Pirelli 18 inch tyre, Monaco, 2015

Formula 1 to introduce 18-inch wheels in 2021

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 will introduce a new tyre specification for the 2021 season including a switch to 18-inch wheels.

The FIA has invited tyre manufacturers to bid to become F1’s exclusive tyre supplier for the 2020 to 2023 seasons. A document seen by RaceFans notes: “in keeping with the overall objectives for the evolution of the Formula 1 Technical Regulations in 2021, which aim (amongst other things) to improve the racing spectacle, significant changes to the tyre dimensions are planned “.

As well as switching from 13-inch to 18-inch wheels, front wheel widths will be reduced from 305mm to 270mm. Rear wheels widths will remain at 405mm. Tyre warming blankets will also be abolished in 2021.

The FIA will examine all tenders which are submitted by 31st August 2018 and determine which of those “meet the FIA’s technical and safety requirements”. These will then be submitted to the commercial rights holder of the championship [Liberty Media] which will conduct commercial negotiations with each approved bidder and make the final selection of the entity it proposes to be appointed by the FIA.”

“The FIA shall officially appoint the single supplier and contract with it in connection with the basis on which it will supply the competitors and any sporting considerations. The commercial rights holder of the championship shall be solely entitled to contract with the appointed single supplier concerning any rights of association with the championship to be conferred on the single supplier,” it added.

The chosen tyre supplier will be informed of “objectives that affect the sporting spectacle and are related to degradation, durability, temperature working range or wear characteristics,” the tender adds. “The FIA will reserve the right to amend these requirements once per calendar year.”

The four-year period of the new tyre tender is a departure from the previous three-year deals. Pirelli, which has been Formula 1’s official tyre supplier since 2011, potentially stands to benefit from its experience of producing the current 13-inch wheels, which will only be used for the first year of the new contract.

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91 comments on “Formula 1 to introduce 18-inch wheels in 2021”

  1. While overall I don’t think either changing tyre specifications or banning tyre blankets bad move, the timing of some changes is strange. A new contract with tyre manufacturer starting in 2020 and new tyre rules for 2021 doesn’t make much sense, especially if new manufacturers are interested in supplying tyres for F1.

    Therefore I would see Pirelli’s current contract to be extended by one year (2020) and then start a new bidding process for 2021 onwards.

    1. manoli moriaty
      20th July 2018, 12:59

      I think it does make sense. If you have a new supplier, they will need a year’s experience with the old spec tyres, as to have data with which to compare the incoming 18″ size. Otherwise it would be a crapshoot in the dark.

  2. Agree with @blue that starting in 2020 for a new entrant doesn’t make sense; keep Pirelli 1 more year and tender next year for 2021.

    But I’m also worried about reducing the width of the front tyres. Skinnier (width) tyres means more downside required to get the same grip. More downside at the front of the car means more front wing. More front wing means more disturbance from dirty air. And that means less close racing; the bit we all dislike about the current car design.
    Too simplistic?

    1. @bleu. Oops, not the colour, mais le couleur ;-)

          1. @coldfly Yeah I think too simplistic, because we have to consider the makeup of the tire compound and the behaviour of it. A big difference for example is that without tire warmers these new tires are going to have to be able to be brought up to operating temp quite quickly and stay there.

            Yeah it’s far more complex than just narrow equals less grip and therefore bigger front wings and therefore more negative dirty air effect. Simply, they don’t want more dirty air effect, therefore they have good reasons for making the decisions they are making that will lessen wake and make tires that can handle being in what dirty air there will be.

    2. Perhaps.
      Why should Pirelli agree to a one year extension just to allow a greater number of opponents? Surely, their best bet is to say that it’s a 5 year deal or nothing and then see if the FIA can persuade the teams, and another manufacturer, to agree.

  3. I’m surprised they didn’t give a rationale for reducing the front tyre width, making the tyre narrower will result in a loss of over front grip which could lead to aerodynamic and mechanical shenanigans which they probably hadn’t thought of.

    1. @geemac does this have something to do with the proposed inwash front wings maybe? i’m just speculating, but intuitively i would expect this to be slightly easier to achieve with a narrower tyre.

      1. @frood19 That’s a good point. Everyone is focusing on the mechanical grip of the tyre, but maybe the narrower profile will end up reducing dirty air.

