Detractors look at a modern Formula One car and wonder what relevance they could possibly have to the cars we drive. And they may have a point. Just look at the tires, for crying out loud: with sidewalls as tall as the wheels on which they're mounted, they look like they belong more on a cartoon car than a race car. But Pirelli is out to fix that.

The Italian rubber company has been the exclusive provider of F1 tires for the last four seasons since it replaced Bridgestone, but while it's developed its own compounds, the formula itself has remained largely the same. The regulations call for 13-inch wheels (plus or minus a few millimeters) with tires that can be no larger than 26 inches across (with a little extra for rain tires). And given that designers want as large a contact patch as possible, we're left with ridiculously tall sidewalls on artificially minuscule wheels that don't bear much resemblance to the tires we put on our own cars.

Pirelli's proposed solution is what you see pictured here. It wants to increase the wheel size to 18 inches and fit lower-profile tires to them in order to make them more relevant to road car tires, while also increasing sidewall rigidity to the betterment of handling – even if that would decrease the size of Pirelli's branding.

Of course, doing so would require a vastly different suspension setup if not an entire redesign, since the engineers take the sidewall compliance into account when designing the cars. But Pirelli is proposing the idea to the teams just the same, and will test the idea using a Lotus F1 car at the upcoming mid-season test at Silverstone. Watch the video animation below to see what Pirelli has in mind.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 54 Comments
      Bernard
      • 5 Months Ago
      The F1 regulation should be on tire diameter, not wheel diameter. Silly racing rules. :-\
        moa
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Bernard
        wheel size rule was intended to limit brake efficiency, but then came carbon brakes and now it has no real function.
      rdcook55
      • 5 Months Ago
      My understanding is that the tire sidewall *is* the suspension for all intents and purposes. Low profile tires have been thrown around for years but it would take a full redesign of the car to do so. Nothing short of a full agreement by the TWG and the FIA would see this happen. They can't agree on the sound the exhaust is supposed to make I can't imagine that the teams will even manage to agree on a change this radical. Having said that what racing series runs low profile tires?
        PatrickH
        • 5 Months Ago
        @rdcook55
        Depends on your definition, but if 18s is your definition...a lot. Why don't you name another big league racing series that uses 13 inch wheels instead?
        Cayman
        • 5 Months Ago
        @rdcook55
        They aren't trying to agree on the sound the exhaust makes. The power unit engineers have lots of parameters to consider when designing their engines, power, torque, efficiency, reliability, size, weight, durability, etc... The sound the engine makes is completely irrelevant to the engineers, the sound doesn't win races. The idea that they can't agree on a radical change is pretty silly considering the radical changes that went into effect this year.
          fordskydog
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Cayman
          Caymen. A level head, a grasp on reality. Nice.
        PatrickH
        • 5 Months Ago
        @rdcook55
        Pretty sure they can make the cars sound like whatever they want...well as far as the limits of a V6 will let you, since those engines in general sound like crap. Even then, I doubt the ideal acoustics line up with the ideal functional design.
      Comeback Kid
      • 5 Months Ago
      So the point is to make the F1 cars look more like mine?
        dfkd
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Comeback Kid
        Actually, to make it so that they can eventually become a part of yours: just like the braking, engine and aero technologies have over the years.
      Charles
      • 5 Months Ago
      In a way 18" rims make sense. It would allow for better cooling of the brakes. But I wonder about the tires. Wouldn't low profile tires get hotter because of having less mass?
        fordskydog
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Charles
        In every way 18" rims make sense. The ONLY reason to stay the way it is now is that the rules mandate it. Allowed organic evolution, they'd have 18's already. And yes, there would be new design considerations like the loss of mass and therefore heat capacity, but also loss of mass means less weight and inertia on the unsprung side of the suspension, which is good. Almost everything in racing is a trade off.
          BipDBo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @fordskydog
          That's not true. There are many advantages to a smaller rim and a larger sidewall beyond looks or allegedly antiquated regulations. There is an optimum size. It might be bigger than 13, but it's likely a bit smaller than 18. * The biggest advantage is that a tire with higher sidewall give suspension within itself. Modern F1 cars have nearly no suspension between the tire and the body relying mostly on the tires sidewall for suspension. That saves weight and aerodynamics. * Suspension from the sidewall also makes most of the weight of the wheel sprung weight instead of unsprung. * A tire/wheel assembly with a smaller rim and more sidewall is lighter than an assembly with larger rims and low pro-tires. * More sidewall flexes less with each turn, absorbing less heat into the rubber and dissipating it better. Who knows? Maybe if allowed to do whatever they wanted, F1 engineers might even move the disc brakes inboard and make the rims even smaller. Just look at the sidewalls on race karts.
          BipDBo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @fordskydog
          Good point. You're right that it probably does not matter because the flex in the tread is going to be the same. The tread is thicker than the sidewall, and that's where the heat matters, so it's probably all a moot point. One could make an argument that aluminum dissipates heat better than rubber, so the closer the rim is to the tread the better. I suspect, though, that effect is negligible.
