Formula One had its run-ins with 18-Inch Wheels in past. Charles Pic tried them out on his car in 2014 during the Silverstone. In the end, the impact bigger wheels had on the car’s suspension was deemed too much and the idea was abandoned, at least until suspension can be thoroughly reworked.
But it would appear that the times have finally caught up with Formula One and starting from 2021 we will see 18-Inch wheels on the track. Current 13-inch ones are just too outdated. According to Pirelli, 18-inch wheels have more in common with the current road cars technology, meaning that they will be easier to develop and produce and the benefits of F1 research will be easier to transfer to normal cars.
Asked about the new wheels, FIA race director Charlie Whiting had this to say: “I would say so. It is part of the package that we are discussing.”
Pirelli also seems on board, CEO Marco Tronchetti Provera said this on the subject: “There are a number of issues of aerodynamics, of suspension and so on. When the teams are ready, we are ready. For us, it is always technology. We are happy with 13-inch, we are happy with 18-inch. The bigger they are, the better it is. But the technological challenges are different.”
But before Pirelli starts its testing program, it needs a car with reworked suspension, the one that can take the impact of the much larger and stiffer wheels. More rigid sidewalls, coupled with constant pressure in the tires (due to less air) offers plenty of benefits to the drivers, but there is plenty of testing to be done before Pirelli is ready to roll out the new tires.
“At the moment we haven’t discussed this in detail yet,” said Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola. “It’s not just the tire regulations that are missing, but all the regulations. We said we are ready to do whatever they ask, with the proper time and testing. We have to make a proper plan. In the past we made different tires, wider tires, we are always trying to follow what are F1’s requirements. But we’ll need a proper car to test. It’s a similar situation to 2016, with the wider tires.”