First pictures: Pirelli & Lotus begin 18-inch wheel test

2014 F1 season

Lotus E22, Silverstone, 2014

Pirelli and Lotus have begun their test of 18-inch wheels and tyres at Silverstone.

The team’s E22 chassis is running on the prototype rubber for the second day of testing today. It will be driven by Charles Pic.

Formula One rules currently stipulate the use of 13-inch wheels. Pirelli have said they only intend to pursue the idea providing there is agreement from “the teams, promoter and other stakeholders” to do so.

Although the new rubber has the same width as the 13-inch tyres, its diameter is 30mm larger. The total weight of the tyre plus wheel is 4kg heavier.

The main advantage of the lower profile rubber, according to Pirelli, is that as it contains less air the pressure within it remains more consistent.

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Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery says he was pleased with the test and response to it. “In our view, the new tyres looked stunning fitted to the Lotus, and the reaction has already been felt all over the world,” he said.

“These are just a prototype concept, but if the teams decided that they wanted us to proceed in this direction, we have the capability to carry on development in this area and come up with a production-ready version in a comparatively short space of time. We’ve heard a lot of opinions already and we look forward to canvassing other opinions in the coming weeks and months.

“Even though performance wasn’t by any means priority here, the new tyres still behaved exactly in line with our expectations, so we’re clearly potentially at the beginning of a huge development curve, with the wheel and tyre size rules having remained unaltered for many years.”

Pic gave his impression of driving on the new wheels: “It was a very early evaluation test and the different tyres and wheels affect the aerodynamics of the car quite a lot,” he said, “but you could certainly feel that the tyres felt different to those we’re used to on an F1 car”.

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Image via Lotus on Twitter

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145 comments on First pictures: Pirelli & Lotus begin 18-inch wheel test

  1. Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 9th July 2014, 10:41

    I think its a bit much. I’d like to hear about how they drive though. I’d expect that they’re very sensitive, and can get away quite quickly with little chance of saving it. Would be sad to lose the big drifts we’ve had this year, but more punishment for over-driving would be welcome.

    • Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 9th July 2014, 10:48

      Increase in braking capacity is going to shorten braking distances too, making out-braking someone more marginal. This is what’s given rise to the Tilke long-straights-into-hairpins methodology.

      • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 9th July 2014, 18:07

        The current brakes can already provide more stopping power than the tyres can handle, so bigger brakes won’t decrease braking distances appreciably. What they’ll make much easier is brake cooling, which should actually improve reliability overall.

  2. Matt (@hamiltonfan1705) said on 9th July 2014, 10:43

    Do notice a difference but I can tell when they are introduced for real by the first race with them we will have completely forgotten about them

  3. Becken Lima said on 9th July 2014, 10:53

    In terms of aesthetics, this is hideous, ugly as hell!! how someone could think this looks good is beyond me.

  4. Matty No 2 (@mattynotwo) said on 9th July 2014, 10:56

    I think it looks great

  5. Oana Cambrea (@cutteroz) said on 9th July 2014, 11:20

    I agree with @electrolite, it looks like an unhappy choice of colour:

    They don’t look so bad, though.

  6. Spud (@the-spuditron) said on 9th July 2014, 11:20

    Absolutely gorgeous! Lets be having some of these please!

  7. David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 9th July 2014, 11:24

    The rim isn’t deep enough. It looks deeper and thus better in the preview picture Pirelli gave.

    But hey, it’s more up-to-date and not gimmicky, refreshing on the back of the introduction of the Super bonus Double Points Season Finale Bonanza.

  8. David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard) said on 9th July 2014, 11:26

    Oh, and there’s Saxo Bank instead of EMC^2 (based on E=MC^2 they might as well have written E^2 since E^2=EMC^2).

    Congrats on that, Team Enstone!

