Why low profile tyres make sense for F1

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

A 13-inch F1 wheel (left) and 15-inch IndyCar wheel (right)
A 13-inch F1 wheel (left) and 15-inch IndyCar wheel (right)

We’re now four months into 2010 and we still don’t know who will be supplying tyres to F1 teams next year.

While much ink has been spilled about the need to ‘spice up the show’ in Formula, the requirement for 24 cars to each have a set of tyres to go racing on is clearly a more pressing need.

Rumours suggest F1 could embrace a radical change in its tyre regulations, increasing wheel sizes from 13 inches to 18 and having more than one tyre supplier for the first time since 2006. But a less drastic step to 15 inches could prove a better compromise.

Low profile tyres

The IndyCar series uses 15-inch wheels
The IndyCar series uses 15-inch wheels

What size wheels does your road car run on?

Chances are they’re quite a bit bigger than 13-inches – particularly if it’s a performance model. Yet F1 has stuck with the same small wheels and thick sidewalls for years.

With Bridgestone set to leave the sport at the end of this year there’s a strong case for F1 to take the opportunity to change its tyre rules to bring in wheels that better reflect what people use on the road – and therefore make supplying F1 rubber a more attractive proposition for the world’s tyre manufacturers.

Cost and complexity

A figure of 18 inches has been put about as a potential new wheel size but this is surprising for a couple of reasons. It could look like a swing too far in the opposite direction – the picture above compares a 15-inch racing tyre with a 13-inch one and the difference is very noticeable.

It would also create several technical challenges for the team. One tyre manufacturer estimated the increased wheel sizes would add a total of 33kg in weight. That extra weight increases the strain on the gearbox – as A1 Grand Prix discovered when it tried to use a similar tyre specification.

There is nothing more important to a car’s performance than how its tyres work and the design changes needed to cope with new wheels and smaller sidewalls would go beyond just a re-thinking of the suspension.

Such a costly change would not be popular with those teams who are visibly short on sponsors and those taking their first tentative steps in F1.

Better racing

But we shouldn’t write off the idea as a non-starter as there’s quit a lot to be said about bringing in lower profile tyres. First, there’s no denying they look better.

Tyre warm-up would be quicker, allowing the governing body to finally get rid of tyre warmers, something other single-seater categories did a long time ago to put more emphasis on driver skill.

There is potentially a safety benefit too. A tyre with a smaller sidewall will bounce less far if it is ripped from a car in an impact.

Perhaps what’s needed here is a compromise between 13 and 18-inch wheels. The answer could be the sized used in IndyCars – 15 inches – where tyre warmers are banned and, you have to admit, the wheels look a lot more sporty than F1’s.

There’s another reason why 15-inch tyres could be a smart choice for F1. IndyCar tyres are supplied by Firestone, which is a subsidiary of Bridgestone, meaning they already have plenty of experience and data for producing tyres of similar specification.

But they aren’t the only company who could supply F1 tyres in the future.

A new tyre war?

Cooper supplied tyres for A1 Grand Prix before the series collapsed
Cooper supplied tyres for A1 Grand Prix before the series collapsed

The last F1 tyre supplier to quit the sport, Michelin, have unsurprisingly been linked with a return to take Bridgestone’s place.

Michelin were understood to favour low-profile tyres when they last returned to F1 in 2001. On leaving the sport in 2006 they French company let it be known it was not interested in submitting a tender to be F1’s sole tyre supplier – it wanted to compete against other tyre manufacturers.

Michelin is presently the sole tyre supplier for the FIA’s new GT1 World Championship. But it has requested that other manufacturers be allowed to supply tyres to the championship.

If Michelin returned to F1 it would presumably want the same. But F1 cannot afford a tyre war of the kind we saw between 2001 and 2004 in any sense.

At a time when ‘the show’ is under greater scrutiny than ever, the last thing F1 needs is a repeat of the kind of dominance by a single team we saw in those four seasons, in that case Ferrari, largely thanks to the fact that none of their serious rivals were using the same brand of tyres.

A new tyre war would also bring a huge demand for tyre testing from the teams. With testing days far more strictly limited than they were in the last year of the tyre war, they would have to resort to other means to conduct tyre testing.

Perhaps that’s why the following new clause was added to the Sporting Regulations in time for this season:

25.5 Testing of tyres:
a) Tyres supplied to any competitor at any time may not be used on any rig or vehicle (other than an F1 car on an F1 approved track, at the exclusion of any kind of road simulator), either Team owned or rented, providing measurements of forces and/or moments produced by a rotating full size F1 tyre, other than uniquely vertical forces, tyre rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag.
b) Tyres may be used on a test rig providing forces control and monitoring by F1 rim manufacturers for the sole purpose of proof testing their products.
FIA F1 Sporting Regulations 2010

Who could replace Bridgestone?

Next year F1 could have 13 teams and 20 races on the calendar. Which other tyre companies have the experience and the infrastructure to produce nearly 10,000 tyres and fly them around the world?

It’s likely to be a short list. Besides Bridgestone (if they could be persuaded to stay) and Michelin it could feature Cooper, who produced tyres for the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix championship and whose Avon brand is the tyre of choice for historic F1 racers. And potentially Goodyear – still F1’s most successful tyre supplier of all time despite having been out of the sport since 1998.

F1 fans with long memories will recall how Bernie Ecclestone once used a stock of Goodyear tyres owned by one of his companies to supply tyres for the 1981 Argentinean Grand Prix. (A race which, for reasons too complicated to go into here, was struck from the F1 calendar.)

Not for the first time, F1 faces a sticky problem and the expectation is Ecclestone will have a solution.

