylyp
            I’m not so sure that bigger rims would lead to bigger discs. Rear discs have already shrunk with the arrival of MGU-k, and the brakes are already powerful enough to lock the wheels, so what would be the gain?

            1. @jimg bigger discs are more effective, they might keep their size on the rears due to the mgu-k, but if they have the opportunity to improve the fronts they will, and we will see shorter braking distances.

              The wheels lock up isn’t a measurement for brake performance, the fact they lock-up with the current size, does not mean they cannot be improved.

            2. @joao Wheel lockup is certainly a measure of performance. There is no value in having larger brakes than needed to lock the wheel; there is no more stopping power as the wheel is not turning. A little thought experiment: If the brakes were ten times as powerful, how hard could they be applied? Only enough to lock the wheels. There is only so much friction between the tire and the road during braking; once this is exceeded it doesn’t matter how much more braking power is available, the car is sliding. What would increase brake effectiveness is more downforce which will increase the friction force.

            3. Larger disc less overheating

      2. @phylyp, the expectation is that increasing the wheel rim diameter from 13 inches to 18 inches would increase the unsprung weight by quite a sizeable amount.

        When the idea was suggested a few years ago, Pirelli suggested that the unsprung weight would increase by about 4.5kg per wheel, and most of that would come from the increase in mass of the rim (the carcass itself would remain similar in mass due to the way that the tyre sidewalls would be redesigned).

        Michelin have also indicated in the past that increasing the wheel rim size would come with a weight penalty as well, which is part of the reason why the teams talked about needing to redesign the chassis if the proposal for 18 inch rims was adopted.

        @johnmilk, it’s true that some series, such as the World Endurance Championship, use the wheel rim size as a way of limiting the brake disc size (it’s the main reason why large rimmed lower profile tyres are used in the WEC – teams run the maximum rim size so they can fit the largest possible brake discs, but the limit on the total diameter of the tyre forces them to run lower profile tyres).

        However, the current F1 regulations place a fixed limit on the size of the brake disc, which is 278mm in diameter – of course, it is possible that the teams could try to lobby the FIA to allow them to increase the brake disc size if they did switch to larger diameter tyres.

        1. Michelin is irrelevant in this discussion. There is no rush to return to the tyre war. Pirelli pay for the right to claim “Official Tyre Supplier of Formula 1” and they aren’t very well going to give that up regardless of what their press releases say about welcoming the competition.

          1. @v12beard, the comment about Michelin is relevant because they have also indicated, when lobbying for F1 to adopt 18 inch rims, that the overall weight of the wheel would increase.

            Phylyp wanted to know whether changing to an 18 inch tyre would result in an increase in unsprung weight, and the point was that the tyre manufacturers who have offered to supply 18 inch wheels have all said that it would, and probably by several kilos.

    5. I dont understand why they would even consider changing rim size. Larger rims on f1 cars would look ugly to begin with and why get teams to invest additional money in new suspension layouts that will be needed for this change? Smart tyres?! Maybe somethings should just be kept dumb for the moment.

      I don’t understand why Pirrelli would make such a idiotic suggestion in the first place. I think when it comes to ideas regarding the future of the sport, every stakeholder should be given a clear framework and directive to begin with.

      1. @todfod – Given how many teams find managing the tyres so difficult, I imagine that separating the grip aspect away from the suspension (tyre pressure) aspect could be welcomed with open arms, particularly from teams that think they can do a better job of building a suspension system.

      2. haven’t you heard? The suspension will be off-the-shelf. Oohh the pinnacle of motorsport

        1. The proposal is for the active element of the suspension to be off-the-shelf, not the whole system.

          1. whats the advantage of bringing in active suspension? who comes up with this stuff?

            1. As I understand it, some of the current passive systems are extremely complex and are right on the limit of what the rules regarding passive suspension systems allows.

      3. @todfod, well, Pirelli are not the only ones – Michelin have made it clear in the past that adopting 18 inch tyres is a precondition for them entering F1, so there have been other manufacturers trying to force the sport down that route as well.

