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?

For

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.

Against

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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117 comments on Should F1 switch to larger wheel rims?

  1. Corrado (@corrado-dub) said on 27th September 2013, 22:35

    No, I don’t quite like them. It looks like it came out from PIMP MY RIDE garage. I like the current wheels. They’re 1 of the unique visual features of F1. Also, I don’t like F1 being road-relevant. This should be the pinnacle of motorsport, not some test-bed series for road cars new tech !! There’re lots of series, road relevant, to step on for this position. But why did they jump to 18” rims ?!? The gap is too obvious for not creating mixed feelings. Why not taking it step by step. Why not try 14” or 15” rims ??

  2. Pingguest said on 27th September 2013, 22:54

    I do agree Formula 1 should have cutting-edge tyre technology, but that also requires the return of a tyre war. With standardized tyres, it makes no sense to change the tyres any way.

  3. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend) said on 27th September 2013, 23:40

    In my opinion this is such a non issue. Change such an important aspect of the car so late in the year when all teams have already designed their chassis. In a year with already a major engine regulation change. Causing more cost pressures on all teams. Why? Because it looks sportier in some people opinions and would make it more “road relevant”? Please, let’s stop with this now.

  4. fangio85 (@fangio85) said on 28th September 2013, 0:52

    The only reason to do this, and indeed the only reason tyre manufacturers want this, is road relevance to help promote their road products. Low profile tyres are not beneficial from a performance perspective. It would require much softer and longer travelling suspension, and would significantly reduce grip and the scope for changing pressures. With a bigger sidewall, the tyre is more capable of conforming to track surfaces, which means more grip. It also gives much more room for changing tyre pressures to change performance of the tyre (heat up, grid start launch grip, wear rates). I’m not sure of the exact differences in aero performance, but as far as mechanical grip, a very well informed technician friend of mine once told me that, within reason, higher profile tyres are better for racing. I think they could probably go as big as 15″ rims, whilst still keeping a good profile. Obviously the point of going to 18s is purely for road relevence, and hence marketing purposes for the supplier. The ONLY advantage of bigger rim/lower profile is weight as far as I can see. Rubber weighs more than a few inches of spindly magnesium spokes. However, that could prove a double edged sword, as it’ll mean the wheels are far more likely to break in wheel to wheel bumps or even light contact with barriers, as we see in Monaco and Singapore. That means flying shards of magnesium. All in all, I say keep them as is, or at most increase to 15″

  5. IceBlue (@iceblue) said on 28th September 2013, 2:05

    Increasing the tire/wheel size would have a huge engineering impact on the car.

    [1] Increased drag
    [2] Increased unsprung weight
    [3] Increased rotational inertia and gyroscopic effects

    These would require changes to the suspension, steering system, brake system, body design and aerodynamics at the least. There is absolutely nothing trivial about making a change like this.

  6. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 28th September 2013, 3:51

    Voted no because I can’t see a good reason to change it. It won’t increase performance, it will increase costs to redesign suspension and all other affected aspects, it won’t do anything to change issues that need to be fixed long before changing the way F1 cars look just for the sake of change. I would much rather see rule changes that would make for less turbulent air when following another car closely and attempting to pass. Less aero, more grip, those would be examples of positive rule changes.

    I can’t honestly find one single good reason to change F1 wheels to a taller size.

  7. Seems like the people that want it kept at 13 inches are the most vocal but its obvious from the poll that a large majority, me included, would like a change to 17 to 18 inches.

