Inside the technical challenge of 18-inch F1 tires

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Lotus technical director Nick Chester has shed some light on the challenge that the engineers and designers in Formula 1 could face if Pirelli’s prototype 18-inch rimmed tires are adopted in the years to come.

Pirelli piloted the concept tires at Silverstone earlier this week, with Lotus test driver Charles Pic completing 14 laps using them. The Frenchman said that it would be a big challenge for the sport if they were used, and Chester echoed his words.

“The 18-inch Pirelli tires are obviously very different to the tires used in F1 now, so we viewed it as a shakedown run – simply a case of ‘let’s see’ for Pirelli, rather than a performance run,” he explained.

“The bigger size meant we had to trim the floor and change the ride height to adapt to the different loaded radius of the tires. Some of the suspension set up also had to be modified, such as the cambers. These were very basic revisions to enable Pirelli to evaluate the concept for the future and see what the bigger wheels look like on the car.”

If the tires are to be adopted in F1, all eleven of the teams would have to be in favor, and they would not be introduced until 2016 at the absolute earliest. Chester inferred that such a big lead-up would be required thanks to the challenge posed by the tires.

“Having 18-inch tires would have a big impact on design,” he said. “We would want to be testing in the wind tunnel for at least a year ahead of their introduction.

“The ride height and suspension packages would have to be changed and the tire profile itself would be very different. It would be an interesting challenge.”