Pirelli showcase potential F1 future with low-profile 18-inch tyres
Any increase in wheel rim size unlikely to be before 2017
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 09/07/14 4:00pm
Pirelli gave a glimpse into Formula 1’s potential future on Wednesday when the Italian manufacturer unveiled a concept for 18-inch tyres.
F1 cars currently run on 13-inch wheel rims but the sport’s sole tyre supplier used the second day of this week’s Silverstone test to showcase an experimental larger wheel and tyre size, with such low-profile rubber now prominent on road cars.
Lotus, who had Charles Pic in their E22 on Day Two, completed the demonstration as part of the one day of running they have to give over to Pirelli across F1’s in-season test programme. The French test driver completed 14 laps on the developmental wheels in a best time of 1:44.728, some nine seconds off the overall pace set on 2014 tyres.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said the tyre firm was simply giving the sport’s stakeholders a chance to see what a change to tyre rims would look like.
"I participate at F1 Commission meetings and we've been discussing new regulations and rules for the future and discussions have gone to rim sizes, 18, 19, 20,” he said.
“We just thought it would be far better if we actually did some and showed people what it looked like and then we'd get a reaction. It is quite a change because Formula 1's been with 13-inch tyres for many years and we've always said we’re happy to do what the sport wants and this is a first look to see what might be the future."
Although there has been little appetite expressed in public by teams over recent years to implement such a change, a switch to 18-inch tyres was thought to be a pre-requisite to any return by Michelin when the French manufacturer considered a bid for F1’s tyre contract last year.
Hembery said any increase in tyre rim size was unlikely to be implemented for several years yet, were such a move to find favour.
“Well the rules probably won't change until 2017,” he admitted.
“I think we'd probably be able to do it a year earlier than that if the sport wanted, but that again is out of our hands. We're just offering our availability. But it doesn't look too bad. A lot of people thought it might change dramatically the look of the car and actually looking at them they don't look too bad.”