Do you think F1 should use low profile tyres? Whose name do you expect to see on F1 tyres next year? Have your say in the comments.

Read more: F1 needs a tyre supplier for 2011 ?ǣ and a new tyre war isn?t the answer

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147 comments on “Why low profile tyres make sense for F1”

  1. Lower profile tyres and competition between multiple suppliers for 2011, if handled properly could be good for the sport. It should produce a variable, and as the rain has shown over the past two weekends has shown, variables can lead to exciting racing.

    Obviously not as extreme as a downpour, but if different suppliers are producing differet tyres capable of different levels of performance, then there could be a level of unpredictability brought to the sport. It will need to be assisted by rules encouraging mechanical grip over aerodynamic grip, and regulations over supply as well.

    Bridgestone were “so good” in the last tyre was because their tyres were designed specifically for Ferrari and their cars, and everyone else was a secondary consideration. If Michelin had done the same for Mclaren, instead of a compromise to best suit all of their customers, maybe things would have been closer.

    1. Michelin didn’t provide all teams with the same tyres, but had different rubbers addapted to each team, sometimes even went as far as having different constructions. No compromise.

      1. I’m not quite sure where you get that idea, perhaps our host can confirm that?

        Michelin were unable to provide the level of care and specialist build to any of its customers from their return to F1 in 2001 until the rule change in 2005 that elimanted tyre changes.

        Where as previously they provided a selection of compounds that was best for everyone (and not a tyre compound designed specifically for one particular car – the developmental cost of such an action would be astronomical and completely impractical), the ability of Bridgestone to provide a fine tuned tyre for their only front running customer gave the Scuderia the edge (admittedly only really from 2002 onwards since Mclaren then ran Michelin and Bridgestone had benefitted from their input previously, with their boots on Mika Hakkinen’s 1998 Championship winning car in only Bridgestone’s second full season in F1).

        They also had a headstart in the last “tyre war” as they were the only supplier in 1999 and 2000 as well following the withdrawal of Goodyear at the end of 1998.

        2005 was different because of the massive amount of feedback from their huge customer base made their tyre totally dominant in all but one race (the US Grand Prix), while Bridgestone relied completely on Ferrari for developmental purposes.

        1. For the record, this “idea” from a discussion with a Michelin engineer in 2003/2004, when I was working for Williams.

          1. Up until 2005 Bridgestone pretty much concentrated on Ferrari and all other Bridgestone runners had to use what Ferrari wanted. The Michelin guys built tyres for all michelin runners and when they were allowed to tailor the rubber to each team Michelin were doing this for far more teams than Bridgestone were. As a result up until 2005 you saw most top teams other than Ferrari using Michelin.

            ’05 saw the one tyre per race rule and Michelin dominated. The rules were changed in ’06 to include tyre changes again before it was announced that in ’07 there would be a control tyre, probably at Ferrari’s request as a result of their poor performance in ’05 which was almost entirely down to them being on Bridgestones.

            So in short i agree with Dougal.

            For 2011 onwards however I would say the various sizes of wheel and tyre don’t matter so much as changing the amount of compounds available for each race – five would be a good number, with super soft, soft, medium, hard and super hard being the choices – and allowing teams to use whichever tyres however many times in a race they want. Make the compounds a second a lap different, i.e. super soft is 5 seconds a lap faster than super hard, but it only lasts 5-8 laps.

            THAT would be interesting…

    2. Low profile tires just make sense. Bring a tire that ratio is in par with what is used elsewhere in the world. I don’t know of really anything that have such a odd ratio as a F1 tire (not a tire expert though so I could be very wrong). Lower side walls would mean less rubber needed since the sidewall don’t have to be reinforced as much (long stick breaks easier then a short stick of same thickness).

      I would welcome multiple tire manufactures but they would have to supply the same tire to everyone not a purpose built tire to one team, as well even possible allow to use both mfgs so each driver could use the tire of their choice (kinda like breaks, some drivers prefer Brembo and some prefer Hitco or Carbon Industries) unless team require specific tire mfg.

      1. I like that idea…why limit 1 team to 1 tyre…

        Maybe Button could make a Michelin last a race distance, but Hamilton would be better with a Goodyear (just as an example).

        (As for the stupid ratio, the only other example I can think of is aircraft tyres!!)

        1. I think that would be the best approach for in terms of actual racing, but the marketing depts of the tire companies would never go for it. It could greatly diminish their brand exposure.

    3. I’ve wondered about this every now and then. I don’t know a great deal about how the tyres work and how the tyre companies work with the teams but with that in mind it always seemed to me like the teams should be able to make their own deals with tyre companies as there are certainly enough out there.

      Maybe it isn’t economical for a company to supply only one team but if say McLaren team up with…. Continental, and win. Then the marketing for Continental would be huge as they beat eg. Ferrari and Pirelli, Red Bull with Goodyear etc.

    4. thats because bridgestone didnt had a true team back up it was obvious that still with that help ferrari tyres were lasting less

      1. i think 15 is bearable but more than that is just ugly and just bad taste

    5. his_majesty
      8th April 2010, 13:09

      18 inch rims would be a bad idea. Would you make the brakes bigger to fit inside of the tire? I don’t think so. 15’s I could live with, but am I the only old school fan left? I would say I like the 13 inchers actually. To me it’s a “problem” that has been working fine for as long as I can remember.

      1. majesty tottally agree 15 looks good

      2. I’d imagine they would need to clarify the rules on caliper sizes. A 18″ or even 15″ wheel would create much more room for brake discs and calipers.

        I think this would destroy any chance of overtaking. A smaller brake would leave more room for error (or bravery) and thus more passing.

