Formula 1 Is Contemplating Switching To 18-Inch Wheels In 2021

Back in 2014, Charles Pic drove a Lotus F1 car equipped with 18-inch concept wheels at Silverstone. Yet, bigger wheels meant a big impact on suspension design, so the idea was dropped.

Now, however, general consensus has swung in favor of such wheels, which Pirelli say have more in common with road car technology than the current 13-inch ones. Meanwhile, according to Autosport, an F1 insider told them that a switch to 18-inch wheels is finally likely to occur.

When asked about it, FIA race director Charlie Whiting stated: “I would say so. It is part of the package that we are discussing.”

As for how Pirelli feels about making the change, the tire manufacturer’s CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera said that they’re open to it, as long as F1 finds the right regulation.

“There are a number of issues of aerodynamics, of suspension and so on. When the teams are ready, we are ready. For us it is always technology. We are happy with 13-inch, we are happy with 18-inch. The bigger they are, the better it is. But the technological challenges are different.

Pirelli still needs time to organize a suitable test program, which would require an F1 car with a modified suspension.

“At the moment we haven’t discussed this in detail yet,” said Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola. It’s not just the tire regulations that are missing, but all the regulations. We said we are ready to do whatever they ask, with the proper time and testing.”

“We have to make a proper plan. In the past we made different tires, wider tires, we are always trying to follow what are F1’s requirements. But we’ll need a proper car to test. It’s a similar situation to 2016, with the wider tires.”

The key technical advantage of having a larger 18-inch tire is the stiffer sidewall, which helps maintain structural rigidity as well as a constant pressure, as there is less air inside.

  • Knotmyrealname

    Never quite understood why F1 kept such large sidewalls. Seemed to be out of step with current automotive technology, which was strange considering F1 was supposed to represent the pinnacle of automotive tech.

    • Vassilis

      Because those sidewalls worked like a suspension as well and allowed them to make the actual suspension incredibly stiff hence making the car corner faster. Also, smaller wheels mean less weight which also has safety benefits when there’s a loose wheel for example. Then there are benefits in pit stop times. I can see why they wouldn’t be interested in changing them.

      • Smith

        Total BS. None of these arguments mean they should not change, all these attributes can be achieved with the lower profile tyres. The change is essential for the sport to gain some credibility with the real world.

        • Vassilis

          Of course it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t change but when such a change requires a fundamental redesign of the car you can understand why it wasn’t a priority and therefore why it hasn’t happened yet. It offers them absolutely nothing while they lose a lot.

    • Smith

      Exactly. They look stupid and are totally unnecessary in this day and age. Change is great.

  • rover10

    Pity it can’t happen sooner. Obviously, it will require major redesign of the suspension in order to address the behaviour of the current tyre/suspension set up?

  • FlameWater

    Why not just make an option for teams to choose?

    • Six_Tymes

      that is a good idea, BUT Not what tire manufactures would agree too. NO WAY would they produce all sorts of sizes, even two size options, that is why Pirelli said “they’re open to it, as long as F1 finds the right regulation”. That is a nice professional way of saying: OK, whatever change you want, but make a decision and stick to it.

    • Smith

      Pirelli could not afford to make all those variant and the teams would not be able to afford to pay for the tyres at a great increase in price based on the larger selection and larger development cost for Pirelli or the future tyre supplier.

  • Six_Tymes

    Going to kill suspensions

    • Smith

      Why. How come modern sports cars can handle the suspension design for road legal and extensive use cars, using these low profile tyres, and yet an F1 team cannot design suspension that would work. BullSh1t total BullSh1t. I am sure Christian would agree with you but this is a stupid comment.

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