Nobuharu Matsushita, MP Motorsport, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Pirelli learning lessons from F2 tyres for F1’s switch to 18-inch rubber

2020 F1 season

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Formula 2’s switch to 18-inch rubber has given Pirelli some useful data to guide its development of the similar tyres Formula 1 will use in 2022.

There are several major differences between the two series: Formula 1 cars have wider tyres than the junior category and put significantly more energy through the rubber. Tyre warmers are permitted in F1 but banned in F2.

Nonetheless, Pirelli’s head of motorsport Mario Isola said they can glean some useful data for their F1 project from F2’s first races on 18-inch wheels this year. F2 races have revealed how tyre temperatures are affected when drivers are running in traffic, something Formula 1 cars are highly sensitive to.

“We have the opportunity to use these tyres in a race environment,” Isola told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “What we missed during our tyre development tests is using the tyres in a real race environment.

“Sometimes when we were talking also in the past about overheating when you follow another car, this is something that we cannot test during our session because we have one or two cars running on-track so it’s almost impossible to have a race simulation.”

F2 drivers have changed their racing lines at some circuits because the lower-profile rubbers responds differently to kerbs at certain tracks, Isola added.

“The fact that they have slightly modified their racing line – that didn’t happen in Paul Ricard, that didn’t happen in Bahrain but it happened [at the Red Bull Ring] – is giving us some indication of what probably is going to happen also in Formula 1,” he said.

The introduction of 18-inch wheels to F1 was postponed by a year due to the global pandemic. Pirelli’s real-world development programme for the 18-inch wheels has therefore been put on hold. However they are still able to make some progress with the new rubber, said Isola.

“We tried to use the time in the best possible way. We don’t have an any opportunity to organise any track test until the beginning of 2021.

“Luckily, with the four sessions that we ran until February of this year – the first one was with Ferrari in Jerez – we defined a baseline for the 18-inch development that was quite good. Now, what we are doing is even if we don’t have the possibility to test on track, we still have the possibility to make some design analysis and also physical prototypes that we can test in our facilities.

“We are not just losing time because we are not testing on track. What is clear is that we cannot confirm any of our virtual models virtual prototypes because we are not testing on track. But we can we can do something. We are not just sleeping and waiting for January 2021.”

The new tyres will bring a weight penalty, however, due to the larger wheel rims. Isola estimates the switch to 18-inch wheels will increase F1 car weight by eight to 10 kilograms.

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2020 F1 season

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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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  • 19 comments on “Pirelli learning lessons from F2 tyres for F1’s switch to 18-inch rubber”

    1. Is learning that new wheels are looking ugly a valuable lesson?

      If so, can they please scrap this abomination and come up with some better idea.

      1. Do you have a better idea?
        If staying with the same ridiculous looking and totally industry-mismatched 13″ wheels is your suggestion, then might I counter that we should go back to V8 or V10 NA engines?
        Maybe F1 should re-introduce the skinny cross-ply treaded tyres used in the 50’s? Would certainly spice up the on-track action and challenge the drivers.

        If F1 is a series that is dependent on innovation and progress, then to achieve that things need to keep changing.

        Personally, I think the new size actually suits F2 quite well. They look a lot more modern.
        Looking forward to seeing some top teams struggle for a while when they reach F1. 2012 repeat please.

        1. Jockey Ewing
          30th July 2020, 18:07

          Every innovation is relevant to someone, an innovation not inline with curent industry directions will not be sunk forever. History repeats itself also. F1 can be innovative without being inline with roadgoing car industry, and can be spectacular too. Although it seems they don’t intend to use only internal combustin engines without hybrid technology, but would fan’s consider a for example a 75 percent electrified F1 car really an F1 car?
          Because I can accept many things, a full electric car has a nice mid engined feeling, with perfect balance so why not. Altough I could accept a much loosley specificated set of F1 rules on the tech side (not around safety), so loose that an appropriately low cost cap would prevent the teams copying and having everything that their rivals have so they would have to make compromises and then the series and the cars would not be too similar. Neither would I mind havind onli internal combustion engines, and ultra big wings with a similarly loosely specificated ruleset, simpler but oversized aero devices. Then we might would not have to listen stories about dirty air for another decade, but it would still be cheaper and more diverse.
          And: is it environment firendly to build racetracks and bin them after 15-20 years of usage? Or would it not be better to have the aforementioned oversized and simple aero with an appropriately low cost cap to avoid having everything “maxed out” at every team bcause that would be cheaper and less aero sensitive cars would race a bit more well at historic tracks and at tracks thich are full of medium paced corners (in F1 terms) where I’d say these aero sensitive cars have difficulties to fight? I still would provide challenge for the engineers, and as no innovation forgotten forever what’s wrong with it? Except the fact that top managers at the biggest factories would not like to see random results.
          Personally I would buy a little but powerful perfectly balanced electric car, and I think that would be funny in many aspects, and having some challenging old school monster is also funny if someone has to do something with racing, but predictability is not that funny and interesting.