        For instance, Montoya said that passing in Nascar road courses is much easier because if the car must brake 150ft before a turn, he could brake as much 20ft later. Impossible with 40ft braking zones.

      3. I agree stick to 13s

  2. Great article, would love to see 15inch low profile tyres supplied by goodyear.

  3. John K Waggener
    7th April 2010, 23:05

    Do I think F1 should use low profile tyres? The answer is really quite simple……AbsoFriggingLutely!!!

    1. Lol, yes indeed.

      Lets get rid of these daft 13″wheels with balloon tyres and bring on the performance 18″ wheels!

      Would you put 13″ wheels on a supercar? Even on your own car? 15″ then? No, of course not.

      Why should the fastest cars in the world suffer the shame of driving around with lame wheels?

      Bring on the 18″ wheels!

  4. 15 inches is definatley a better idea than 18.

    1. Here’s a good idea why not have the 18 inch tyre vs the 15 inch tyre. That way will make the sport more exciting. Oh, i like the idea of the tyre war by the way. Michelin vs Kumho vs Goodyear vs Hancok vs Cooper, it’s all good :D

  5. Stephen Hopkinson
    7th April 2010, 23:08

    Here’s a mockup I did of the MP4-25 with 18 inch wheels. A shocking difference, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    http://twitpic.com/1dw53c

    1. Wow that looks all wrong!

      1. I think you may be up a gum tree here.
        Reading on another site it talks about Michelin wishing to increase the rear tyre WIDTH from 15″ to 18″.
        Can you confirm wether it’s wheel rim diameter or tyre width please ?

      2. NO! It looks awesome!

    2. F1withMySon
      7th April 2010, 23:28

      And it looks great that way.

    3. Great picture there.

      Personally I completely in favour of this change. Apart from the looking better, getting F1 to use technology that can be applied after experiancing the fearsome sight of 12 F1 R+D departments is exactly what the sport needs to do.

    4. no that looks sick!!! :D

    5. Now throw some 22’s on it…

      1. Would there be any tyre left? haha

      2. 22″ Chrome Spinners, someone mock that up.

    6. Cool pic,now could you move the rear wing over the tail pipe…2011 passing F1 rocket

    7. Really, there’s hardly any difference. The rims chosen here might look a bit naff, but the 18″ size looks perfectly normal. I can’t understand what people are so upset about.

      The most important thing is that they aid overtaking. Whether they look like road tires or not is a silly point…F1 doesn’t have any relevance to the road in the first place.

    8. Haggis Hunter
      8th April 2010, 10:08

      looks silly imho

    9. Tht looks great

    10. I know it is mainly due to what I am used to, but the tyres do look odd to me in that picture.

    11. Looks fine to me, if anything these wheels look smaller

    12. Wow! Looks like wagon wheels, 15″ will be more suitable.

    13. That looks like a 1920s road car with the large spoke wheels. Looks weird.

    14. You need 18″ speakers to go with 18″ wheels…and maybe some neon lights underneath….then you have the whole package.

  6. This assumes that 15 inches is an option. According to Dieter Rencken’s latest piece on Autosport 18 inches is the only option, as Michelin as experience with this size.

    1. Maybe but have you seen Stephen’s picture (above)? That would take some getting used to!

      1. Maybe, but so did the wings, people have stopped complaining about those now! (mostly)

  7. DamionShadows
    7th April 2010, 23:15

    I see nothing wrong with what they have now, but if it is changed i’d rather it be to 15 instead of 18.

  8. I must admit I like F1’s little wheels, in much the same way I like 10″ wheels on old Minis, retro cool. F1 cars would look odd with bigger wheels IMO.

    1. Agreed. I could stand to see them with 15s, but 18s are just too big. That mockup looks like some ghetto lowrider, not a high performance race car.

      1. yes exactly. Why is there a need for change? I personally like the 13s, and i dont believe changing this would help bring more fans to the sport. Reducing aero, and increasing passing would. Visually, i think they are awful (18s). There is nothing to frame them. In a car, they are surronded by body work and they look fine, they are ‘framed’ and look in proportion. On the pic above from Stephen Hopkinson (thanks for that by the way) they look out of scale to the car, and the lack of rubber makes it look like some cheep track car set. The 15’s look fine on the indy car and i would be happy with them.
        Also, if they want to get rid of tyre warmers, whay not just do it??? It would be hard to begin with, but everyone is in the same boat… you just have to cope better with it than your competitors. Also, this could work well with a cahnge in rules, you dont have to change your tres, but if you do, you will have to warm them up yourself.

      2. “That mockup looks like some ghetto lowrider, not a high performance race car”
        – Woah, WHAT?!? What’s wrong with you?! You seem not to have seen a “high performance race car” in your life!

        http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2116/2060177761_8f8ad0afe7.jpg

        http://image.motortrend.com/f/motorsports/peugeot-908hdi-fap-hybrid-the-first-hybrid-le-mans-lmp1-car-makes-its-debut/10602983+w527+st0/peugeot-908hdi-fap-hybrid-lmp1-car.jpg

        http://www.samochody-swiata.pl/Ferrari_F40_1.jpg

        1. the differnece though with those cars is that the tyre is surrounded by bodywork, imho that makes a big differnce.

  9. I hope that if the size does change, they only make it happen for 2012.

    1. Bridgestone go at the end of this year so whoever replaces them will have to come in for 2011. Making them produce one specification of tyres in 2011 and a different specification in 2012 isn’t going to make it easier to find a new supplier.

  10. Untitled258
    7th April 2010, 23:18

    The more i think it about it, the more i do not want a tyre war. I just like atm that there is a consistency with the tyres across the teams.