          Cayman
          • 5 Months Ago
          @fordskydog
          FWIW, I'm pretty sure more sidewall would mean more flex per turn, not less. And even more flex when the tire deforms.
          BipDBo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @fordskydog
          Cayman, How so? Let's look at two hypothetical sidewalls, one tall, one short, that both need to depress, say 1 cm to make the appropriate patch size. A shorter sidewall will need to bend more than a taller sidewall, ie make a more dramatic curve. The bending will also be made over more material for the shorter sidewall. More bending per unit area equals more heat absorbed pure unit area, and likely, more rolling resistance.
        SloopJohnB
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Charles
        Convection, conduction, radiation, three major routes of heat transfer. The bigger wheels would increase air flow through the wheel, benefiting both brake and tire cooling although the carbon/ceramic brakes used in F1 like to run quite hot. The smaller wheels currently used make brake cooling adjustments/changes critical for some tracks.
          AP1_S2K
          • 5 Months Ago
          @SloopJohnB
          I get what you're trying to say, but you may want to say that carbon/carbon (not ceramic, commercial use is carbon ceramic) brake discs don't like to "run hot". It's the pads that need a certain heat/temperature range in order for it to operate at it's optimal performance.
        SloopJohnB
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Charles
        They might get up to racing temp quicker because of less mass…but in general they would still dissipate heat relative to surface area
        Rob8
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Charles
        They would get hotter because there would be less air volume inside them.
          Cayman
          • 5 Months Ago
          @Rob8
          I doubt it. The internal air volume doesn't really provide a cooling effect. It may act as a very small heat sink, but as soon as it heats up, the energy is essentially trapped and can't absorb additional heat. Some of that energy could escape through the wheel, but that's true regardless of the sidewall height.
        Cayman
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Charles
        They would just duct less air to the brakes to reduce aero inefficiency if the discs were larger. Right now, it's not that cooling the brakes is an issue, it's just that they cool them as little as necessary. If the rotors were larger, the same would occur. I doubt the larger sidewall provides much of a difference in tire temperature due to mass. The tire is the same until you get to the additional sidewall area and I doubt that much heat dissipates that far down. I would actually think the opposite would be true, the low sidewall tire should flex less as the tire distorts, producing less friction.
      mapoftazifosho
      • 5 Months Ago
      I much prefer the 13s with some meaty tires. Sick of this low-profile crap.
        fordskydog
        • 5 Months Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        Yeah! And to heck with disk brakes! I prefer sexy drums with asbestos pads! And to heck with electronic engine control, too! I prefer advancing the ignition timing by hand, the way God intended! Hrumph! Progress shmogress!
        hingle_mckringleberry
        • 5 Months Ago
        @mapoftazifosho
        Agreed. It's getting out of hand. I don't see anything wrong with the current set up. I think it looks good!
      ACURA23CL
      • 5 Months Ago
      Yes please! They definitely LOOK 1000x better!
      Pj Taintz
      • 5 Months Ago
      why are we even talking about comparing an F1 car to a road going car?? i can understand the argument for stock car racing but not open wheel racing. while it may look good, the reasoning is stupid, I want performance when racing, if the bigger tire/wheel makes for better racing im all for it if not, dont waste the time
        Pault
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Pj Taintz
        simple. they want to tie road going trends into saving costs. less wall depth equals shredded tires, more tires per race, and less rubber (actual costs), while still charging teams the same, or more (you know additional R&D costs heh) it's a win, win win for Pirelli. ;)
      Eclypse
      • 5 Months Ago
      That would kick ass! It would be a big improvement in looks and it would help advance tire technolgy and durabilty for high performance tires.
      Kimithechamp
      • 5 Months Ago
      Used to be they made F1 cars the best, and because they were eventually aspects made the street car better. Now its the other way 'round I guess.
      superchan7
      • 5 Months Ago
      There has to be a functional use to larger wheels. The first thing that comes to mind is stronger brakes. Upsizing wheels just to match the donked-out Escalades is NOT going to increase your American viewing audience.
        AP1_S2K
        • 5 Months Ago
        @superchan7
        very true. It's the reason why NASCAR is so hard on brakes is because of the lack of ventilation and tiny wheels. Now they'll be able to have larger discs for increased thermal capacity and cooling.
          AP1_S2K
          • 5 Months Ago
          @AP1_S2K
          the walls and other cars
          BipDBo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @AP1_S2K
          NASCAR drivers use brakes?
      Pault
      • 5 Months Ago
      first. the animation is a joke showing the contact patch as a stable point at the bottom, believe me, them tires be rolling on them turns... heh Simple. Pirelli and other Manufacturer's have convinced you to pay more for less rubber.. truth is they love the trend of less rubber, while inflation drives prices of everything skywards. Bunch of fools..
        jack smith
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Pault
        Switching to lower profile tires has nothing to do with the contact patch, it has to do with torsional rigidity along the Y axis of the tire. The taller the tire, the more the tire sidewall will twist and flex under load and strain, causing instabilities. Ask Lamborghini about why they use them
      Jim R
      • 5 Months Ago
      Ecclestone will never let them do this.
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