18-inch Michelin tyres on a Ferrari F138

Should F1 switch to larger wheel rims?

Debates and PollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

18-inch Michelin tyres on a Ferrari F138Recent rumours linking Michelin to a return as a tyre supplier in Formula One centred on their desire to see an archaic aspect of the F1 rules brought up-to-date.

Formula One wheel sizes have been fixed at 13 inches (330mm) for two decades even as the side of road car rims and racing cars in less restrictive series have increased. Pirelli are expected to remain F1’s single tyre supplier next year and 13-inch wheels will remain.

Michelin were believed to want to see F1 wheel sizes grow to 18 inches (457mm) – a significant increase. Is it time for F1 to catch up with developments in the world of wheels?


On a purely philosophical level, if Formula One is supposed to be the pinnacle of motor racing, an update to this area of the rules is long overdue. Formula One’s 13-inch wheels look oddly small compared to the larger wheels used in the World Endurance Championship and forthcoming Formula E series.

One might assume that where an F1 car is different from a road car it is because of reasons of performance. But in this case Formula One is well behind the times – modern road cars tend to have far smaller tyre aspect ratios than F1 machines.


Stagnant areas of development in Formula One usually have two root causes: safety or costs, sometimes both. In this case it’s largely the latter. Limiting tyre development is a significant cost saving for teams.

To change the size of wheel rims now would force teams to redesign their suspension, which would also bring significant costs. And the new tyres would require further track testing – yet more costs. All this at a time when teams are already feeling the squeeze from expensive new engine regulations.

I say

18-inch Michelin tyres on a generic F1 carIt does seem strange to have the world’s fastest racing cars running on dinky wheels of dimensions so small it’s getting increasingly difficult to buy an equivalent for a road car. F1 does not use these smaller wheels for performance reasons, it’s purely a throwback in the regulations.

Given the choice there are many things I would like to change about F1’s current tyre rules. Given a red pen and a copy of the FIA Sporting Regulations I’d quickly strike out the obligation for drivers to use both tyre compounds during a race, and abolish the requirement for the top ten qualifiers to start the race on their used tyres from Saturday.

Of the many aesthetically displeasing characteristics of modern Formula One cars the bulging sidewalls so at odds with modern car design is not the most offensive. But it is another reminder of how F1 is falling further away from the cutting edge.

And I do rather like these illustrations of how F1 cars might look on (Michelin) 18-inch wheel rims.

You say

Do you think F1 should increase the size of its wheel rims? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Should F1 increase wheel rim sizes to more than 13 inches?

  • Yes - to 19 inches or more (12%)
  • Yes - as high as 18 inches (53%)
  • No - keep it at 13 inches (23%)
  • No opinion (12%)

Total Voters: 461

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119 comments on “Should F1 switch to larger wheel rims?”

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  1. I’d love to want to pretend to care about this issue but… I just can’t work up the enthusiasm.

  2. Living in Johannesburg where potholes are so deep, you lose mobile reception, I cannot understand the need to run anything over a 16″ Which is why I am quite happy to run them on my Sportage.
    With regards to F1, I think to move to a more “modern” size is long overdue.

  3. At approx 43% aspect ratio, it’s difficult to claim that the current F1 tyres are not in line with the aspect ratio of modern tyres. Yes some cars have tyres with lower aspect ratios than this, but not many.

    But I’m not really bothered either way.

  4. And some spinners

  5. While it was Michelin that initially began the push to go to 18″ rims, Should be noted that Pirelli also want to go to larger rims.

    When the teams rejected Michelin’s 18″ proposal back in the 2010 tender process, Pirelli put forward a compromise to go upto 15″ with the idea been to move to 18″ in the future.

  6. I voted no opinion because I don’t know how it would affect the performance of F1 cars. I would like someone with better understanding to jump and clarify it.
    Actually, in road car the high profile tires were introduced more as an aesthetic feature, rather then performance. And it became a trend. The best benefit of high profile tires is the driver has better feedback about speed, track, surface, cornering. It does offer also less rolling resistance. But on the other hand, it has worse acceleration and deceleration, less suspension and less contact patch which can affect cornering speed. Also, someone mentioned that it will bump less, which I don’t think is true because it is more stiff and carries more momentum.

    1. @caci99, you have some errors, particularly your second last sentence.

      1. @hohum I’d be happy if someone would correct and point to what is right. Or is it completely wrong so not worth correcting it :).
        Unfortunately I have no personal experience about low profile and high profile tires. But I can relate to some other experiences like bicycle. In a bicycle a low profile tire is stiffer and a lot bumpier, it has less traction and less brake power.

