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F1 moves to fill tyre vacuum
F1 moves to fill tyre vacuum
Posted By: James Allen  |  23 Apr 2010   |  9:41 am GMT  |  142 comments

There has been quite a bit of movement in recent weeks regarding the acquisition of a new tyre supplier for next season.

Bridgestone have announced their intention to pull out and despite lengthy negotiations, revolving around them being paid to supply tyres and also receiving added value from other PR activities, it seems that they are inclined to stick to that position.

(Darren Heath)

Michelin entered the frame with a radical proposal to change the wheel rim size and open the competition up to other suppliers – to reintroduce an element of competition.

This got Cooper Avon and more recently Pirelli interested in looking again at F1. When I spoke to Pirelli before Christmas they said that it was unlikely that they would do it, but the proposed change to an 18″ rim from the current 13″, seems to have sparked their interest. This makes for a more relevant tyre for all the manufacturers, something more akin to what they use in other competitions and closer in resemblance to a road tyre. It is cheaper and more green.

Also if F1 were to commit to moving to the 18″ rims it would open the sport up to a greater number of potential suppliers and reduce the risk of being stuck or forced into poor commercial conditions, as has happened since the sport went to the single control tyre.

” There’s nothing yet, and it’s not a small task, but there is something worth evaluating, ” said the Pirelli president Marco Provera on Wednesday.

Since Michelin proposed the idea, for which it is looking for a payment of around £50 million, the arrival on the scene of Avon and Pirelli, potentially doing the job for less has changed the game. It weakens Michelin’s bargaining position slightly. Pirelli has long links to Bernie Ecclestone, who wants to put F1 in as strong position as possible.

It’s quite a step backwards for the sport to go from teams getting a free supply of tyres and the tyre supplier also spending a lot of money on its activation programme around the F1 involvement, to all the teams having to pay for their tyres. Bridgestone have been investing $100 million a year. A sport on F1’s level shouldn’t really have to do that, it should have tyre suppliers falling over themselves to have the F1 endorsement.

The sport itself, rather than the teams, could pay for the tyres, without which the cars won’t work, either in cash or part cash, with contra deals for trackside advertising, but somehow it is hard to imagine that happening.

However there are many positives from the potential switch to more road relevant tyres. For a start it is something new and presents fresh challenges. Speaking to some of the F1 engineers, their feeling is that ironically the low profile tyre will give a lot less grip than the current tyres, which will look like balloons in comparison. This would probably help with overtaking. The likelihood is that it will probably save some fuel, which is a useful environmental story. It is quite exciting for the designers as it will give some performance back via better suspension design.

Furthermore if the teams could increase the size of the brake discs they could save a lot
of cost longer term.

It is already quite late for making a decision on suppliers for 2011, but if the move to 18″ is to go ahead it needs to be made very soon, as the cars will have to be redesigned quite significantly. The suspension and particularly the aerodynamics change quite significantly. Pirelli have indicated that 2012 might be a more sensible date to bring the change in.

The next few weeks will be quite telling.

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Branding, exposure. They paid around $100 million to supply teams and get track signeage etc. I think they have also done business to business deals with manufacturers like Ferrari, which have brought income


wish i could get $50m for coming up with crap ideas

for my car, 13″ is actually more relevant than 18″. if it weren’t for the brakes, i’d have them!


Think about it… who could step in at “short” notice to produce a viable tyre that can withstand the pressures of a whole race distance? Who has the capacity, capability and technical progress to make it happen? Does Cooper/Avon have the technology? No. All the key people (except Dupasquier) are still there, they have a team of keen and technically knowledgable people just dying to get back on the world motorsprot stage. Today where are Michelin? No F1, no WRC, no Moto GP – they need a world stage. OK so they said “no” to single supplier but if they could introduce compounds which demonstrate fuel saving with low rolling-resistance imagine being able to ride with 20 litres less fuel and still win the race… they will create competition within their own product range – teams can choose – traditional set-up or less weight and fuel-saving tyres. Everybody wins. There is no choice – Michelin WILL be back in F1 – put simply, nobody else could even hope to make the grade in the available time… 18″ rims .. why not? What the hell does Adrian Newey get paid for? Just get on with it and design a car which has sufficient suspension and doesn’t rely on “fat” tyres to compensate… bring it on.


