F1 technical bosses uneasy about change in tire rim size

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Technical chiefs from three of the leading Formula 1 teams have expressed their desire to retain the current rim size for tires in the sport in spite of a recent push to make changes in the future.

In a bid to make F1 more road-relevant, it was thought that the change would be made in 2017 upon the next overhaul of the technical regulations.

Pirelli has completed a number of tests using tires with an 18-inch rim in the past year, with the latest coming in a show-run using a GP2 car in Monaco two weeks ago.

French supplier Michelin has expressed an interest in returning to F1 in the event of a move from 13-inch to 18-inch rim tires.

However, speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference, technical bosses from Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren said that they would prefer to stick with the current size of rim.

“I think the broad consensus is that going to bigger wheels is not a good direction,” Mercedes’ Paddy Lowe said.

“Certainly from a grip point of view it’s not positive. Like for like, such tires will have a lower grip and the weight will go up considerably so it’s not an attractive direction performance-wise, so I think generally we would intend to stick with the 13 inch wheels.”

McLaren’s Matt Morris said that any changes would be dealt with accordingly by the teams, but he did explain how the changes would go beyond just the rim size.

“It is a big change like Paddy said,” Morris said. “It’s not just the tire size, it’s all the other parts that change with that, all the brake internals and what have you.

“From our side, we relish change as any engineer does so yeah, if that is going to change, we have a great knack of finding the best way around it and then potentially it’s an area where if you do a good job you can be competitive, so we’re happy if that was to go ahead.”

Ferrari’s James Allison was quick to identify the difference between a change in the size of the tire rim and that of the actual tire, with the latter still being a possibility for the future.

“As Paddy said, the rim diameter is going to stay where it is but the width of the tire is probably still up for grabs,” Allison said. “We’re discussing what that ought to be along with all the other aspects of the rules for around about that time.

“I would say that sooner the better would be good for things like that. Tires are maybe the most complicated bit of the car and the bit of the car that we have the least data about because we’re not allowed, by regulation, to test them, either on the track or off the track.

“So sooner the better from our point of view but there’s still time from where we are today. So as long as we get on with it from here it will be fine.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).