        1. @caci99, acceleration and deceleration, you are assuming greater inertial mass I presume which is not necessarrilly true, otherwise it is the outer circumference of the tyre that affects gearing, not rim size. The contact patch will also stay (fairly) constant if the outer diameter and width of the tyres remains the same, with an advantage more likely with LOW profile tyres.

          1. @hohum you are correct, I am assuming grater mass because of the rim. And this greater mass will shift outwards of the radius of the rim, thus making it carry more momentum.
            On the other hand a low profile does have stiffer sidewall, and as result deforms less, reducing the contact patch. One would also tend to inflate with more air pressure such tire, I guess.
            But I am surely guessing, would have been interesting someone with good insight of the matter to write a thorough article about the tires and their influence on F1 cars.

  7. redbull’s vision on future of F1 is this


    18 inchers would fit that without destroying the looks of it. Also, with turbo i gues, a bigger wheel diameter would transfer the torque easier?? any tech insight into that, anybody plz?

  8. I’d have liked a more specific option in the poll where I could voice my preference for the happy medium of 15″ wheels.

    1. @guilherme “As high as 18 inches” is intended to cover that.

  9. The rim diameter should be based on engineering choices, or compromises, made by each team and taking into consideration many factors such as performance, cost, weight, aero, safety etc… Considering this, maybe 13″ is the best solution, but maybe it isn’t. One thing is sure, a fixed rule makes the use of 13″ rims artificial.

  10. FYI the first to ask for 18 inches wheels were Pirelli three years ago, that’s were the idea comes from…

    1. Michelin certainly did when they were considering a return in 2010. I don’t recall Pirelli saying likewise, perhaps you could refresh my memory?

  11. It could be 14 or 15, but WHY 18 ??

    I don’t know whether those wheels in the pics are 18 inch wheels or not, but they look HIDEOUS.


    1. @shrieker

      I don’t know whether those wheels in the pics are 18 inch wheels

      You mean the ones that are labelled “18-inch Michelin tyres…” and described as “illustrations of how F1 cars might look on (Michelin) 18-inch wheel rims”?

      1. Yes, I saw the labels after posting. Thanks.

        On a side note, I always thought the wheels on WEC cars looked funky. On F1 cars, they look totally out of place unfortunately.

  12. I voted No and stay on 13′ because Formula 1 shouldn’t follow other racing series, other racing series should follow Formula 1.
    Formula still is the pinnacle of Motorsport

    1. That pinnacle is suffering some serious erosion.

  13. I would say yes, they should update them to a size that’s more relevant. HOWEVER, I think mayhaps it should wait another year or two until the engine development has settled so that the small teams can survive.

  14. @keithcollantine Seeing the second image of the car without a livery made me wonder… Has anyone ever designed an F1 Fanatic livery? That would be really cool to see.

    1. @pandaslap You’ve never got a 404 error here, then? :-)

      1. @keithcollantine lol… I guess not :)

        Still, I would love to see the livery on one of the realistic images.

    2. Didn’t @ajokay once design an F1F-sponsored F1 car?

      1. I did. But it was an HRT with the ‘Your Name Here’ bits replaced with F1Fanatic logos.

  15. Voted 19 or bigger.

    The less Pirelli tires the better :)

  16. I voted no as it’s not about making the wheels look like a modern car because no other part of an F1 car looks like any other car in the world. These “archaic” rules were originally put in place to limit brake disc sizes and thus efficiency. I would expect all sorts of problems arising in the braking and suspension aspects of the car which potentially would have a negative effect on racing. I urge people to rethink all the implications in voting yes as I can only see worse racing from a change to bigger wheels.

  17. I’d welcome the change, as the cars are changing as well and it would probably not take much getting used to.

    Thing is, with the changes coming up next year and their cost, it’s probably going to be too much to deal with for a lot of teams any time soon. The added testing would take a lot of planning and money, plus, if one team got more testing in than the others (Merc this year) there will be more drama.

    In the future, I’ll be for it, but not any time soon.

  18. If the option is either 13″ or 18″ tyres then I prefer 13″, but I do think there should be a change in the future so for me the best solution would be 15″.

  19. Larger rim with lower profile tyre is the better solution from an engineering perspective. That should be the only thing to consider. So I’ve voted for 18″ wheels with low profile tyres.

    1. I agree, although I voted 19+ because it was the only option open to optimisation.

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