        Basically, the main driver is aesthetics and marketing – Michelin have stated in the past that they wanted the sport to have “a stronger visual link to road tyres”, and I believe that a few series had already been pushed to adopt larger diameter tyres for marketing purposes (the Formula Renault 3.5 series was meant to be switching to larger diameter tyres for that very reason, and I have a recollection that Michelin had also persuaded a motorcycle series to adopt a larger tyre solely on the basis of aesthetics because it made it look more like a road going motorbike).

        Similarly, I suspect that aesthetics is probably a main consideration in Pirelli’s mind, particularly with automotive manufacturers tending to want larger diameter tyres as well for aesthetic purposes (in part because, with cars getting bigger in general, the wheel rim size has had to go up in order to make the overall proportions of the cars look better, even when it is sometimes to the detriment of handling performance).

        1. shows how aesthetics can be subjective, to me, open wheelers look like horse drawn wagons with those massive rims

    6. Chris Horton
      1st June 2018, 9:07

      18″ wheels are more road relevant?

      In the same way as slick tyres are?

      Christ.

      1. Jeremy Smith
        1st June 2018, 10:28

        Exactly my thoughts as well, pimp my ride Pirelli ….

      2. and Pirellis, does anyone here have pirellis fitted in their cars? I surely don’t

        1. @johnmilk – 18″ Pirellis – probably for the kind of audience that Mercedes AMG and Ferrari target, not for plebs like me (and possibly you).

          To Chris’ point – I think this is all marketing – somehow they feel that a low profile tyre that resembles road tyres will make it easier to advertise road tyres. You’re quite right in that just making the sizes similar doesn’t improve road relevance, since the tyre compound and construction is wildly different (I mean, it’s almost been a point of pride until now that F1 tyres have precious little in common with those that our road cars run on).

          1. plebs like me (and possibly you).

            how dare you @phylyp, I drive a 2.0 L diesel hatchback

            1. LOL @johnmilk , and you watch gasoline-powered F1? Go watch some rolling coal. :-)

              (joking, in case it wasn’t obvious)

        2. I have 17” Pirellis on my Corrado – small tyre wall etc, not performance tyres tho. That doesn’t mean I want that kind of rim+tyre in F1 too, they look bad on this kind of car in my opinion, then it’s not like every time I get in my car I try to find similarities with F1… cause ain’t any.

    7. bling bling

      1. @vjanik: Almost. Need spinners for the full bling. Would make pit stops more blingy too!

    8. What is the optimum size for performance? That is the size I want.

      Being relevant to road cars is a poor excuse for adopting 18 inch rims. The linkage to road cars is already there: development of better compounds. There is nothing to gain from a cosmetic change, instead the sport loses an aspect of it’s technical history.

      If someone asks why F1 cars have 13 inch wheels now, it becomes a question of history and the gradual evolution of technology in F1 and how the cars have been built to accommodate or exploit the particular characteristics of that wheel size. If someone asks the same question about 18 inch wheels, the answer will be “because some marketing focus group thought they looked cool.”

      In my opinion, that would be a backwards step.

      However, if there were compelling technical reasons behind the switch, I would accept the new size.

      1. You are contradicting yourself a lot there. First you say road relevance is poor excuse for 18 inch rims and then you say road relevance is important because of developing better compounds for road cars. Which is nonsensical as well because 13 inch rims with tall sidewall tires have very little road relevance to begin with. Only trucks and heavy equipment use tires with tall sidewalls anymore. So you want road relevant tires but road relevant is not good reason to change things because tires are already road relevant (which they are not)?

      2. the 18” is better for performance, but it wouldn’t be as easy as my answer here

        A lot of things should be taken into consideration to reach that performance

        1. If the teams had a free choice of tire manufacturers and wheel sizes, where do we think this would go.?
          My money would be on something approaching 18 inch diameter with bigger brakes and the fronts different from the rears. Sounds like a by-gone era.

    9. I wonder if an 18″ run would reduce the amount of air enough to make the tires easier to keep in the window? Right now when you loose temps you loose pressure because the tall sidewalls effectively make them balloons. Reducing the amount of air could help to stabilize the expansion and help with more consistent pressures.

      Or maybe I’m way off. Either way I like the look of the 13s. But if the 18s are chosen it’s not a big deal to me.