I think that the arguments over “road-relevance” are rather irrelevant. It’s all about the perception that the tyres used on an F1 car are similar to those that you can buy down at the tyre shop; even better if your brand has beaten other brands in Formula 1. This perception probably won’t make a lick of difference to the die-hard F1 fans, but to the mass market, it will.

As for the cost, why not get the teams to pay the tire suppliers for their annual supply (as teams do at the moment for engines), but allow that amount to be discounted through on-car sponsorships. Sauber, for example, could plaster their car with Michelin stickers and get the tyres for a quarter of the price of, say, Ferrari?


Agreed. The “we beat competitor A on Sunday” marketing scenario is what Michlin apparently want, which is fine.

I thought the cars already have Bridgestone stickers on them?

This whole situation has the potential to be a monumental FAIL on the part of FOM.


In my experience, a tyre war is generally an excellent way to introduce an element of unpredictability due to the tyres being a lot more marginal.

Bridgestone are way too conservative – I personally do not want to see them back in F1.

Watching some races from the early 90s recently, it struck me that the current issue of everyone changing tyres at about the same time did not occur then. It seemed that tyres were changed when the driver felt the grip starting to be lost, not on a lap prearranged before the race. The strategy was a lot more reactive, which is a good thing.


If there were more than 1 tire supplier, and IF teams signed NON-exclusive contracts with several, then presumably they could switch back and forth amongst suppliers at will.

But the suppliers would extract a heavy cost for doing that.


Macca are being flattered by the problems/ill-luck faced by Red Bull and Ferrari.

Doubt Red Bull and Ferrari will be that weak all year . . . hard to see Macca having enough luck all year to win either championship. But not impossible.


Not read every post, so apologies if points already covered….

Why does any given tyre company want to supply tyres to F1? Marketing and PR in spades right?

Much discussion in previous posts relating to making dry racing more exciting centred around the tyres. I.e. having some that ‘fail’ earlier in the race…

This is not good PR for any tyre manufacturer when they are the sole supplier to F1…, hardly proves that any road-car driver should consider Bridgestone over any other brand!

Now if Avon, Pirelli, Michelin etc join F1 as competing tyre suppliers then it’s far more relevant to road-car drivers, not just in terms of diameter and they’ll be more likely to choose one brand over another due to F1 success honed from competition..


..and YES I was watching F1 during the tyre-war years.

Have no problem with them again, however there should be an option to switch between supplying brands, not to be forced to be supplied by one brand only all season.


If this goes on much longer they’ll be down at Sears prior to each race buying new tires!


If F1 finaly get around to low profile tyres it will be a continuation of past history. They used Crossply tyres until the early eighties. Perhaps we could have tyre competition and a stock, simple aero pack, front wing, rear wing& underbody.


“…It is already quite late for making a decision on suppliers for 2011, but if the move to 18″ is to go ahead it needs to be made very soon, as the cars will have to be redesigned quite significantly. The suspension and particularly the aerodynamics change quite significantly…”


Seeing as how the teams are designing new cars for 2011 anyway, surely this is a mute point?


How about this if there is a tyre war, each manufacturer has to supply half the field each – one car from each team. Let’s see Jenson & Lewis fighting over who gets the Pirelli’s.


The last thing we want in FORMULA 1 is a new tyre war. Once a tyre war starts, anything teams and drivers are capable of doing is overshadowed because the tyre enhancement brings much more time than any other factor.