        It will be helpful for an expert to explain this to the fans.

    2. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest Team Brawn knows exactly what they are doing. I have confidence there is nothing they haven’t thought of and continue to study daily. A narrower front tire will create less drag, and less disturbed air around and behind it. A narrower front tire doesn’t necessarily have less grip, for grip is yet to be determined based on what the maker will be mandated to do. With the banning of tire warmers the tires will thankfully no longer be the temp sensitive annoyances that they are, for the new ones will have to be able to be brought up to operating temp quite quickly and will have a much wider operating window than they do now. They’ll be tread wear deg tires, not temp deg tires like we have now.

      I hope the new maker is Michelin. I think it is time for a change.

      1. @robbie, to me, it sounds rather presumptuous to presume that Brawn will know every single possible ramification, that the changes are completely thought through and that there is not a risk of potential negative risks.

        After all, in the discussion over the amended front wing regulations for 2019, there were some team bosses who suggested that there had only been some rather limited modelling exercises undertaken by Brawn’s team and that the changes were being rushed through because they wanted to be seen to be doing something in the wake of the complaints about the racing that were cropping up at the start of the year.

        It may be positive, but then again it might be the case that the overall impact of these changes turns out to be negative – there certainly will be potential negative costs in terms of pushing up redesign costs even further at a time when the sport would already be facing a significant upheaval, potentially making the situation even worse for midfield teams at a time when it is still not clear if the commercial terms will be rebalanced or not.

        1. @anon That’s fair comment. I would never expect that he and his team have it all worked out as it will always be a work in progress. I just suggest that if they want narrower front tires for example, they have a good reason for that. Everything they do will at least start from being discussed and researched well, so I see all kinds of positives for the future. But for sure you’re right that they won’t get it perfect, there may be steps backwards etc, but overall I like everything about what they are working on and working toward with their best intention in mind. Subject to tweaking of course, studying everything on the whole on a regular basis.

    3. @geemac smaller tyres at the front also reduce tyre wake and are easier to punch through the air, it might balance it out. Also having less grip at the front might not be the worst thing as it will increase braking distance

      1. Indeed. Have a look at how small the front tyres of an early 90s car is compared to the rears and I think this is going to be a good thing.

    4. @geemac The article only gives the diameter of the wheel rim and not the tyre. If the overall diameter remains the same as the 13 inch wheels then the 18 inch tyres will have a smaller aspect ratio which will give more control of the tread footprint. Therefore it is conceivable that a narrower lower aspect ratio tyre can yield the same grip level as a wider high aspect ratio tyre.

      1. Exactly what I was thinking. A low-profile tire. Will not raise the ride height. Stiffer side-wall.
        Narrower will reduce outwash and reduce the dependency on the front wing aero, thus more under-floor dependency.

    5. Narrower front tires also means there is going to be less aerodynamic lift and turbulence from the front tires. Narrower tires could also hint that f1 is moving towards harder compounds. One of the main benefits for wide tires is that you can run softer compounds as you have more area to spread the tire loads.

      1. With the new technology regarding tire compounds and the combining tread to sidewall, the contact surface and sidewalls can be varied to optimise most specific conditions.

  4. I am intrigued to know the pros and cons of this switch to 18 inch tyres. Would they get heavier ? How is it going to affect the rubber depth ?

    1. @webtel they’ll get a bit heavier, which means higher unsprung weight, which means stronger suspension components to cope with that.

    2. Yes they will be heavier, and the weight is out nearer the edge which increases the inertia, so it will reduce acceleration (and braking) performance. It will also reduce tyre compliance so will need more travel in the heavier suspension, but it will “look cool” and help sell tyres.

      1. All true but on the other hand, the added travel in the kinematics will be damped and will help wheel control, unlike the travel in the sidewalls.

        1. Blastermaster
          20th July 2018, 11:43

          Good point.

          1. @ green flag. The diameter of the rotor has little bearing on the retardation factor. It’s the size of the hand that grips it that makes the difference. So if they limit the size of the brake pads to what is currently used then the disc diameter makes very little difference.

        2. plus it will give them more volume to work with, so we should expect bigger brakes, at least at the front.

