Lotus is run an experimental 18ins low profile tyre in next week’s Silverstone test as Pirelli continues its push for road relevance.
The company has long believed that current 13ins tyre sizes are anachronistic and have limited connection to its regular products. In the past the FIA has been opposed to low profile tyres, and a change would have huge consequences for the teams, as clearly the suspension characteristics of the tyres would be drastically different.
In a statement Pirelli said: “Larger wheel and tyre sizes reflect modern market trends; with the adoption of a larger size invariably leading to even greater technology transfer between Formula One tyres and road car tyres.
“Pirelli would only progress this initiative if there were a genuine desire from the teams, promoter and other stakeholders to move in such a direction. This is in accordance with the Italian firm’s consistent philosophy of being a technical partner and sponsor entirely at the service of the teams and the sport, in order to benefit the spectacle as a whole.
“These tyres, developed and created by Pirelli’s engineers as part of the company’s premium strategy, serve only as an example of what is possible. However, the technology is in place already to produce this type of tyre with the same standards of performance and reliability set by the current 13-inch rubber. Indeed, with a new tyre concept right at the beginning of its development curve, the possibilities are almost limitless. These include even larger sizes in future.
“A new 18-inch tyre would not be without its technical challenges to produce, although the pay-off would be increased rigidity through having less flexibility in the sidewalls. Nonetheless, this necessary movement forms an important part of the current Formula One car’s suspension and damping.
“A smaller sidewall would also inevitably lead to drastically reduced branding space. In spite of this, Pirelli is completely ready and capable to move ahead with development of such a tyre should the teams wish for it to happen. And proof of this proactive capability lies in the existence of the tyres that will be circulating around Silverstone next week.
“The decision to demonstrate this ground-breaking prototype at Silverstone has been taken at the very top of the company, in order to showcase Pirelli’s reactivity and technical know-how.”
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “The 13-inch tyre is no longer relevant to the everyday road user, because even an 18-inch tyre is used by standard vehicles these days. While 18-inch tyres would be a big step for Formula One, there are many other motorsport series that already use this size. So there’s scope to go even bigger than that in Formula One in years to come.
“In order to underline F1’s role as a test bed for future mobility solutions, we believe that it benefits everybody to have as close a link between road car tyres and competition tyres as possible: a belief we have held ever since we introduced the low profile tyre from competition to road use back in the 1970s. However, we’d like to emphasise that this move is not something that we are actively pushing for, as our role in Formula One is not to instigate changes. Instead, it’s to help teams and drivers make the most out of the equipment, regulations and resources they have at their disposal – whatever they decide that framework is going to be.”