I remember the days when BRIDGESTONE was developing their tyres to meet FERRARI & McLaren requirements (during the HAKKINEN SCHUMI’s era). All the other teams looked so far behind and I remember Frank Williams complaining about having to adapt their suspension to the tyres BRIDGESTONE brought. They had no say on tyre development.

Now with a single tyre manufacturer and tyres development stopped at the start of the season, every team is in the same working relationship with BRIDGESTONE. The consequence is that less funded teams are much closer to the big ones than what used to be in the 80s and 90s. Last year, even FERRARI & McLaren had to work hard to go past the first qualifying shoot out.

So whatever happens, no new tyre war !!!!!!!!


I second the request for a technical article on the change to 18″ rims please James. I’ve heard the claim that 18″ rims are more relevant but I don’t understand how. It’s not likely that they would simply use LMS tyres, or even much of the tech from that side, surely the closest they would get is to use the moulds?

I’m also curious how the engineers you speak to would imagine a “tyre war” working, in an evironment with such limited testing?!

The biggest reason to change the tyres so drastically would actually seem to be to level the playing field. If Michelin are to come back to the sport, they have stated repeatedly that they want there to be competition. However, I’m sure they don’t want competition with Bridgestone on a tyre that they haven’t been making for a number of years. By changing the size to something new, they can compete as relative equals.

There’s not a lot of negotiating room for FOTA/FIA/FOM at this stage; they desperately need someone to supply tyres. However, it would be interesting if the FIA was able to mandate that tyres have to be made available to all teams on a race-by-race basis. Hopefully this would help teams to not be disadvantaged if they chose the “wrong” supplier at the start of the season.



whatever happens BRIDGESTONE is out.


Sure. It would be foolish for Michelin to make that assumption, however.


And just for the record, FIA should bring back the 2002 rules and points system, as they were in their full integrity, and keep them untouched for 5 seasons or more, in order to keep a solid perspective and the costs quite stable, epsecially to the backmarking teams, just think if owned one of these teams and being forced to change it all every season

If the rules were stable, imagine the amount of money that it would save them

I can’t get how FIA keeps changing the rules and making them worse, seriously

Cheers from Sao Paulo, BRA


With the pardon of a non polited word, but this probably will sh*te with F1 even more, as probably the braking distances will be shortened given the bigger brake discs that probably they’ll use, it will require more costs (quick note; when F1 will realise that changing rules every season costs much and keeps the backmarkers even more behind the top teams ?) and the F 1 cars with 18″ wheels will be something beyond ridiculous, they will appear like a “tuned single seater” instead of a proper racing car, with function over form approach

FIA, please, don’t get into this idea


Can anyone explain to me why low-profile tyres would provide less grip? This seems counter intuitive to me. I have some very limited understanding of engineering a racing car but it is a subject that fascinates me.

I understand that the sidewall flexes etc, but surely a well designed suspension is more effective at controlling compliance over bumps than an untunable piece of rubber. I imagine running low-profile tyres reduces the amount of unsprung mass on a car also which i can only be desirable. If low profile tires are not more effective for these reasons, then why do we have them at all and why are they raced in other series? I was under the impression F1 used large profile tires not due to their increased grip but rather because of a set of circumstances over the years that have conspired against bringing the aspect of the tires to these modern dimensions.

I’d love some insight from someone with more knowledge than myself!


Low profile tyres actually INCREASE the unsprung mass not decrease it. This is because the larger wheel (made of metal) increases mass more than the reduction in the size of the rubber bag of air (tyre).


Makes perfect sense when you say it like that, and now I feel a bit stupid! haha So what is the reason for having low-profile tyres at all? Is it purely cosmetic?


Thanks, Craig. That’s a really comprehensive explanation and all very interesting. I appreciate you taking the time to explain.




On a road car the move to low profile tyres is usually to allow wider tyres to retain the same overall circumference to keep the gearing the same and speedo accurate.

