Formula Donk: Pirelli, Lotus Test 18″ Tires (w/ Video)

Relevance. That’s been the buzzword behind the most recent technical regulations in Formula 1, which (unlike NASCAR) saw the proliferation of turbos and the explosive growth of hybrid-electric road cars with moveable aero and said “that’s the future – that’s where we need to be!” Now, after years of running 13″ wheels on its cars, Formula 1 is taking steps to bring its wheel and tire technology more in line with today’s larger passenger car wheels. Witness, then, Charles Pic’s Lotus F1 car, fitted with the first set of experimental 18″ Pirelli tires.

“If we go with this type of tyre one day, it will be a big challenge,” said Pic, in an interview that took place after this week’s test. “For the teams, because they will have to build a completely new car around it because the philosophy is completely different, and also for the drivers because they are completely different.”

Indeed, the new tires would represent a radical shift in the way the current generation of F1 cars are designed. As you can see …

F1 18 inch tire comparison

… the 18-inch Pirellis “give” a lot less due to their shorter, stiffer sidewalls, and the airflow over the larger wheel openings would have to be understood and designed around. Further, larger, heavier brakes could mean that we’d see more heroic braking and stiffer, stronger suspensions bits.

Or, you know, maybe not.

“The overall grip was very low, I think it was five or six seconds off the pace, …” explained Pic. “I think in the philosophy it will be a type of tyre that will react quickly, and the reaction you get in the steering wheel is more nervous. Each time you get the snap it is quicker [than with the standard tyres].”

Here’s hoping they get that sorted. As for how the cars would look if the FIA decided to go the 18″ route, you can check out Pic’s Lotus, below. Enjoy!


Sources | Images: AUSMotive, F1 Fanatic.


Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.