    10. ADUB SMALLBLOCK
      1st June 2018, 14:00

      Not sure I would want the 18” wheels, but to answer the question “why?”, the answer is the same argument that the manufacturers use when complaints are made about turbos, hybrid technology, the MGU-H. ==== more relavent to modern road cars.

    11. Ooh, big rims with low profile tires. Maybe they could add spinner hubcaps, underbody lighting, and lowrider bounce kits. After all, Liberty wants to make F1 more American.

      1. Except that…most families in 4 door sedans are also on low profile tires, so the low rider reference is quite dated.

        1. He has a point tho, most cars now kinda look like low riders.

    12. Smart tyres are an interesting concept… It got me thinking about a tangential but beneficial concept for track limits. If the surface outside of the track limits is noticeably different for some kind of smart tyre to detect, then the engine could be artificially slowed for the driver for some seconds. Zero danger like with gravel or walls, but still a foolproof punishment.

      1. Could do that now using the same tech as the timing loops.
        or some goon with a camera and a laptop.

      2. First thing that came to mind with the suggestion the engine gets automatically slowed…someone running up the back of them. No danger at all.

        1. @robbie Heh yes.

          F1 drivers react fast though. Remember when in Spain Rosberg had the engine in the wrong mode and lost power. Hamilton didn’t run into the back of him. Although Rosberg took him out a bit later.

          Besides, they probably would see it coming with the driver ahead going off track.

    13. Neil (@neilosjames)
      1st June 2018, 17:27

      Not a fan of the appearance of 18s on an F1 car… they look a bit ‘Need for Speedy’, like they’re trying too hard to look stylish.

    14. 18″ rims. fewer spokes and painted calipers, the kids will love it. Just as I was going to specify my next new car has matt black calipers. Even the Tesla nerds from San Francisco are demanding bigger rims and red calipers for the Model 3.

    15. What rim size does IndyCar use – and why? It seems to work okay on very bumpy streetcircuits as well as ovals. Do the larger rims require a very different suspension solution to F1 pull/push rods?

      1. @nickwyatt, since you want a comparison, Indycar use 15 inch rims, so only marginally larger than in F1. I think that the reason for that is simply that it what the regulations set it to be several decades ago, and ever since then the regulations have remained more or less static: it is really just an arbitrary choice of “that’s what we’ve always used”, and there is no appetite in Indycar to change the tyre dimensions.

        In terms of overall diameter, when compared to the standard 670mm diameter of the current F1 tyres, the front tyres Indycar uses are a fraction smaller (635mm or 25 inches), whilst the rear tyres are slightly larger (710mm or 28 inches). It means that the height of the side wall for the front tyres is lower than the current F1 slicks (about 250mm versus 330mm), whilst the side wall for the rear tyres is the same in F1 and Indycar (330mm).

        With regards to the suspension, the solutions that Indycar adopts are not radically different: the tyres themselves are not quite as dissimilar as you might think, and there will be other changes that are as much down to wider technical regulations as anything else. There might be some restrictions if the teams had to strengthen and bulk up the suspension arms, which might impose slight restrictions on the geometry, but it probably wouldn’t be quite as much of a change as for a larger diameter rim.

        As I understand it, the main issues with the larger diameter rims is the higher mass, and therefore greater stress that it would impose on the chassis and suspension components, rather than the overall geometry itself: the other aspect is that the wheel tethers would potentially need to be redesigned and strengthened, and that in turn would force the teams to have to redesign the anchorage point to the chassis (and probably have to redesign the chassis itself to withstand the increased stresses imposed on it).

        1. @anon. Thank you for your valuable reply. I’m not an engineer or a mechanic and so understanding the information in your reply is extremely helpful.

    16. I’d be fine with 18” rims, and I’m assuming they could be introduced hand in hand with active suspension so that both changes can take place at the same time and the active suspension can be designed to make up for less flexy sidewalls.

      1. @robbie Agreed. That’s perhaps also why Pirelli brings it up now.

        I really don’t get the panic over 18″rims, but then I don’t fret so much over cosmetics as most here seem to do.

        WEC cars and Formula E seem to be dong fine with 18″ tyres.