Having a wider contact patch for the same corner weight and tyre pressure means the contact patch is shorter which means lower rolling resistance and potentially better economy. It also means that the wider tyre runs cooler as it is cooling (ie. not in contact with the road) for longer due to the shorter contact patch. This allows you to use a softer rubber compound without overheating it which can lead to more grip.

However, there are some downsides. As already mentioned, unsprung mass increases which can make the car a bit skittish on bumps unless the springs and dampers are altered and the car is less comfortable. Also, the car becomes more sensitive to camber change when cornering and due to the wide rubber and lack of compliance you will more quickly go from high grip to low grip and get sudden breakaway. Finally, for most “road racers” having a little blast through some country corners you will never fully heat up the tyres and cold low profile tyres will give less grip than slightly warmer standard tyres. This could also be an issue in an emergency where the low profile tyre is stone cold. Finally, a wider tyre will aquaplane in water at a lower speed than a narrow tyre and will give less warning.

For F1, assuming the widths are the same then many of the advantages of low profile tyres disappear but the downsides remain. The low profile tyres will actually be easier to heat up due to the decreased amount of rubber and air which is the opposite situation to a road car where the width increase is more important. Unsprung mass will be an issue and will stress driveshafts and gearboxes and other components and the cars will be much more twitchy, especially over bumps. The ride will also be harsher.

I am by no means an expert in all this and am happy to be corrected if I have misunderstood anything but my feeling is that 15″ tyres are justified but 18″ would be taking it too far.

I hope this is of interest and invite comments from anyone with anything to add.




An 18″ rim is a very silly idea.

1. It would ignite a hugely expensive technology waramongst the teams.. A car would be so very different that almost everything must be changed. I though we were trying to restrict resources?

2. There is 0 relevance bewteen any road tire an F1 tire. Rim size is irelevant.

3. While I enjoyed the tire wars in the past, I can’t see how it would be a good thing now. Right now, the established teams are all pretty close in speed.

4. How the heck is an 18″ tire any greener?

5. They should just pay Bridgestone to produce exactly the same tires they made for this year. If they offered what it costs Bridgestone to actually build and service the tires, it seems to me they would accept. the advertising they get would be the “profit.” This would certainly serve well for the 2 years until the new regs (whatever they may be) take place. If that isn’t enough, offer to give them a profit


Totally agree, but BRIDGESTONE aren’t willing to come back whatever happens. It is a corporate decision.

The problem with rim change is not only the change in suspension, that’s something modify considerably year in year out to enhance weight destribution, etc… Eventhough with rim change, the suspension modifications is significant.

The problem is with aerodynamics, because with bigger tyres (in diameter), it will considerably modify air management to the rear of the car I guess. So everything has to be reworked aerodynamically in consequence and that’s a huge task. Am I wrong ?

Zobra Wambleska

The tires will retain the same overall diameter and width so there should be no change to aero. And as far as how the larger rim would be greener, there would be less rubber in the tires because of the narrower side wall height.


Why’s that then?


I agree that the proposed ultra-low profile tyres would, on an ultra-smoothe surface, probably provide improved grip, assuming the suspension design and chassis setup was able to keep cambers at optimum. But not all tracks are smoothe. I don’t understand why, in the currant economical climate they’re contemplating changing the rules (again), thereby creating major expenses and hassels for the teams. Think wheels, (probably 20 per car), brakes, hubs, uprights, steering arms, wishbones, pickup points on the tub (might require a new tub), spring and shock units, activating links, anti roll bars, weight distribution, roll centers, camber-change curves, testing and developement etc., etc. I reckon they should keep the currant tyre diamentions at least untill they bring in the new engine formula. Most (all) of the teams are struggeling to optimize there cars since the last rule changes, so why hit them with more different rules? And expenses? Seems crazy to me!