    Being the only contact point with the road i would rather everyone had the same rubber so the emphasis is on the car design and the teams and not the wheels. It would be to easy for a team to loose a race because they are with the wrong tyre manufacturer and there is nothing which the team can do about it. It would annoy me to no end.

    As for bigger rims, bring it on, I’ve always wondered why f1 cars have such big sidewalls compared to every other racing series, they look kinda off.

    1. Same here. Yes, different tyres produce different variables, but they can’t be relied upon to counteract existing variables and in many cases could merely inflate them. Remember how much better Bridgestones were in the wet? Now, a Red Bull that had the worse wet-weather tyres would even things up with a Ferrari on the better kind, but it’s pot luck if such combinations happen and equally likely that the reverse would happen and every time it rained Red Bull would run away with everything.

    2. I’m just the opposite.

      I’d like to see more variation. It’s usually not possible for one tire to dominate in all conditions. I’d rather see different teams and drivers adapt to how different tires react in different circumstances.

      Clearly, the biggest holdup on this is cost. F1 wants to keep costs down. Limiting testing is a big way to do so. A renewed tire war would require at least some level of testing that is above what is allowed now. That’s the sticky wicket with any new tire situation that involves multiple suppliers.

      Another potential positive of multiple suppliers would be getting rid of the artificial rule requiring more than one compound be used in a race. It’s pretty much a hokey way to generate buzz about the tires (in the absence of talking about competing suppliers). I’d love to see that rule go away. It would open up different strategy solutions.

      1. theRoswellite
        8th April 2010, 5:03

        @ John M:

        Would you still enjoy all the good points you emphasize if the races were all being won by one or two teams….because of the rubber?

    3. See I feel like if they could choose from many tyre companies that that would be a component of car design. The teams would pick a company that can make a tyre that best suits their car. McLaren could go with Goodyear and that would be as intrinsic a part of the car as the (now) outsourced Mercedes engine.

  11. with the spinners on the tyres being banned this season i was hoping to see some action shots of the brakes glowing, but ive only seen it once on kubica renault.

    1. Sam,

      During the Australian GP I saw many enjoyable moments of the brake discs glowing. The Renault and Lotus cars are most obvious, all the way down to Ferrari which was difficult to see at all due to their wheel design.

      Cheers.

    2. Well, if at no other race you should be in for some goods shots at Singapore..!!

  12. just think if they hadn’t of banned the spinners on wheels,
    they’d have 18″ wheels with spinners!! what next neons underneath :p

    but at least the tyres will look more like road tyres which may help to get a new tyre supplier in for 2011,

    1. I’m surprised a few teams didn’t put neons under their cars for Singapore ;)

  13. Well because of the width the current tyres are pretty low profile, 46% front and 43% rear, which is lower profile than all but a handful of road cars. Personally I can’t see that going bigger on wheel size will help the racing which is what I’m bothered about. In fact quite the reverse as going bigger on wheel size also brings in the prospect of bigger brakes and even shorter breaking distances, which I don’t relish as it will make overtaking even harder.

    1. Break size might be kept the same to produce exactly the oposite effect.

      1. Yes, just regulate the brake sizes and hey presto – no shortened braking distances.

  14. Untitled258
    7th April 2010, 23:25

    If the rims are 5 inches bigger in diameter, could they give them bigger breaks disks too, i would love to see cars coming down the massive straight at say, bahrain, and then being able to stop for the first corner in 20/30 metres. It would destroy the drivers with the G that would create.

    I know it goes against everything that is being done to aid over taking, i think it would just be awesome to watch.

    1. I think the rules concerning brakes would stay the same, meaning that they wouldn’t be able to increase the braking capacity of their cars… that being said, That could turn into one of these controversy thingamajigs…

      (Btw thingamajigs came from the spell check.)

  15. F1withMySon
    7th April 2010, 23:31

    I’ve longed been bothered by the big bloated tires on the little wheels. It looks silly to me. I definitely think they should go to at least 15″.

    I would think that the engineers would prefer a lower-profile tire too, since they could control the contact patch better with the suspension instead of relying on the bounce of the air-filled tire. Just my guess.

  16. sorry, i may have missed something… but how do low profile tyres make for better racing???

    1. DamionShadows
      8th April 2010, 0:03

      I was thinking the same thing honestly.

    2. they are safer (they dont bounce if they break from the car)

      they warm up faster

      they look better (hey, every exotic car has wheels bigger than 19 inches for a reason)

      handle better on corners because of the smaller sidewalls

      1. ok, so better mechanical grip then. btw, why would smaller ‘sidewalls’ handle better than what we have now?

        1. Jarred Walmsley
          8th April 2010, 8:21

          They would get heat into them faster thus making them gripper earlier, this would mean that the teams could gun it from the start of the race or maybe 1 lap in as opposed to the 2 or 3 laps it takes for the current tires to get up to temp.

          The reason the smaller sidewalls do this is because they have less surface area and as such require less heating.

        2. Lower sidewall profile equals lesser roll (side to side tilting while cornering) as there’s less rubber on the sides and thus more rigidity and better handling.

      2. It was suggested that the larger wheels would add 33kg to the car, so over 8kg a wheel extra. Whilst they may not bounce as much, someone hitting, or being hit by, 8kg more mass is going to do much more damage!

        1. rims might get heavier but you would also get less rubber weight.