  8. Cristian (@theseeker) said on 28th September 2013, 7:55

    Excelent analysis, first of all. Now, I think increasing wheel diameter would be a good idea for Formula 1, as would increasing engine volume, budgets and last, but not least, balls. Also, another tire war would be very much apreciated, i believe. So, the main problem with F1, at this time, is this idiotic FIA belief that motorsport (it’s supposed pinnacle, more exactly) has to be, somehow, “cheap”. Everything about F1 is made to be expensive. It’s very foundation is to be the highest standard in motorsport, at any cost. And now, it very much isn’t that. Actually, it’s starting to get further away from beeing as good as it can be and that upsets me (and I don’t think I’m the only one) quite a lot. You simply can’t be the greatest, the fastest or “the best” in anything, while your main concern is not to get hurt or spend too much. (That’s why there is no low-cost business class. That’s why you don’t go into a fancy restaurant saying: “Your best champagne, please. Oh, and…make sure it’s not very expensive.”. It just dosen’t make any sense)
    So, in my opinion, the 13″ wheels are just the tip of a very slippery iceberg…
    (I realise I’m a bit off-topic, but I hope you can understand my reasoning)

  9. Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 28th September 2013, 7:59

    It would really harm the racing. The larger brakes would mean very few out-breaking overtakes (so DRS only). The lack of compliancy in the tyre would make the cars turn unbellievably qjick – initially a plus, but it would be very difficult to drive and close racing would suffer. And powerlides and drifts would dissapear because the cars would be too twitchy to correct and balance in the limit. I also enjoy seeing slo-mo shots of tyre deformation. And Gordon Murray loves high profile tyres, and he has a moustache.

  10. dont fix whats not broken…

  11. courier said on 28th September 2013, 12:11

    I think wheel size should be reduced to 10″. Then cars could start using 6 or 8 wheels (sorry…a Tyrrell P-34 joke). Seriously tho, any wheel change should be aimed at improved tire durability. I’m sick and tired of listening to radio orders to “slow down, save the tires”. These are the best drivers in the world. The sport is called “racing”. It is becoming the story of the tortoise and the hare. I hate it.

  12. Alves (@alves) said on 29th September 2013, 1:26

    I’m not a fan of big wheels.

    It’s a Formula1 car, not a road car. They should not be “road relevant”, people don’t moan about wheel sizes in karts or whatever.

    Maybe we can discuss their ride height next. Should they go for 15cm, like road cars? Maybe parking sensors that beep when another car is following you closely.

  13. I need more information on how this would affect the performance of the cars as i haven’t seen anything that fully explains this. From what i have heard i would conclude that an increase in wheel rim size would result in the following:

    1) Heavier wheels overall meaning more energy required to accelerate and decelerate
    2) Larger wheels can accommodate larger brake discs, increasing potential braking power. However, i don’t know if braking is already limited by tyre traction in which case larger brakes may make no difference to performance.
    3) Not read this but my theory – lower profile tyres would have less deflection, meaning a smaller contact patch and lower overall grip. Although perhaps tyre compound and construction can compensate for this.
    4) A question more than a point – how would lower tyre profiles affect the ‘designed to degrade’ tyres currently used in F1? I expect similar characteristics could be designed in.

    Overall my reasoning leads to me thinking there would be a reduction in performance, but if other racing series’ use them maybe i am wrong. Would like to hear an explanation if that is the case. In my opinion it would need more than ‘road relevence’ to justify the cost of redesigning suspension (and other elements), even if it is planned a few years in advance.

  14. Vlad said on 1st October 2013, 5:53

    Put 18″ rims on your 13″ stock rims car, with appropriate tyres and see how your back and teeth feel in about a month. Changing rim size changes EVERYTHING, even if wheel diameter stays the same. Not a good ideea. Open wheel cars need beefy tyres.

  15. mountaintopsage said on 11th February 2014, 15:44

    When I was young, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, tires were all much higher in profile. Sports cars sported 70 series tires, and really, really sporty cars used 60 series tires. Race cars used 50 series tires (still used today). It was said that 50 series tires were pretty much the limit for safety, as anything less would not hold enough air. Modern, ultra-low profile street tires tend to be quite stable, because of the short side walls, but hold so little air that they heat up very fast, and with the high cornering loads and hard braking found in racing, the tire’s carcasses would over-heat causing catastrophic failures. Back then, the 50 series tire was considered the best compromise between safety and stability. It is likely that the 50 series tire is still the best compromise between stability and safety.

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