The change to larger wheel sizes is partly to make F1 tyres more relevant to those in use in the road car industry as big alloys and low profile tyres have replaced chunky sidewalls and small wheels, making F1 car wheels seem a little…outdated.
In 2021, F1 will finally make the move from 13-inch rims to 18-inches. To ease that transition, Formula 2 will make the switch to the new wheels in 2020 - a year ahead of F1. Sure, F2 cars are a lot slower, than F1 cars, but with testing these days severely limited, it’s probably the best way for Pirelli to gain some real-world data. but having some real-world experience is better than nothing, right?
A significant amount of the suspension travel in an F1 car comes from the flex of the tyre sidewall. This means that when the lower profile tyres are introduced in 2021, the teams will likely have to adopt a different philosophy in suspension design to cope. But whereas for F1 teams that’ll likely just become absorbed into the mass of other regulation changes slated for 2021, F2 runs a spec Dallara chassis over a number of season. Aside from a small upgrade kit, F2 teams and drivers will just have to deal with it for next year.
Pirelli’s F1 boss Mario Isola explained the decision:
“F2 is the closest championship in terms of performance to F1, so we can learn something, and it is a good opportunity to have one year of testing. It is obviously a big challenge because we have to learn about the 18-inch tyre for F2 in a very short period of time, and it will be an intensive test programme to supply F2.”
F1 sporting director Steve Nielsen also said that it strengthens the link between the two championships, what with F2 being the premier feeder series for F1:
“This is a nice step. F2 is already famous for being a driver feeder series, but now it is technology sharing. It is a good fit for F1. We will benefit in the future from introducing this, F2 is a good test bed - so it’s a good news story for us.”
Good news indeed. Also, we think it looks really good.
Even though single-seaters have traditionally always had comparatively small rims, the change isn’t too jarring. We’re all for the switch - as long as it doesn’t spoil the tyre degradation craziness that makes Formula 2 races some of the most exciting around, anyway!
A version of this article was originally posted on WTF1