          With a larger side wall you have to reinforce the side wall a lot more to get stability. Low preasure of any kind will wreck a race or result in puncture or crash because the tire could fold on itself. Take the example of a stick it’s easier to break or bend the stick if it’s longer then if it’s short because you get more leverage. So a smaller side wall would provide more mechanical grip/stability in cornering offering better cornering ability not going on a perfect race line.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95aIH0u8FXs
          Shows how low pressure affects the tire in cornering

  17. most ppl over the age of 35 wont like the idea of bigger wheels just for social reasons lol. the youth like big rims and low profile tyres no matter the performance gain or loss. personally 18s on a F1 car look ridiculous…not to mention the extra strain on the brakes and gear boxes. 15″ sound good to me! also is no one else bothered by the fact that there isn’t a supplier yet for 2011? if there is a new supplier im sure they need all the time they can get to develop a decent tyre of different compounds to handle the demands of a F1 car

  18. If F1 is to be more applicable to road cars then they should only have one treaded tyre compound and it should be suitable for wet and dry use – just like the rest of us.

    That will reduce mechanical grip and make the cars even less likely to overtake so I’m not sure if it’s such a good idea…

    1. Hmm, didn’t we just get slicks back?

      anyway, wouldn’t that get rid of the excitement of the weather when it’s half wet half dry?

  19. I think you may be up a gum tree here, excuse the pun
    Reading on another site it talks about Michelin wishing to increase the rear tyre WIDTH from 15″ to 18″.
    Can you confirm wether it’s wheel rim diameter or tyre width please ?
    It doesn’t mention low profile but there pretty low pro now and an increase in width would make them ultra low.
    Perhaps we can see the exact press release they issued and see what was said. Might save a lot of talk about the wrong idea.
    I think there talking tyre width myself !

  20. Am I the only person who is wondering why the imperial measure of “inches” is used considering that all F1 is done in metric now (km, kph, mm, etc)

    1. Probably as its still the most common way to refer to wheel sizes. I grew up on metric but if someone told me they got 540mm rims for their car I would not know what they were on about. Just like I tell people im 6’4” rather then 193cm

    2. What is truly bonkers is the conventional form for referring to tyre and wheel sizes mixes both imperial and metric – See Glenn’s comment below.

      1. That’s the influence of Michelin for you! That’s the way they came up with when they introduced the radial tyre which is what almost all road tyres now are. Cross plies and most racing tyres are still all in inches eg 14/23 – 13 is a 14 inch wide tyre, 23 inch in diameter on a 13 inch rim. Mind you even for racing tyres Michelin mix it up giving the width an diameter in cm!…… and you want Michelin deciding the wheel size?

  21. A change in tire size would be good for the sport. It also provides a more sustainable (marketable) platform for tire manufacturers as well as wheel rim makers to better proof linkage between Motorsports and road compounds.

    As Mike Gascoyn stated, any changes in the regulations would benefit the new teams as well as it levels the playing field and allows for ingenuity over money (we saw Ferrari and Mclaren dismal 2009 season regardless of their battle). Therefore a tire war should also benefit the sport. Of course its good marketing specially if you earn the bragging rights that you supplied the winning team. Maybe we could see a return of several manufacturers producing different compounds for different teams and specifications as Dougal said. It would also allow companies to innovate in this way with new compounds (which could heat faster, last an entire race at a medium pace, etc). not to mention the additional application of suspension systems that could help develop safer road technology as well as provide consumers with new systems that fit their needs better. We might see innovative new rims as we saw with Ferrari this year.

    Careful steps should be taken though to ensure that cost do not sky rocket. maybe a slow reformation of the regulations or passing them for later (like 2015 or so since engine specs will also change starting 2013 I believe) instead of a sudden shift could be a solution.

  22. Autosport link from about a week ago.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/82623

    Bling it on! I say.LOL

    1. That interview is bizarre. The guy just keeps flip flopping back and forth on wether it would be good or bad for him.

      1. thats not bizzare, it reflects the fact that there would be major changes as a result, and it could, given the roll of the dice, work out good or bad for them. Simply reflects that issues such as these are not black or white.

        1. What’s bizarre is that it’s like he can’t make up his mind. Frst he says it’s a great opportunity, then that they don;t have the money, then that changes are good for small teams, then that he doesn’t have the people.

          He goes back and forth in a discussion with himself.

    2. wasnt it april 1st :)

  23. While talking about changing the diameter, lets also increase the width. Get mechanical grip playing more of a role than aero

    1. I agree, By increasing the mechanical grip, it will allow cars to follow closer in the corners, not quite having to rely on aerodynamic grip as much.

  24. theRoswellite
    8th April 2010, 2:20

    Nice article on a very important subject…

    First: Absolutely correct in saying a tire war would potentially ruin the close competition between teams.

    Tires should be, in large part because they are the “forgotten factor in racing performance” by the fans, a non-entity…massive apologies all round to the tire companies, but people just want to see a race between…drivers and cars not the black things with tread.

    And: I’d like to see as much of an increase in mechanical grip (as compared to aero-grip), as possible. So, for me the alteration in the present tire formula should be towards increasing the width of the tire, not the height…as I believe this would increase the rolling tire contact patch.

    I realize the problems which would require a redesign of the present suspension layout (perhaps even radically), but in my book the imbalance of mechanical and aero is such a critical problem that any changes based around “improved” tire performance are worth the costs.

    Can it be done? Absolutely. And, by the way, low profile, “super-wide” tires will look much better and more aggressive than taller “tractor tires”…Mr. Todt, please spare us that future.

  25. I think Michelin have the data & the manpower to provide tyre for 26 cars on grid around 20 races.Cooper may join in F1 after their success in A1 GP, but I don’t want the tyre war back in F1.

  26. Wide tyres with low profiles will solve more than 1 of F1’s problems, and I think the problems are outweighed by the benifits, for sure (see what i did thar?) would be outweighed by the benefits.

    A tyre war, could be either really good, or really bad.
    A classic tyre war, would not be a good thing in my opinion. It would escalate costs, and probably result in some teams having a huge advantage over there competitors.

