Pirelli's 18-inch F1 tire design

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.