  9. Velocityboy (@velocityboy) said on 9th July 2014, 11:32

    The US broadcasters often point out how the sidewall of the tire acts as a part of the suspension when it flexes and I’m sure that is taken into consideration when the cars are designed. So I don’t think changing to the larger wheel and low profile tire is as simple as bolting them on, as it will probably require major suspension changes. So how does this fit into the cost cutting measures?

    • Michael Brown (@) said on 9th July 2014, 13:31

      The biggest benefactor will be Pirelli, as 18″ wheels are very similar to what they provide in most other racing series. This saves them a lot of money as current F1 tires are much different and expensive.

      I believe Pirelli, Michelin, and Bridgestone were pushing for lower profile tires for the past few years, primarily for the reason above.

      As for the suspension, it needs to be softer because it will be doing more movement than with current wheels. It would have to be redesigned similar to a road car to get the most benefit from these new wheels.

    • BJ (@beejis60) said on 9th July 2014, 15:07

      @velocityboy I read years ago that the sidewall is about 50% of the suspension travel. So even if it’s only 10% of the suspension travel, all teams will spend millions in suspension R&D to optimize everything. And to think the teams and FIA “want to save money”

    • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 9th July 2014, 18:50

      @velocitybo As evidenced by this test, they can just bolt on the wheels and it works. No redesign required.

      But of course they will optimize the suspension, because it will give them large performance improvement that’s guaranteed, instead of spending tens or hundreds of millions on aero finding tenths or not finding them in many cases.

      They redesign the suspension each year anyway to find small aerodynamic benefits (like pull rods, or McLaren mushrooms etc.) or to suit the new chassis requirements and tyre changes, or to simply optimize the system.

      All that would change for next year is that the requirements and geometric options would be slightly different as they start the new design.

      And the teams don’t have to make any major changes anyway, as seen here. But they would be silly not to do so, because everybody will, because it will be a cheap performance boost.

      FIA have just given the teams a much bigger headache and technical problem to be solved by (potentially) banning FRIC suspension mid-season.

  10. skipgamer (@skipgamer) said on 9th July 2014, 11:50

    Surprised by the negativity from some. Looks amazing to me, much more modern. Two thumbs up!
    Would love to see a poll on them.

  11. Robbie (@robbie) said on 9th July 2014, 12:20

    I say bring them on. I like them.

  12. AmbroseRPM (@ambroserpm) said on 9th July 2014, 12:47

    I think they are a tad big. 15-16,s would look miles better.

  13. totocaster (@totocaster) said on 9th July 2014, 13:16

    What is the ultimate purpose for the switch? Looks or road tyre advancement? I do like current fluffy donuts, but if 18 inch ones will drastically improve road and sport-street tyres, so let it be.

    • kpcart said on 9th July 2014, 14:06

      it is nonsense to think an 18 inch tyre on a 600kg 750hp single seater pitting 2-3 times a race will improve road tyre technology. there are so many other racing series with cars closer to road cars to develop technology to filter to road cars – but road cars drive at such slower speeds than any racing series and don’t need extreme turning and braking, so I don’t see how any racing series will help make better road tyres, the road tyres we have are already excellent in the past 20 years, even chinese made ones. in the past 20 years I have noticed lower profile tyres just make for a stiffer ride, it seems to only be fashion that we have bigger wheels. low profile tyres often have less rubber on them and cost more too…

      • totocaster (@totocaster) said on 9th July 2014, 14:35

        Generally, I’m on the same page. I’m not confident to know much about tyre technology. In case you are right, only thing I can think of is another disruption for teams. I’m pretty sure it will have huge impact on thermal management of tyres, break technology and maybe even suspension architecture and aerodynamics.

      • matiascasali (@matiascasali) said on 9th July 2014, 17:26

        when michelin introduced the radial tyres in the 70¿s they still were open wheelers going faster than any other road car, and now pretty much any road car uses the radial… why wouldn’t it work?

      • Dave (@raceprouk) said on 9th July 2014, 18:13

        You never know what tech they can take from race tyres to road tyres.

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