          1. The main reason 13 inch wheels have been used for so long was to limit brake rotor diameter. Will larger diameter rotors be allowed, and will diameter be regulated? The “small” diameter carbon rotors already produce enormous retardation.

          2. @johnmilk, whilst historically the restriction to 13 inch rims did act as a way of indirectly restricting the size of the disc, the current regulations place an explicit restriction on the maximum size of the brake disc (278mm in case you are wondering).

            Therefore, unless the FIA were to allow the teams to use larger discs – which seems rather unlikely – the brakes will stay the same size as they are now.

          3. Anon is that for both front and rear tyres? I thought it was only for the rears, because of the energy recovery, and the fronts were limited by rim size.

          4. @johnmilk, the regulation states that it applies to all brake discs, not just specifically to the rear brakes. There are separate regulations that deal with other parts of the braking system that are specific to the rear brakes due to the energy recovery systems, such as how the hydraulic systems work – that is intended to stop teams using the recovery systems as a form of anti-lock braking – but the basic discs themselves are the same irrespective of whether they are mounted on the front or rear wheels.

            In fact, that particular regulation seems to have been there since at least 1999 and remained unchanged until 2017, when there was a minor amendment that allowed the teams to use slightly thicker discs (they previously were limited to 28mm thick discs, but in 2017 that was increased to 32mm), so it’s not in any way related to the current hybrid systems.

  5. I don’t get the front tires width reduction (but sure I love the larger rims)

    1. Less front mechanical grip means longer braking distance and slower turn in, promoting overtaking. The aero will be addressed separately, and hopefully successfully!

      (@geemac) I have a feeling Ross Brawn knows a thing or two about race cars dynamics and knows what he is doing, but if not, give him a call ;-)

      1. @nickfrog While I share such feelings as well many here remember the last time he was a part of an overtaking working group. Still, I do hope whatever is in store for 2021 actually works this time.

      2. Why does there have to be less mechanical grip? That is going to be determined by the compounds and the nature of their behaviour.

        And there is no comparison between the overtaking working group from the past under BE that was only a half-hearted effort that wasn’t allowed to see many of their ideas through, to this dedicated team under Liberty headed by Brawn that is independent from the teams and actually has two cars one behind the other in a wind tunnel doing extensive research that they will actually act on.

        1. @robbie contact patch with the asphalt will be smaller, so most likely there will be less mechanical grip. The tyres might be grippier, they might even play more with the suspension but it is still a significant difference.

          @angie the difference in mechanical grip is not related to the rim size, but the changes in tyre width, which will go from 305 to 270

      3. @Robbie I seriously doubt that there will be less mechanical grip from the 18 inch wheels. My guess is that there will be more grip. I’m sure that Ross has thought of these factors.

    2. With a smaller tyre profile it would be more responsive, this is probably to counter that.

  6. For the first time in a very long time the diameter of F1’s wheels will exceed the diagonal of the display on everybody’s notebook PCs.

  7. objectives that affect the sporting spectacle and are related to degradation, durability, temperature working range or wear characteristics,”

    How about you just let whoever the supplier may be make the best tyres there able to….. You know like they were able to for many decades prior to 2011?

    1. Most manufacturers don’t want to make the best anymore, they want to make low profile, because marketing.

    2. “the best tyres there able to…” are tyre able to last multiple races as promotion for the durability of their road tyres, which is the reason Pirelli are here. Is that what you want?

  8. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    20th July 2018, 9:54

    I recall reading somewhere that Michelin said they were only interested in providing larger-rim non-cheese tires. Seems like this may be FIA meeting the Michelin brief.

    1. objectives that affect the sporting spectacle and are related to degradation, durability, temperature working range or wear characteristics

      doubt!

      1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        20th July 2018, 11:34

        “The FIA will reserve the right to amend these requirements once per calendar year” is a catch all provision allowing them to adapt this at a moments notice though

        1. Spot on … I caught that too, a provision for a knee jerk reaction

    1. Indeed why… this makes zero sense…

      Not only bigger wheels are stupid as it gets, reducing the front tyre width will only help in making the cars understeer inherently, and add to that the usual dirty air getting in the way, following another car will be a massive task.

      Plus it’s a MASSIVE redesign on everything, again. How are the teams going to cope with it?