    On the other hand, a tyre war which is highly regulated would be incredible good,
    theRoswellite said “but people just want to see a race between…drivers and cars not the black things with tread.”

    and I think this is true, but a regulated tyre war where the performance differences are moderated by the FIA, would provide the competition, without the penalties,

    If a situation occurs where a tyre company can compete without the risk of being completely beaten nor have such a huge financial cost that a classic tyre war would cause, I am 100% sure that it will become attractive for many tyre companies to enter the sport.

    But I am sure there are obvious flaws in that…

    1. theRoswellite
      8th April 2010, 5:30

      @ Mike:

      I think your basic premise is correct…if one tire brand doesn’t dominate the season with a small number of teams, one is a small number isn’t it, then the competition would be interesting.

      However, I’d be very worried about the FIA needing to delve deeper into the “Hand of God” syndrome, where they, for the good of the sport, enforce rules to keep the engines the same, the brakes the same, the tires the same,…on and on (isn’t that a spec-series?).

      But, more importantly, I’m not sure that just because we would all like to see a good number of tire companies participate, that they would feel compelled to become involved in our “vision” of what is best for them.

      Strange how independent corporations tend to have their own agendas.

  27. The diameter of the wheel is only one aspect to consider. The profile of the tyre has a dramatic affect on actual diameter of the tyre. So the issue is more about tyre profile than wheel size. A 13″ wheel and 18″ can have the same tyre diameter, 205/70 13″ = 265/30 18″. Have a play with this
    http://www.miata.net/garage/tirecalc.html

    1. The first number is width of the tire, not diameter. The second number is the profile expressed as a percentage of the width.

  28. My off the cuff opinion is that larger diameter rims probably make sense. Brings them more in line with what is used on the road, and I guess would also enable teams to build bigger brakes. Bigger brakes equal better brake performance which equals later braking, which apparently is important for overtaking.

    I also think more than one manufacturer is needed, and teams should be free to switch tyre brand at their convenience. Maybe if multiple open wheel series shared a common tyre and wheel spec, than manufacturers could afford to make tyres in larger quantities, and keep good level of stock, like they do for road going cars. Rather than being locked into a supply agreement with one manufacturer, teams are free to choose which brand they want to use at each race, by buying tyres off whatever manufacturer they choose. Kind of like how I can go down to my local T-mart and buy the exact brand of tyre I want to use.

    Or maybe another approach is that each tyre brand costs a certain amount for the teams to use. Better performing tyres (based on race wins) cost more than the less competitive brands. Teams then choose whether they pick the expensive tyre, or whether they pick the cheaper tyre and make it work with their car. The tyre spend would affect each team’s share of the revenue at the end of the year. Spend use the expensive good tyres for every race, get less revenue. Use the cheaper not so good tyres, get more revenue. It would add an extra element of strategy. Teams could also switch brands throughout the year.

    1. theRoswellite
      8th April 2010, 5:47

      @ Pinball:

      You know your last idea is going to require the teams to hire an additional committee of economists and statisticians, so in tough economic times….I think you have it!

      Many a college graduate will soon find a home in F1, and perhaps with time a cottage industry can grow to become the dominant element of a teams make up.

      I’m tired of aerodynamics this…ride height that…I want to hear some serious Keynesian economic theory out there on the grid just before the lights go out.

  29. Simply put. No. If I want to see big rims on cars with gigantic wings, then I would drive down the boulevard on a Saturday night.

  30. Two problems I seed. I believe lower profiles would increase risk of damage and perforation on curbs and other objects. This is true of low profile road car tires. Second, the added unsprung weight, on cars that weight so little, with suspension frequencies so high, could be a big net negative on performance. I don’t think A1GP and Indycars are nearly as light as F1 cars.

  31. i am definitely pro-low profile and anti-tire war. i think further road-relevance is gained by the low-profiles because cars would need more robust suspensions (like hinges) to cope with the lack of sidewall. this, combined with reduced tire performance, greater unsprung weight and greater rotating mass would put a decent dent in lap times and level the playing field all quite holistically…as long as there’s no war.

  32. well, since there has beenmuch discussion above, i just like to say that i agree with bigger rimsize (15″-17″), increased width, and a nice healthy tyre war…

  33. The low profile tyre makes sense as one of Michelin condition for a return is to make the sport more Green. Tyres are one of items that are used on a massive scale in F1 with 8 sets each weekend per driver. A low profle tyre means less rubber which fits in with the Michelin Green theam.

    Low profile tyres also will enable the company to develop systems such as run flat run systems in F1 which is a lot more road relavent.

  34. When Tyrrell made the six-wheeler they produced special small fronts for this car.
    I liked the 18-inch picture but I would love for the teams to have some freedom to get it done.
    If you can find a supplier that gives you the 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 inch wheels you think will do best for your car, then do it. When everything was free not every race was won by the same team. Tyrrell won races that suited the car. Just like the Michelins outperformed Bridgestone on tracks that suited them better and vise versa.
    I would like for some freedom of construction.
    I like to have have competition. For that fact alone I praise Michelin. Whats is racing all about if you know you are going to win anyway?

    1. I like to have have competition. For that fact alone I praise Michelin. Whats is racing all about if you know you are going to win anyway?

      I agree, it’s very laudable. But the cost involved is what worries me.

      When everything was free not every race was won by the same team.

      No team has won more than one race so far this year.

    2. The need to produce special fronts is what killed off the Tyrrell six wheeler in the end. Goodyear simply couldn’t justify investing the time and money in developing small front tyres at the same rate as tyres for the rest of the grid.

