Doubts raised over plan for 18-inch and larger wheels

2014 F1 season

Charles Pic, Lotus, Silverstone test, 2014Formula One should be clear on its reasons for introducing larger wheel sizes if it decided to do so, according to the teams’ technical chiefs.

Pirelli tested wider 18-inch wheels at Silverstone earlier this year and has expressed an interest in increasing wheel sizes even further from the current 13-inch format. However some car designers raised concerns over making a change solely for stylistic or commercial reasons.

“Maybe I’m ignorant in this sense or ignorant of what’s been going on but as far as I understand the only reason for proposing this is to suit, to make it look more like the road tyres that particular tyre manufacturer makes,” said Red Bull’s chief technical director Adrian Newey during today’s press conference at Spa-Francorchamps.

“So it’s not being done for technical reasons, it’s not being done for performance reasons, it’s being done purely for styling and commercial reasons. That to me does not seem the right reason to make a technical change.”

Williams’ head of vehicle performance Rob Smedley endorsed Newey’s view: “We have to really question the reasons for doing that and what does it actually bring to the sport.”

“As an engineering exercise then all the teams are big enough just to get on with it, to be fairly honest. It’s not a great engineering challenge – it is an engineering challenge, as most things in Formula One are – the question that Formula One has to ask itself is what are the reasons we’re doing it for, are they the right reasons, does it actually bring anything to the sport?”

However teams expect they will be able to cope with the change which, if it does happen, is not expected to be implemented for at least three years.

“We’re halfway through 2014, we’re talking about something to be introduced in 2017, so there’s certainly adequate time,” said Ferrari’s James Allison.

“And it’s the tender process for deciding on the new tyre supply is something which the FIA looks after and they’ve been taking the trouble to consult amongst the teams for what type of consideration should be built into the timing of that so we can manage the engineering of it.

“So I think there is enough time and as long as the various inputs from the teams are heeded it will all be fine. And it will be exciting, and fun for us to have a change in the geometry.”

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23 comments on Doubts raised over plan for 18-inch and larger wheels

  1. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 22nd August 2014, 17:13

    So it’s not being done for technical reasons, it’s not being done for performance reasons, it’s being done purely for styling and commercial reasons. That to me does not seem the right reason to make a technical change.

    Totally agree with Horner here. It’s my point of view aswell, as I’ve said before here. It’s really not needed. And to be, they don’t even look nice.

    I don’t understand what kind of relevance towards road cars 18 inches wheels have. My Corsa has 14s. Not many road cars have 17s…

    It’s probably a huge cost involved in developing new suspension geometry, just to have different rims. Hardly a valid reason.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 22nd August 2014, 17:24

      I said exactly the same. This is unlikely to attract new teams or manufacturers. All it does is make Pirelli’s involvement more marketable. Unless there’s an actual performance benefit from having low profile tyres but beefier suspension I really don’t see the point.

    • caci99 said on 22nd August 2014, 17:59

      Totally agree with Horner here.

      The article says that those were Newey words, not Horner, am I right?
      About the tires, I would love someone with good insight come and explains it better what are the advantages and disadvantages of one tire against the other. It looks like we are in speculation land. I do also believe that low profiles tires are only for commercial reasons, but I am no great expert of the field.

    • evered7 (@evered7) said on 22nd August 2014, 18:24

      How about we come to a compromise at 16? I see them becoming the new 14s in road cars.

      • SandStorm said on 22nd August 2014, 18:44

        Heh, I’d say 14/15 Front and 16/17 Rear
        otherwise, I still like the current looks.
        Heck, could still be 13 front and 15 rear, and way wider at the rear

        Also, besides the tires, they should lower and widen again the rear wing…

    • BJ (@beejis60) said on 22nd August 2014, 19:54

      @fer-no65 Virtually every car here in the US has at least 16″, some have 15″, most have 17″ and larger, including “compact trucks”

    • Roland said on 23rd August 2014, 1:58

      yup Newey said it best. waste of money.

      and I think Allison stated it’s not even an engineering challenge.

      let the race cars have racing wheels and tyres!!! (like the 60s muscle cars whose stock wheels and tyres were made to resemble what was being used at the track!!!!)

  2. I don’t really like the larger wheel concept, as this will probably force teams to use less camber, and therefore be slower. Also, the FIA is trying to reduce costs, but introducing a concept that will force teams to completely redesign the front wing, suspension, wheel, sidepods, brakes, and brake cooling is very expensive, and will just increase the gap between top teams, like RBR and merc, and teams like Marussia and caterham.

  3. GT Racer (@gt-racer) said on 22nd August 2014, 17:44

    As I have said before the push for larger wheels is NOT been done purely for looks or for road relevance.

    Its something both Bridgestone & Michelin also wanted when they were in F1 as well as something Pirelli have wanted since they joined in 2011.

    Right now F1 is pretty much the only category still using such small wheels so an F1 tyre supplier can share nothing between F1 & other categories they compete in. They have to produce F1 specific tyre molds & F1 specific compounds/construction at a huge expense.

    When Bridgestone became the sole tyre supplier in 2007 they pushed for a switch to 15″ slick tyres so that they could look at sharing some of the tyre technology between F1 & Champcar/Indycar which run 15″ slicks.
    Last year when Michelin were looking at F1 they wanted 18″ tyres so that they could share tyre tech between F1 & WEC where the cars currently run 18″ tyres.