    2. Narrower will help reduce the dependence on the front wing.
      The 13″ to 18″ is the rim (Wheel) size, not the tire.
      This allows for better cooling, more lateral control, and is unsprung weight which means added stability.

  9. Oh God no, please no, just no…

  10. Probably goes against everyone else’s ideas, but I will miss the 13” rims .
    With all the great advances in F1, it was nice to have one long lasting tradition on the car.

    1. Except big rims are a regression.

      1. mmm, Ok, I’ll pay that.
        But wasn’t that back in the 1950’s?

    2. @paul1923 Well, at least we still have the driver … for now!

    3. @paul1923 I agree, and I’m probably well in the minority but I love how the tyres look now

  11. Yuck! Do not like it at all. But this is F1 of today… ROAD RELEVANT AND NOT CREATIVE! Funny, these small wheels were introduced in a period when F1 was creative and in the pursuit of performance and not for the sake of being road relevant. This is obviously a move with no gains for F1, but just for the tyres manufacturers. That Michelin guy said they need motorsport to use road relevant tyres in order to be able to develop new tech. It’s a big lie/excuse, most cars in motorsport use road relevant tyres, plus they have now Formula E etc, so there’s plenty of data to work with. I don’t get this desperation to make F1 switch to a bigger rim/tyre, isn’t Le Mans and all other countless series around the globe enough for them?! I see it simply as a marketing affair to sell tyres and cars simply by adding the image of F1 next to their products: F1 guaranteed! Really sad……

    1. Racing only exists because of the revenues marketing of products generates. If it is ‘just’ a marketing affair, that’s reason enough right there. The fact that Lemans and other countless series, not to mention even the likes of family cars such as Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys have low profile tires, suggests F1 has been clinging to the past for too long.

      1. Let’s get over this “clinging to the past” non-sense. Some stuff is never dated. Is the wheel, geometrically speaking, dated?! Mmm… no! This size (13inch), and especially the big balloon tyre, NEVER were significantly road relevant. Plus, you see road relevance between F1 and Accords, Camrys etc?! Sorry, but then where do you see the road relevance for Le Mans cars?! In Lawnmowers? Are slicks road relevant? No. It’s just their dirty game. I don’t want F1 to be some test bed for street cars, there’s plenty of street cars related series that can take care of that.

        1. Andrew in Atlanta
          20th July 2018, 17:37

          Except you are looking purely at DIRECT copies over to street projects. Sorry but rubber compounds ARE tested in racing and used to develop newer longer lasting tires. Tire are has almost doubled in 20 years in terms of functional tread life without having to make deeper tread. Engine tech has been used and developed for flow rates and cylinder construction. But I guess since you don’t see an F1 or LM car on the street there’s no tech transfer. There’s just pretending and making claims to make yourself feel better. Try actually getting to know engineers in the automotive world, you’d be surprised what small things are tested and used. But that would involve time and friends.

          1. The thing is, on another forum that I’ve been on, there used to be a motorsport tyre engineer who was there who said that, in his experience, the technological transfer was usually in the opposite direction (i.e. from road to track rather than from track to road).

            The significantly larger research and development budgets that the automotive sector spent on developing equipment for road vehicles, along with the much broader depth of knowledge that sector had, meant that, in practise, engineers in the motorsport sector were usually drawing on knowledge from the mainstream sector and then tailoring that to racing.

            Furthermore, in many ways a number of the objectives of what makes for a good road car tyre are either not relevant to, or even directly conflict with, that of a race track tyre – for example, you generally don’t care about noise emissions from a race car tyre, for example, but a road car tyre has to take that into account given that high noise emissions would not be tolerated by the average road car driver.

            The indication is that there really isn’t as much of an overlap in terms of compound development between road and race tyres as you suggest, especially when you consider that a race tyre is generally designed to work in a very narrow and well defined set of parameters compared to what a road car tyre is expected to deal with.

            Another example of the way in which road car technology tends to trickle down into motorsport is the use of the Turbulent Jet Ignition (TJI) systems that most teams are now using on their engines – that technology originally came from Mahle’s road car division before then being modified to fit to the current generation of F1 engines.

  12. 270mm wide front tire? My WRX has 235mm wide tires! I can’t believe a car that take over 5x the level of G’s as mine, will have a 25mm wider tire. But maybe it will indeed hamper performance somewhat compared to the current F1 cars today.

