Ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, the vast majority of Formula One teams have come out against increasing tire dimensions to 18 inches. Current tire supplier Pirelli and Michelin who have recently expressed interest in F1 are both in favor of such a measure. The marketing behind their decision is simple, as road car tires have grown in diameter, having a more road relevant size will help tie in their motorsport activities with their consumer products.
In putting marketing and profit measures ahead of sport, the tire manufacturers and everyone in favor of the 18 inch tires has forgotten that F1 has never been a road relevant series. The self described pinnacle of motorsport has for the majority of its history been about one thing and one thing only: building the fastest racing cars on the planet.
18 inch tires would dramatically increase unsprung weight and decrease the handling abilities of open wheel cars, two things that fly in the face of every designer, engineer, driver and fan of the sport. As we discussed when Pirelli first brought up the idea and made a demonstration set for Lotus, F1 doesn’t need bigger wheels.
The subject of bigger wheels has been raised many times over the last five or eight years, but I think the broad consensus is that going to bigger wheels is not a good direction.
– Paddy Lowe
The new hybrid powertrains are far more road relevant than any tire size change could ever hope to be for Formula One. Pushing the boundaries of technoilogy to create the most effecient race engines of all time is a far nobler prospect than giving F1 cars dubs to ride around on because it will look ‘cool’.
F1 is and should always be about the fastest, purest racing on the planet. Far too often it falls into the trap of gimmicks like DRS or double points. It is refreshing to see the teams recognize 18 inch tires as such and move to dismiss them.
Image: Ercole Columbo via Pirelli