    The only reason F1 still has the tiny 13″ tyres is purely because its the way its been for a while & its something which while talked about repeatedly over the past decade is something which nobody has ever really got round to properly discussing as there was always other stuff going on.
    Its been talked about more now because Pirelli have finally got it been discussed.

    • Lancer033 (@lancer033) said on 22nd August 2014, 18:01

      The only reason F1 still has the tiny 13″ tyres is purely because its the way its been for a while & its something which while talked about repeatedly over the past decade is something which nobody has ever really got round to properly discussing as there was always other stuff going on.

      that’s a great point. Honest, they should just forget about 13″ wheels or 17″ wheels and sit down with a blank sheet of paper and decide what’s the right size wheel for the cars.

    • RB (@frogmankouki) said on 22nd August 2014, 20:45

      I agree with much of this post as I have the same outlook on this as well. Beyond the tyre manufactures being able to diversify the racing tyre technology/application, there could be more benefits. With larger wheels teams would be able to run larger break setups, which theoretically (given the limit of tires adhesion to the racing circuit) allow for later breaking and more mid corner over taking. Regardless of all the obvious and not so obvious advantages, we must remember we are talking about Formula 1. Formula 1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of racing technology, and although it can be argued that there is no longer trickle down of that tech into road cars, what was the last “performance” car sold with 13” wheels?

      • MagicSpin said on 22nd August 2014, 23:40

        As far as I know, very little could be done under these circumstances to improve braking performance, as this is tightly watched by regulators on safety grounds; and I agree with this approach

        Furthermore, better braking performance –> shorter braking zones –> overtaking more difficult. Also greater risk of collision in braking zone, something like Perez and Massa in Canada this year. Imo front wheels should be smaller to increase braking zones

    • Alex Ward said on 22nd August 2014, 23:59

      Rubbish. Pirelli already have the moulds/factory for 10 inch tyres and a monopoly on production so no need to develop them, so there would be no saving other than material cost which is very very minimal. It is all about the look.

      • GT Racer (@gt-racer) said on 23rd August 2014, 17:35

        If its rubbish then why has every tyre supplier thats been or looked at joining F1 over the past decade wanted them?
        The talk about ‘looks’ is something thats only been talked about this year.

        Just because they have the monopoly doesn’t mean there not spending a lot on development as don’t forget they totally changed the compounds every year.
        And also consider that it isn’t just about F1, Going to larger tyres as used elsewhere would mean they could share data across all there Motorsport tyre programs which would cut R&D costs & benefit Pirelli tyres across Motorsport.

  4. Bruno (@brunes) said on 22nd August 2014, 17:57

    Wow, they are really overthinking this matter. Everybody in the paddock seems to have an opinion about it.

    However, when the double-point farce was proposed, something that can directly and unfairly affect the championship, few spoke up about it.

    These people are really destroying a beautiful sport.

    • Apples and oranges really.
      The double points, as idiotic and unnecessary as it is, isn’t an engineering issue, this actually is.
      Which means that this will actually affect Newey and his contemporaries directly.

  5. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 22nd August 2014, 18:07

    Commercial reason, eh? How about engines? Wasn’t they for commercial reasons – that F1 would be relevant to road cars and for developing green-conscious image. If F1 wants to stay with archaic wheels, then why it got rid of archaic engines in the first place.

  6. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate) said on 22nd August 2014, 18:31

    I wish there was this much resistance to DRS, Double Points and Designed-To-Wear tires. :(

  7. If you made the wheels bigger but left the brake rotors the same size, could you use the rim to move air and eliminate brake ducts? I know they play with blown wheel nuts, maybe the bigger rim could have the spokes profiled to act as a fan and create some interesting aero solutions

    just thinking….

  8. George (@george) said on 22nd August 2014, 22:09

    It’s funny seeing the designers complain it’s not being done for performance, when pretty much everything they do is limited in that regard.

    “So it’s not being done for technical reasons, it’s not being done for performance reasons, it’s being done purely for styling and commercial reasons. That to me does not seem the right reason to make a technical change.”

    Newsflash: Pirelli are in F1 to sell tyres.

    • MagicSpin said on 22nd August 2014, 23:46

      +1
      I would not hesitate (were I in any position) to make major technical changes for political, aesthetic, financial, entertainment, or safety reasons. The FIA or anybody else should not feel bad for doing so.

      EXAMPLE: Hybrid engines, Nose fairings, bodywork regs, restricted gear ratios, DRS, degrading tyres, survival cells, Rear fan ban

  9. Warren2185 (@warren2185) said on 22nd August 2014, 23:04

    The teams spend tons of money trying to engineer the proper suspension geometry, spring rates, and shock dampening etc. to maximize the mechanical grip, yet they are willing to leave a larger amount of that variable in the hands of a flexible rubber sidewall manufactured by someone outside of the team. I don’t get it. Less sidewall flexibility mean greater control of mechanical variables by the teams themsleves. Not by Pirelli.

    • Alex Ward said on 23rd August 2014, 0:02

      By putting low profile tyres on you are affectively inceesaing unsprung weight, not a good thing. Pnumatic tyres are the best thing since sliced bread.

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