    1. Your WRX has a FAR heavier front end, a FAR higher centre of gravity and FAR lower amounts of downforce.

      1. @nickfrog You’re talking to a WRX driver. They won’t believe you.

    2. Bernie's Miniature Grandpa
      20th July 2018, 16:00

      Are your road tyres so sticky that you have to replace them every 50-100 miles?

  13. georgeboole (@)
    20th July 2018, 11:13

    So F1 cars will have a simpler front wing with no mechanical grip from the tires and will look like those dragster cars.
    At least they ll be able to fit some bigger brakes in those wheels and they wont need a parachute.
    I just hope its not agreed.Yet.

    1. Why no mechanical grip from the tires?

    2. Go look at an MP4/4 and tell me it looks like a dragster. It doesn’t. These will look fine.

  14. “Single supplyer” I miss the Tyre wars of 1997-2004 adds another dynamic of unpredictability to the event. I get the downsides of supplyer cost caused by competition, possibility that one tyre is much worse than the other and gets blamed for ruining the season, like Red Bull Renault and McLaren Honda

  15. More degradation of the once-but-no-longer sport of Formula One, for the sole purpose of increasing its marketing value to global corporations, in this case tyre manufacturers. Disgusting.

    1. Racing series only exist because global corporations glean marketing value through such entities. If that disgusts you, you should have never started watching racing to begin with, for it has been the reality for a long time, and without it there would be no racing to watch. Unless of course you do actually prefer the Stroll model after all, of simply having drivers who are sons and daughters of their billionaire parents pony up the money to go racing as a hobby. Oh wait…how did Stroll become a billionaire? Global marketing of his clothing brands.

    2. Gary, I’m genuinely interested in what it is you think is being degraded here.

      Rather than just knee-jerking at the prospect of change.

      Sure, is it change just for the sake of it, or is it change because it improves some aspect or another?

      If anything the old 13″ wheels are only acceptable because it’s what we are used to. If you were to propose the opposite, swap 18″ for 13″, people would rightly consider it a bonkers idea!

      1. Andrew in Atlanta
        20th July 2018, 17:39

        Because all shall follow the demands of Gary, he knows what is best for FREE and he alone. If you believe the comments on here, no one ever watches F1 even though it’s still one of the most watched events each time a race airs. But it’s not the heights of the past, FEW things each those heights anymore.

  16. It’s official: the FIA are either complete stupids or corrupt and just bought by Pirelli. It doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. No tire company in their right mind would spend many tens of millions to develop tires for one year and further many tens of millions to develop a completely new tire, that has absolutely NOTHING IN COMMON with the previous one. It’s in effect no tender at all. It’s Pirelli or nothing. I’m used to hearing stupid stuff from the FIA but this is another level

    1. @montreal95, surely most would say that, if anything, given that the changes that are proposed are rather heavily skewed towards what Michelin have demanded that the sport changes in direction towards, it sounds a lot more like they’re angling these regulations in such a way so as to get Michelin interested in tendering.

      1. @anon I think that montreal95 has just hit the nail on the head.

  17. No tire blankets. So is this the end of undercutting?

    I wish they publish more analysis for the reasons and results of these changes. This is a part of the F1 show and it is not nice for the fans not to have an idea about what’s going on.

    1. Also no tire blankets would probably mean the teams would have more initiative for avoiding multiple pit stop strategies. Pirelli admits that they failed in their goal to produce multi-pit races, now I fear this will be even more of the case, and the one pit stop that we get will be much more ineffective. Unless the other changes will have an effect on the tire degregation, about which we don’t get a clue from the anouncement.

  18. My first instinct is no! I have faith in Ross Brawn but not sure what he is thinking yet.
    A lot of F1’s suspension is through its tyres so does this mean a new design costing more money where FIA are trying to cut costs?

    Is it for road car relevance? Is so I cant care less about that, F1 should be the pinnacle not here for road cars.

    1. We all know the new design for 2021 is going to be drastic. So while they’re at their major overhaul, the suspension will be part of the revamp. What better time, rather than to have to take cars meant for 13” rims and adapt them to 18” rims which would be more problematic and costly?

