Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Williams drops bid to produce ‘mule car’ for 18-inch tyre test

2022 F1 season

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Williams is resigned to going into the 2022 Formula 1 season at a disadvantage as it will not produce a ‘mule car’ to test the new, 18-inch tyres which are being introduced.

The team’s nine rivals have all built such cars, based on recent chassis, to simulate the forces the new wheels will be subjected to under the sport’s heavily revised regulations for next year. McLaren became the last of them to sample the new rubber for the first time yesterday.

Williams chose not to join in Pirelli’s development programme for the tyres for cost reasons ahead of its sale last year. Following its acquisition by Dorilton, newly-installed technical director FX Demaison told RaceFans the team was looking into whether it could produce a ‘mule car’ in time to test the new tyres at December’s post-season test in Abu Dhabi.

However their head of vehicle performance Dave Robson said last weekend that will not be possible. “We won’t be running a mule car in Abu Dhabi,” he confirmed.

“Ideally you would have the mule car and you would do that running and get the learning for yourself,” he said. “But the parts you need to make, particularly the wheels, you needed to have sorted that out so long in advance when we just didn’t have the time or the resource to do it. So it’s a kind of decision that was made a long time ago that’s now irreversible.”

Robson expects the lack of any ‘mule car’ running with the new tyres will leave them at a disadvantage. “We still get [a] decent amount of data from Pirelli and we can do laboratory tests on the tyres, so it’ll be a small disadvantage but I think we’ll quite quickly make that up,” he said.

All nine teams bar Williams have now tested F1’s 18-inch tyres for next 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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10 comments on “Williams drops bid to produce ‘mule car’ for 18-inch tyre test”

  1. Shame for the team, but I guess it just wasn’t viable to do this now.
    Good that they are now at least in a position to consider it

  2. They cannot ask from any other team to give them 4 wheels? I know that many things are different like hubs etc but i believe someone from the others would had give them.

    1. It sounds like it would be the modified chassis, which would need to have a similar performance to a 2022 spec car, that would be the most expensive and time consuming constraint.

  3. Just another chapter in the “why changing the wheel size for no reason (other than the ridiculous “lets align with what road cars use”) makes no sense” book, cost cap or not.

    1. @fer-no65 It’s not simply about ‘road relevance’ as there are also performance & other benefits to the larger tires.

      For example one of the key benefits of larger tires is the smaller sidewall which will put more emphasis on the suspension which means teams will be able to control ride height & ride quality better than they currently can as currently most of the vertical travel & some of the roll comes from the sidewall of the tires which teams obviously have less control over. So that alone brings a performance benefit.

      And going into 2022 with the return of ground effects that will also bring benefits as far as enabling a more consistent ride that will help maintain consistent levels of downforce produced via the underside of the car. One of the biggest problems with ground effects has always been how a sudden change to the airflow under the car be it from vertical movement or body roll can suddenly leave the car with significantly less grip which at high speed can simply throw the car off the track.

      The larger tires will also allow for a stiffer construction & better overall temperature management which should help with some of things teams, drivers & fans have seen as negatives with recent Pirelli tires.

      1. Thanks for addressing a bit of the plus sides of larger rim / smaller sidewall with these new tyres @gt-racer

  4. They say it is ideal that they get the data themselves. Would they then be able to just buy it from say Mercedes instead then? Mightn’t be that much of a disadvantage if it’s cheaper, they can then spend that money elsewhere, potentially more usefully, on the new 2022 car and still get similar data from another team no?

    Probably just wishful thinking though as I want to see them at the front of the midfield with the new regs.

    Reply moderated
    1. As I understood all data gathered by the teams during the test is available to all teams, so they don’t have to buy it. But of course the dat available from your own car gives you a lot more insight.

      1. The freely available data position of Pirelli has been in place since the beginning of the program.
        In Williams case, they should be able to get input from GR following his Mercedes testing stint.

  5. There’s clearly more to this than I understand. He says that they needed more lead time to make the wheels…? Aren’t the wheels provided by a supplier like OZ? I knew that the team was involved in the design of the wheels, specifically the heat management and aero aspect of the design. Do the teams fabricate their own wheels and sell the naming rights to wheel companies?

    I also sort of assumed that threaded post and nut were prescribed or tightly regulated and therefore somewhat interchangeable amongst teams. I am, it seems, mistaken about some or all of those assumptions.

    Can anyone explain this further?

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