  35. And what did I say in the “The 2010 season in 20 questions” thread.

    5. What will be the biggest political story?
    5. Modern tyres, i.e. small side walls.

    1. Very prescient, W-K!

      1. The reason I think it will become political is because most would think you can just bolt them on as a one to one replacement.
        But the arguments about costs to develop the stronger gearboxes and revised suspension etc. will be worth watching.

        1. yes, someone from the 5-live commetry team during free practice called it the ‘silent crisis’ currently affecting F1, and came to the conclusion that the only other manufacture who is even capable of producing tyres under their current regs for next season is Michelin and bernie and the FIA had affectively gone hat in hand to them.

    2. it isn’t the biggest political story YET. hold ur horses! ha.

  36. As far as looks are concerned I guess I’ve stayed in the dark ages, but I just can’t get with the aesthetics (or lack thereof, in my view) of low profile tyres…. they just look plain cheesy to me, especially when people put them on 70’s muscle cars – way to ruin cool cars.

    But, on topic, as others have mentioned, the rumours are that they are discussing tyre width more than anything else, aren’t they?

  37. Stick with the 13s please, much prefer the look of the current tyres…

  38. The ride on a bumpy track would be very uncomfortabl with these low profile tyres.

    Even if the brake disks remain the same size, there would be better cooling with more space inside the wheels.

    The overall diameter (Wheel and tyre) would be the same as now, it’s just the profile that would reduce with the rim size. So the amount of rubber that can contact with the road would be the same, so I don’t see more mechanical grip from these.

  39. i remember the idea being dismissed by someone in some interview in the late 90s (sorry, can’t be more precise!) because it would enable bigger brake disk sizes, therefore shorter braking zones. this would make passing very difficult indeed. also, it would do nothing to aid the fundamental flaw in F1 racings right now – turbulent air!
    teams should have to pass a turbulence test, much like a crash test, in order to be legal. this would allow innovation to take place (in a way that putting massive aero-restrictions would not) and result in a much less turbulent wake, which is the ultimate objective.

    also, why are we so obsessed about improving the show – the last few seasons have been spectacular. think back to ’96-98: those seasons were only saved by the title battles, the on-track racing was, largely, unmemorable. the more chaotic seasons (ones with more winners, more teams winning) are always exceptional.

    1. “it would enable bigger brake disk sizes”
      – Irrelevant. Disk sizes are regulated.

      1. Regulated for ‘now’, and I think we all know how long it takes for a change in regulations at the hands of the FIA! In F1, from one season to another, its safe to believe that nothing’s regulated.
        All I’d say is – I hate spec! So, a well regulated tyre war is welcome in my books. But, I see that as a major risk as none of us would want it to go back to the 2001 – 2004 period, when it was a pure tyre formula.
        So, the best bet here is to keep the sole supplier rule and go to someone else if Michelin are being too choosy & bossy. There’s a load of other tyre makers who can more than handle F1’s demands, viz. Goodyear, Pirelli, or even one of those Korean peeps (Kumho, Hankook). I don’t see enough reason to bend down to Michelin’s demands.

    2. “teams should have to pass a turbulence test, much like a crash test, in order to be legal. this would allow innovation to take place (in a way that putting massive aero-restrictions would not) and result in a much less turbulent wake, which is the ultimate objective”

      That is an excellent idea! Someone get this man the FIA’s telephone number! :D

  40. Bigger tyres means slower acceleration, less stability in the corner, because of the torque generated on the far edges of the tyre.
    IndyCars use them because they can be quicker on the straits.
    F1 needs a tyre with a filling that is not affected during the puncture like air.
    It is really silly to think that F1 needs air in the tyre, since they are not a series to jump over hurdles, like rally.
    Better suspension, or maybe even an active one, plus a tyre with a new filling would do the job.

  41. Thinking about it, with some of the observations made here. Changing to larger wheels and low profile tyres probably means everything, except the engine, needs re-designing.
    And if kers is re-introduced, probably with differences from the last version, then we would be into another everything changes year for 2011.

    How are the smaller teams going to manage that?

  42. How about Kumho and Hankook? There are rumours that those two companies would like to enter f1. And I think that tyre war would be good for f1.

  43. Robert McKay
    8th April 2010, 12:54

    Michelin also did A1GP tyres, in the last season, if I remember rightly…didn’t have any competitors there.

  44. Would love to hear the teams reaction to the amount of changes to the car due to smaller sidewalls, which I think would have a large impact on performance. No more tire flexing as the car goes through a corner. Mechanical grip would increase. I’m not sure if 18’s are the way to go, but why does EVERY other series (bar NASCAR) have large rims and small sidewalls?

    Smaller front wing + smaller diffuser + smaller sidewall + wider front tires + wider cars = following cars closer = easier overtaking!

    1. If the brake disk is big you need a big rim

  45. What about Pirelli? They supply the WRC.

    Personally, I’d like to see another japanese brand, like Yokohama or Toyo.

  46. This simply wouldn’t work. Going to a tyre size like 15 or 18 would change the entire car. Current F1 cars are built around the regulation that states that most aero devices (wings, etc) cannot be bolted directly to suspension components, they must be bolted to the frame (i know, i know) itself.

    Remember the crazy aero era with all the wing failures a few decades ago? If you noticed, thats when we moved to smaller wheels and larger sidewalls. It’s necessary. If the aero devices are mounted to the body (current spec) then as the aero load (downforce) increases, the body would be rammed into the ground, annihilating all suspension travel. The solution? Using tires with a larger sidewall.

    Larger sidewall tires effectively as as the suspension under high load. Changing the spec of tire/wheel combo would effectively necessitate a complete redesign of the Entire Car.

    Make sense? It just flat-out would be the worst possible solution. The technical ramifications are just too costly both literally and figuratively.

