What's the deal with F1's new 18-inch tyres?
For more than 50 years, Formula 1 cars have used 13-inch tyres. And for a sport that prides itself on cutting-edge modernity, that's something of a surprise. Finally though, the wheels get bigger from next year. A lot bigger, in fact: growing to 18 inches. As a result, Formula 1 takes on an entirely new look – as part of a far-reaching package of technical changes that are set to revolutionise the sport and make it even more entertaining. Here's what you can expect from the next generation of Pirelli racing rubber:
FASTER DIRECTION CHANGES
Going fast in a straight line is relatively easy. It's the corners that are the hard part. The new tyres are much stiffer and present more rubber in contact with the track. All that means more grip and a greater ability to change direction instantly. Already razor-sharp, the drivers who have tested Pirelli's new 18-inch tyres report that the turn-in is now almost instantaneous, giving the cars more agility than they have ever had before. This in turn puts the accent firmly on the drivers and their individual reactions, rewarding the bravest and most talented. The new 18-inch tyres are also a lot taller, which means that precision will be rewarded when it comes to finding the apex of each corner. Imagine giving the fastest Olympic sprinter brand new running shoes with more grip and control. That's what's just happened for Formula 1's 20 athletes.
It's not just the tyres that are changing: more or less every aspect of the 2022 car is altered, which also gives teams further down the grid a vital opportunity to catch up and level the pecking order. It's only when the rules change completely that really big gains can made be mad. The racing itself should be more competitive as well, as the cars are less aerodynamically sensitive, which means that they should be more closely-matched and be much easier to follow. In the past, the complex aerodynamics created a cloud of turbulent air behind each car that made it very hard to overtake. The new cars will produce a lot less wake turbulence, which should make it far easier to catch and pass. The 18-inch tyres have been designed to work precisely in tandem with these latest rules, meaning that fans should see more action in the new-look Formula 1.
A MORE MODERN LOOK
Aesthetically, the tyres look very different, with reduced sidewalls and a slimmer profile. As a result, the size reflects the look of modern sports cars on the road, which helps with technology transfer as well as marketing. The visual appeal of these new tyres has been designed to blend in with the futuristic look of the 2022 F1 cars as a whole, as a showcase for the very best in modern technology. The new wheels will also sport wheel covers: again helping to reduce air turbulence, while additionally benefitting cooling by being able to optimise airflow. Bigger wheels also mean bigger brakes, putting the emphasis on Formula 1 as the cradle of modern technology and ultimate performance.
LESS TYRE WEAR AND DEGRADATION
The new tyres are also designed to be more robust, with less wear and degradation. Although this means that the majority of races might become one-stoppers, it also means that drivers should be able to push hard from the start to finish of each stint, with tyre management becoming much less of a factor than before. As a result, the drivers will be able to get more out of each compound and work the tyres even harder at every race: leading to a no-holds-barred sprint from lights to flag, lap after lap. And if that doesn't get you excited, then probably nothing else will….