Come to think of it, I never realized how puny those standard 13 inch F1 wheels looked before now that its time for an upsize. Yes, F1 wheels are set to get bigger- all of 18 inches! Major tire manufacturer and the sole official supplier to F1, Pirelli has taken forth the initiative and they recently tested the new combination with Lotus.
Now F1 is a technologically sensitive sport. Those 13 inch wheels are there for a reason. The tires, notably their large sidewalls act as a part of the car’s whole suspension system soaking up bumps and undulations on the track. Now a switch to these 18 inch wheels will require a keener suspension set-up- modifications to which will raise other aero related challenges, which translates to more investment.
Anyways, Lotus trialed the low profile tires during Wednesday morning of the second day of in-season testing at Silverstone. Shod with a set of prototype 18 inch wheels and tires, the Lotus F1 car did a total of 14 laps- fastest time was a 1m 44.728s, nine seconds down on the midday benchmark of 1m 35.544s.
Pirelli boss Paul Hembery mentioned that the testing session had accomplished whatever they had set out to do.
“We weren’t looking for performance,” Hembery says. “The priority was to show people what a Formula One car would look like with a change of rim.
“We will supply the people in the strategy group and F1 commission with images, so people can make a decision on the future regulations based on fact rather than computer-generated images: that was the real objective.
“We also confirmed what we knew: you have more rigid sidewalls, so you do have an integrity challenge; the car’s sensitivity to camber will be very high; the front tyre will create a very aggressive turn in; there will be big variations in pressure. We need more detailed studies on that.
“For now, we were just confirming the things we know, and the areas you would need to start working on if indeed this is where the sport will go – and that is really now in the hands of the decision makers.”
Aimed for a possible switch in 2017, but Pirelli reckons that they can deliver the new set by as early as 2016, should the concerned authorities desired so.
Hembery also stressed that Lotus had made minimal changes to adapt to the new wheels & tires, adding: “we asked them essentially to do a running promo, so the changes on the car were kept to a minimum. I believe quite big changes would be needed to adapt to a product that is so substantially different.”
Source: Formula 1, Pirelli
Check the gallery below for more close up images of the new Pirelli F1 wheel/tire.