Should F1 switch to larger wheel rims?

Debates and Polls

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?

  1. Steve Hopkinson said on 27th September 2013, 12:42

    I seem to remember that a couple of years ago a leading F1 engineer (possibly Brawn) said that moving to low-profile tyres would actually make the cars slower, in the short term at least. The compression that you get with current high-profile tyres is an essential part of the cars’ suspension, and in some ways is preferable to the behaviour of low-profile tyres. Switching to larger rims would mean a complete revision of the cars’ suspension and the way teams model suspension behaviour, which would be a major setback initially.

  2. Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 27th September 2013, 12:47

    For all these issues with costs, give the rules are fairly strict with regards to what a tyre can do (‘rotate’ is basically the limit of it) would the costs to change necessarily be that stratospheric, providing enough notice is given to teams so they can implement it into future car designs?

    The chassis rules are being tweaked for next year anyway, meaning teams are already likely to be redesigning their suspension and (unless they do a Ferrari or McLaren and go for a different concept entirely) as long as the main dimensions don’t change, there’s not a lot of airflow change.

    This is, of course, a layman’s view.

    • Ivan B (@njoydesign) said on 27th September 2013, 12:55

      it’s not just the airflow, it’s also the fact that current tyres act a lot like shock absorbers, allowing for less suspension travel. There are other things too, such as behaviour of the contact patch etc, which would require some dramatic changes to the suspension, when compared to what 2014 regs bring. In fact, I do not think we will see any noticeable changes to the suspension geometry of next year’s cars (other than Maccas who will be dropping front pull rod).

  3. Patrick (@paeschli) said on 27th September 2013, 13:05

    Low profile also means better structural integrity and less “bouncy” tyres. So when a car looses a wheel it’s less dangerous for bystanders.

    They would also be heavier, maybe the cameraman hitted by Webbers tyre would be dead …
    I just want F1 cars to be fast, so what should I vote? People above said larger tyres would mean worse acceleration but better braking, is that true?

    michelin’s slick wet weather tyres probably depended on the 18 inches rim

    I think that those slick weather tyres would be great for Formula 1! :D

    Btw, now teams have to pay Pirelli for the tyres but if Michelin can use the +/- same tyres for Endurance and F1, that would mean less costs (and more road relevance) for Michelin and the teams would get cheaper tyres, no?

    • MuzzleFlash (@muzzleflash) said on 27th September 2013, 19:00


      A larger diameter wheel (rim + tyre) is essentially like a ‘final’ final gear so for fixed gear ratios (like in a road car) yes it would result in poorer acceleration. However if the rim gets bigger the tyres will be made a lower profile so the net result will be the same. Even if not, the teams pick their own ratios, and next years engines have more torque.

      • MuzzleFlash (@muzzleflash) said on 27th September 2013, 19:02

        Also, regarding the costs to the teams, it’s not the cost of supplying the tyres which would be the problem, but the complete redesign of suspension and perhaps braking systems.

        Aerodynamically it would be rather pleasing, though.

  4. Josh__F (@josh__f) said on 27th September 2013, 13:05

    Would there be bigger brakes as a result?

  5. Dafffid (@dafffid) said on 27th September 2013, 13:08

    I’m with Keith, the ‘top-ten’ rule and the ‘both compounds’ rule are the first things that should go – scrap them for 2014. Sure, increase the size for 2015, but it’s too late for next year.

    • Agreed… I’d even go one step further and have the choice of all four “hardnesses” available at any time (limit numbers to keep costs down if necessary.) I really don’t care if it’s faster (i.e. more winning) to do zero stops on hards or six stops on super softs. Just retain some limits on set-up changes between qualifying and the race. My gut feeling is that it would mix up the grid and lead to more overtaking and race position changes.

      • Hmm.. It would be brilliant if every team could choose compounds for weekend. And maybe even pick only one compound (ie. prime and option both super softs etc) if they desire. It would raise costs a bit but reason behind those silly compound rules is that Bridgestone wanted that there is something to discuss about tyres after end of tyre war. Having that kind of tyre gamble every weekend would definitely keep tyres under discussion :-)

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

  7. andrew_s (@andrew_s) said on 27th September 2013, 13:24

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. bling bling

  10. Luis Conde (@luchingador) said on 27th September 2013, 13:39

    And some spinners

  11. GT Racer (@gt-racer) said on 27th September 2013, 13:41

    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.

  12. 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.

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

      • @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.

        • @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.

          • caci99 (@caci99) said on 29th September 2013, 0:33

            @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.

  13. vincent said on 27th September 2013, 13:50

    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?

  14. Guilherme (@guilherme) said on 27th September 2013, 13:54

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

  15. 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.

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