    1. Too costly??? We are talk F1 here,change is good…time to put the rear wing on the shark fine tail too.

  47. I decided to explain a bit better…

    This simply wouldn’t work.

    Going to a tyre size like 15 or 18 would change the entire car. Current F1 cars are built around the regulation that states that aero devices (wings, etc) cannot be bolted directly to suspension components, they must be bolted to the chassis itself.

    Remember the crazy aero era with all the wing failures a few decades ago? If you noticed, thats when we moved to smaller wheels and larger sidewalls. It’s necessary. If the aero devices are mounted to the body (current spec) then as the aero load (downforce) increases, the body would be rammed into the ground, annihilating all suspension travel. The solution? Using tires with a larger sidewall.

    Now, back in the day (a Wednesday ;P), when aero devices were mounted directly the the suspension/tires, low profile tires were necessary. Back then, the actual suspension actually had travel (the wheel would move up and down by quite a bit). In that time period, the low profile tires were necessary because the downforce was Not affecting the entire car, it was just pushing down on the tires. With less sidewall, the tires wouldn’t deflect or compress as much under lateral or longitudinal load.

    Makes sense right? This way, you could have massive downforce levels while retaining plenty of suspension travel. The downside to this is were those Massive failures in that time period which led to many injuries (i don’t remember if tons of people died) as suspension components failed.

    So…the Entire rulebook changed. As we moved to aero devices mounted onto the chassis directly, the suspension ended up getting super compressed at high downforce levels, effectively destroying the car’s handling. Thus, the move to higher sidewall tires was necessitated. The Tires were now tasked with the responsibility of compressing and deflecting under load, something that the suspension (being hyper compressed by tons of downforce) could not do anymore.

    Larger sidewall tires effectively act as as the suspension under high load. Changing the spec of tire/wheel combo would effectively necessitate a complete redesign of the Entire Car.

    Make sense? It just flat-out would be the worst possible solution. The technical ramifications are just too costly both literally and figuratively.

    1. No their run with carbon wing lets all over the car now…yes the suspension will have to be more active, but designers will fig. it out.

      1. Richard Merk
        8th April 2010, 20:06

        As stated by Benjimiah, the designers have already figured it out and the solution was 13-inch wheels.

        The sidewalls are one of the most important suspension components to a F1 car.

        Look at the incredible slow motion replays of a car going through a chicane, such as at the Nurburgring. The tires are vibrating almost out of control because of the amount of energy they are absorbing. If the tires are not longer able to dissipate that energy, and the suspension cannot allow any more travel becuase of downforce levels, its going to be felt by the driver.

    2. Romeo - Mex in USA
      8th April 2010, 22:19

      Excellent explanation.

    3. Of course they would have to redesign the suspension and the brakes and the gearbox.

      So what?

      1. “Of course they would have to redesign the suspension and the brakes and the gearbox.
        So what?”

        Uh…

        That’s almost everything.

        1. Yeah, so what? They spend millions on imrpoving/redesigning these items anyway.

          Besides, it’s not like they have to design completely new ones, just make them a bit tougher.

          How much do you think it cost to increase the fuel tanks? They basically had to redesign the whole car for that too.

  48. F1 needs to move with the times, rather than being stuck in the 70’s and 80’s with tiny wheels, i dont think it’s an issue of what would improve the racing it’s just modernisation and more road relevant, i don’t think they build road car wheels smaller than 15 anymore do they? and i believe also, having larger wheels in F1 would help develop road technologies for alloy wheels.

  49. What if Michelin would supply say the harder tyres to teams, and Bridgestone would supply softs and have Goodyear for the middles etc.
    We would have competition, but not a completly parallel development of the same tyres by 2 or more competitors.
    I think the 15″ would be better, on the other hand, 18″ would be fine for me as well.

    1. I think that would be a brilliant idea. then the different suppliers could compete in the performance-durability stakes without having to design four different kinds of tyres, keeping their own costs down.

  50. Firestone would be my bet.They already supply Indycar with 15″ tyres.
    Or one of the Korean companies.Kumho or Hankook

    1. Aren’t Firestone a subsidiary of Bridgestone.

  51. What’s all this nonsense about making F1 road relevant. There was never any talk of this until very recently. F1 cars are open-wheeled single-seaters that generate masses of downforce! Making wheels low profile because that’s what my cars have would be such a slight similarity that it sounds ridiculous. I’m not interested in road relevance in my racing, if I was, I’d watch touring cars – I want rules that let cars follow each other more closely through corners.

  52. I think the right balance of aspect ratio would come with a 15″ or 17″ racing rim. The OD doesn’t have to be changed at all with the lower profile rubber. Too low a profile 18″+ (IMO) will lead to lower overall performance, for the reasons given by others. The aesthetic will also be compromised with too low AR rubber.

  53. Yes.Bridgestone Americas

  54. I like the idea of increasing the tyre width. I think they should decrease the mirrors, and have a brake lights on f1 cars.

  55. I’m in favour of low profile tyres and as its F1 I think the 18″ would be good. I concur with your points about 15″ Indy experience but this is F1 and its nice when F1 leads and tries something different, no not a very good argument I know, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

    I am not in favour of a tyre war again. This would not be good for the sport especially when we are supposed to be looking at reducing costs by standardising all sorts of various components etc. As for who supplies the tyres, well that not really a big issue for me, so long as it is just one supplier for all the teams…

  56. Take it a step further, at present tyres are consumed in sets of 4 of each type. I don’t know if this is because of the rules, but, if a team finds its rear tyres going off before the front for example, why can’t they use a different compound front to rear. Even if the rules state that they must use 4 of each of 2 compounds, that would still be accomplished in only one tyre change.

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