  19. Just a point regarding some comments about the switch to 18″ been for marketing/Road Relevance….. Neither is totally true as there are also performance benefits from running 18″ rims.

    Before the Renault 3.5 world series went under Michelin were looking at introducing 18″ rims & ran a test which saw the car go 1 second faster than it had done on the smaller 13″ rims.

    One of the reasons for this is that currently most of the vertical movement comes from the sidewall of the tyre rather than the suspension so vertical ride travel is more about tyre pressures (Which lets not forget are currently regulated). With larger rims & smaller/more rigid sidewall’s there is more emphasis on the suspension which gives teams/drivers an easier job setting the ride up in order to maintain a stable platform which is something that was be especially essential if they move towards ground effects for 2021.

    1. As I understand it, Michelin were the ones who claimed that the car had gone a second faster during that test – however, it wasn’t clear whether we really were getting a fair comparison given that there was no independent verification of the times (which were never released), no indication of the track conditions under which those times were set, what tyre compounds were available to the test drivers or any other factors about how the test was conducted which would enable independent observers to have any chance of even roughly estimating whether Michelin’s claims held water.

      Furthermore, when Michelin did allow some journalists to test the Formula Renault 2.0 and 3.5 test cars, the journalists did note that Michelin only allowed them to test cars fitted with 18 inch rims, giving them no way of running a back to back comparison with the standard tyres that the series was using.

      Essentially, what we were left with was a situation where the party with the strongest vested interest in introducing those tyres – Michelin, which had stated that they were pushing for Formula Renault to change to 18 inch tyres on marketing grounds – was the one allowed to control the narrative of what happened, given that it seems that they were the only ones speaking to the media about the proposed changes.

      It may be, therefore, that there were performance benefits in the order of magnitude that Michelin claimed, but the way that everything was set up was done in such a way that nobody would have been able to verify whether Michelin was telling the truth or not.

  20. Nick (@theawesomefish)
    20th July 2018, 15:31

    I reckon the 18″ rims are going to end up like the halo has. Widely derided when initially unveiled on aesthetic grounds, or the even more specious argument of ‘it’s not Formula One’, but give it a few races and nobody will notice them.

    1. I, like many, still notice and despise the halo. But there’s no point in saying anything because it’s obviously (and sadly) not going away

  21. Disgraceful move. It goes against one of the main principles of motorsport: be lighter, be faster.
    I’m fed up with these “spectacle” and “good for the show” crappy arguments.

    1. Well, as the front tyres will be narrower at least they will be lighter.

      1. Whatever it’ll be, it would be lighter with smaller rims.

  22. Why a single supplier? Why not add to the competition? I was at Le Mans recently and while all the cars run the same size wheels and tyres, there were two manufacturers there. Teams had to buy from one or the other. Let as many suppliers as possible enter the race.

    1. Andrew in Atlanta
      20th July 2018, 17:42

      That is not at all how LM works. There are multiple tires, compounds and contacts. You cannot but your own tires and get whatever you want, all teams sign deals to get tires and in the case of LMP2 are allowed ONE change during the season. GTE-Pro cars all use confidential tires leased to the teams and must be returned to Michelin after use. It’s not a wild open spectacle they like to claim.

  23. Mark in Florida
    20th July 2018, 18:27

    One thing that will change and possibly shake up the order somewhat is that the suspensions will change totally. With a much lower tire sidewall the tire will be stiffer than what they are used to. Most of the suspension motion will now focus on the shocks and springs. Whoever gets this right straightaway will have a clear advantage over the others, at least until the rest catch on to the right combination that works and handles through the corners. Going with a skinny front tire that has little roll deflection will introduce a lot of understeer to the chassis. Drivers that like a pointy car will struggle until they adapt or do something to make the car more neutral. This change may physically look cool with massive tires in back and smaller tires in front but I don’t think it will do anything to improve the racing. I hope that Michelin will get a fair and honest chance to show what they can do. In road racing circles they are a great tire manufacturer.

  24. Neil (@neilosjames)
    20th July 2018, 21:39

    Don’t like the appearance of 18s on an F1 car. They look like they’re trying too hard to look ‘cool’, like when I used to play Need for Speed games and every single car had to have the wheel size cranked up to the largest they’d go to.

    But it’s not the end of the world…

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