    17. I, for one, find this proposal exciting and refreshing. Most fans tend to forget that Formula 1 is a constructors championship as well as a driver’s championship. If 18″ tires bring some road relevance as well as some unique engineering challenges then BRING IT. Especially if we’re hearing about cool things like tire sensors WITHIN the tire; that’s fantastic technology that i would love to see developed and brought onto my daily driver. This proposal sounds like a return to the formulas of the past, that allowed things like ABS, turbochargers and traction control to come about and change our lives for the better.

      I say go for it, let Pirelli swallow the tire development cost and introduce new relevant technologies, let the teams put their engineering work on chassis and suspensions that could actually be modified for use with our cars, and let new standardized tech like active suspension come in that both lessens the suspension work done by the team and moves the relevant technology up another notch. Call me optimistic, but on top of a budget cap, I can foresee some very exciting solutions coming from motivated engineers.

    18. I see F1 seems to be a hiding place for gammons….

    19. “13” wheels seldom seen on road cars”
      Even rare or nonexistent on road cars are DRS, halo, MGU-K etc.
      And what about elastic or cornering force of high walled tyres? Do they want us to see the 18′” wheel cars sliding with all four wheels in every corner?
      In the past the F1 technologies migrated to road cars, now they want F1 to look and behave like road cars. Mandatory.
      It’s like to oblige track and field athletes to wear boots, jeans, hoodies and cowboy hats because unitards, tights, spiked shoes etc. seldom seen on our streets.
      They restricted tyres, fuel, aerodynamics, I fear the next thing we’ll see on a race weekend F1 cars struggling to follow safety car because all the tech from road cars like drum brakes and mandatory spare wheel migrated to the pinnacle of autosport.
      What F1 now needs is Benny Hill slapping the heads of F1 “innovators” and road car lovers.

      1. Maybe they can see how Formula E and WEC cars and rivers are dealing with 18″ rims?

        Only reason we have 13″ wheels in F1 today is because they wanted to limit the brake caliper size and since then it became “tradition”.

        1. @patrickl, in the case of the WEC, the way that the regulations have been written strongly encourages the teams to run low profile tyres with an 18 inch rim, which also happens to tie in with Michelin’s marketing strategy.

          However, there have been times when teams have tried to move away from that: for example, Nissan chose to run a higher profile tyre when they entered their GTR-LM car a few years ago. Their car used 16 inch rims on the rear, but they had to pay Michelin to develop a bespoke tyre because Michelin’s factory was only set up to supply tyres for cars with an 18 inch rim (and, as things stand, Michelin is the only company prepared to supply tyres for the LMP1 field).

          As for Formula E, again Michelin have stated that they wanted to create a visual link between Formula E cars and mass market cars as part of the wider narrative within Formula E of the transfer of technology from the race track to the road car, which was why they went down that route.

    20. This actually makes a lot of sense when combined with the new suspension. With the smaller rims a lot of the suspension work is done by the tyres. This means combined with a standard suspension, teams would have limited customisation options.

      With less sidewall, engineers have more control over how the car reacts to the road in the chassis and suspension setup. This will allow for standardising suspension components without massively limiting how the cars are set up. It’s returning power to the engineers.

      Good move I say.

    21. My cars have 15, 16, 17 rims. Very thought that F1 still uses 13 makes me annoyed. 13 we only use on a 37 year old trailer that grandfather takes to the woods sometime to transport wood.

      F1 should use 18 atleast considering those tires are super fat and already look like baloons. Throw on active suspension and away we go. Then F1 will reach 90’s technology again.

    22. The Porsche that won last year’s Le Mans is going faster than a F1 at Spa. Ok some modifications were made to it but the wheels and tires remain the same.
      No sliding there or that kind of issues.
      F1 should go faster than a car that is designed for a 24h(+) race.
      They should embrace the opportunity of regulations change in the next couple of years to start almost from a blank page.
      I don’t hear anyone complaining about Michelin. Bring them back and have them fight Pirelli and maybe another manufacturer. Competition in that field will make the technology grow more advanced.
      Change suspensions. Change brakes. Change whatever needs to be changed so that it works.
      Enough of these guys running at 75% of what the car is capable of. Not even being able to drive at the limit fo an entire lap during qualifications.

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