Pirelli has unveiled a new 18-inch tire design concept to showcase the way that Formula One could look in the near future. But rather than an abstract design, this is a fully functional tire, completing demonstration runs around Silverstone during a round of in-season testing this week.The 18-inch tire is an idea that Pirelli has promoted ever since the company was first announced as Formula One official tire supplier back in 2010. Pirelli says that larger wheel and tire sizes reflect modern market trends; with the adoption of a larger size invariably leading to even greater technology transfer between Formula One tires and road car tires.
Pirelli will only continue development if there is genuine desire from the teams and other stakeholders to move in such a direction. The company says it will only work in the direction agreed upon for the good of the sport as a whole.
The tires, 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 tire with the same standards of performance and reliability set by the current 13-inch rubber. Indeed, with a new tire concept right at the beginning of its development curve, the possibilities are almost endless. These may include even larger sizes in future.
A new 18-inch tire 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 tire should the teams wish for it to happen. And proof of this proactive capability lies in the existence of the tires that are running around Silverstone this week on the Lotus E22, equipped with one-off Pirelli P Zero 18-inch concept tires.
According to Pirelli’s F1 boss, Paul Hembery, the evaluation is aimed at a possible switch in 2017. Pirelli could make them available one year earlier, from the start of 2016, should teams and other officials decide to do so.