          I’d say these tyres are a bit big for F2 (maybe I would like 16-17″), but F1 cars are much bigger, so they will not look bad because of the tyres.

        2. then don’t race f1 cars, race stock cars.
          I enjoyed early 2012 and 2013 quite a bit but judging by f2 tyre wear is even more dramatic.

          1. Wear and marbles are much more due to the push for lower laptimes and more speed – by using softer tyres – than anything to do with wheel or tyre size.
            F2 does not use tyre warmers and that drastically affects how the tyre performs and behaves during a stint.

            Just on wheel size – F2 runs low profile tyres on large diameter wheels already. Formula E has done it for years.
            Almost every other racing series in the world has moved with the times in terms of wheel size.
            Why has F1 stayed in the 1970’s for so long? And why do F1 fans defend F1’s technical development and innovation background but then do the opposite when it comes to wheel and tyre diameter?

      2. João Narciso Dias Oliveira
        30th July 2020, 14:49

        I like the look of new wheels

      3. 1) No that’s not a valuable lesson
        2) They’re not ugly

      4. Yawn … another one of those who is anti any sort of change.
        So boring already.

    2. Excessive amounts of tyre marbles were left near the racing line at the Hungaroring during F2 races. This has to be addressed. I think if similar happens regularly, it may affect F1 races because the track is going to be dirty and you will lose a lot of traction leaving the racing line even in the early part of races. Although, I don’t know whether it happened in F2 in previous years or not.

      1. Jockey Ewing
        30th July 2020, 18:14

        Is not Hungaroring said to be a bit abrasive? (Not just because it’s quite technical, but due to the asphalt’s caracteristics.)
        It was very interesting to see that noone uses the hard compund. Probably it was too cold to heat them and there was very big laptime differnce between the compounds, but also the softs was not durable at all. So they tried to do it on mediums and struggled, because they were not enough for 30 laps.

        1. Jockey Ewing
          30th July 2020, 18:43

          So I consider the Hungaroring conditions as an edge case as it was the coldest race of recent years, and weather was not predictable for the weekend too so it was hard to have a great plan.

    3. a sanity check, please. it’s been a crazy year and maybe I misheard. But more than a few times it was said in Sky coverage new tyres next year, new tyres for 2021. that made no sense to me.
      Did anyone else hear that or am I completely losing my bananas?

      1. I think that Pirelli are working on evaluating the compounds and changing them to be a bit harder for next year to react to development of the F1 cars, since the tyres used now are the same ones used last year (teams did not want a new tyre that would mean some development need for this last planned year of the current chassises), it will be harder and harder to cope with ever improving downforce levels.

        1. ok, thanks. different compounds, not different dimensions. It is a guessing game anyway, as there will be mandatory chasis change to reduce downforce :)

          1. @mirko710 It’s only a modification to parts of the floor. I reckon the lap times to be similar to this year also next year.

          2. 18″ wheels come to F1 in 2022 (maybe..)

    4. In 79’ I saw my first live F1 race at Long Beach. What we saw that day was at Linden Avenue hill. A block long steep section of track where the cars under took massive downhill Right hand slides that suddenly turned left with the same kind of speed and the resultant full power sliding left solid black 18” wide tire marks. Maybe they were 20”. You could follow their lines because they were a foot and a half wide. The point is that F1 was using 18” plus Wide tires forty years ago except then tire width was important than any wheel diameter. Nobody gave a thought about rim diameter then. So article is all about the new 18” wheel. Another version of 18” wheel / tires was making awesome marks on the very city streets of this entertaining and once popular Grand Prix. If you were there you’d get the point of my tale. A memory that is as fresh today as it was over forty years ago. Linden Avenue hill where Formula One used to create some fantastic marks on the road while Dealing with massive directional G forces or speed brought standing ovations to drivers who hung it out.

    5. Great, it is time this classic mini sized rim is discontinued.

    6. I’m all for change! Current rims in F1 have been irrelevent to mordern day road vehicles for quite some time now. However, I’m curious as to wether the FIA will change some notoriously aggressive kerbs at certain tracks. Smaller tires/bigger rims will be less forgiving, even with softer suspension.

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