Its not about changing the rules. Its about actually getting anyone to build them some tires! This has potential to be a major clusterF.


it would be nice if there was some way to allow a tire war without having it tied into car design so tightly that teams have to sign up for one tire for the whole season, and potentially take themselves out of a championship by not picking the right company to partner with.

teams could be allowed to test and get data on the tires from various teams, and place orders for them prior to a race weekend, and then use whatever make they’d like for each weekend. rather than contracting for a season.

but it would take strict regulations to ensure that the tire differences are entirely mechanical and the profiles are exact enough that there isn’t an aero difference between makes.

and the choice would have to be forced enough in advance to allow the manufactures time to fill the orders. which could be tons of trouble. as could one maker running away with it.

but i just remember thinking it was really stupid that michelin teams would be terrible one week solely because of the tire, or the same with bridgestone, and finding it terribly frustrating to deal with contracted, unchangable, cross-make competition.


Is football road relevant?

Can can you wear football shoes with crampons on the regular street?

No and No.

I really don’t understand why F1 is getting over itself to please everyone.

You can’t do it.

There’s an old story about a man and his mule. The conclusion is that you can’t please everyone so you might as well do it the way you think it’s best to be done.

F1 isn’t road relevant and it doesn’t have to be.

It’s getting so politically correct that it makes me vomit a rainbow.

Want more racing? Stop making it road relevant. Road cars are not made to race around and F1 cars are not made to go 1000s of miles.


I don’t agree with you. F1 might help make cars greener without even seeking to do so but not in every area. For example, the dual clutch transmission is more efficient for a FORMULA 1 car because it ensures that the time where engine doesn’t transmit power to the tyres is as short as possible. By doing so not only is the car quicker but it wastes less fuel. Such a system is relevant to road cars in many ways. It ensures more comfort in gear changes, quick gears shifts, enhance fuel efficiency. That’s great isn’t it. Add to that the fun of a system you can user either manually or automatically, what else do you want ! The next step should be the CVT, the most efficient transmission system with virtual infinite gears. I don’t think it will be popular though because the engine keeps reeving at the same speed all the time.

Besides, a FORMULA 1 car has to use the energy at its disposal in the more efficient way and these cars brake so hard it is such a loss to loose that energy only by transforming it into heat by the brakes.

So by developing KERS systems as efficient as possible and as light as possible, FORMULA 1 paves the way for road cars relevant technologies. It doesn’t mean that everyone’s car might use a kers like system, but part of the technology developed in kers systems might help enhance braking energy recovery systems for road cars. Besides, don’t underestimate the power of the image of FORMULA 1. If FORMULA 1 kept using manual gearboxes, nobody or a few would have gone for cars with paddles. The same might happen with KERS.

An area where I don’t see a correlation between road and FORMULA 1 is tyres. Tyre manufactures are there only to tell us “look how good we are, we are capable of developing such fast tyres !!!!” but I see no relevance to the road cars.


Well, F1 is in a bloody mess. It is getting harder and harder for this sport to survive in the world of today. I’m not suggesting it is about to cark it but this would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

The last thing BE wants is to reach into his pockets to keep F1 alive so I can guarantee the result will not entail F1 paying for tyres.

And since when was a road tyre on a vehicle doing over 200mph relevant? (Veyron et al excepted)


Tyre supplier. If you really analyze what benefits a supplier can get from throwing money at F1 think about how much money they can earn without bothering.

If Goodyear went to all the car manufactures. For example went to BMW, Ford, Fiat, Ferrari and Honda and agreed to supply tires to all new cars all over the world for cost this would most certainly be the better deal.

When people buy new cars the love them, when they have to replace the rubber they most probably will put the rubber on the car that they had when they purchased their new car.

Doing this will generate more money than throwing money at F1 or any form of motor sport

Obviously about half would put the same rubber on the car as when they initially bought it. The expensive car is more probably as the customer wants his / her car like new. However its a numbers game as well and i expect a tyre manufacturer to make far more money doing this than throwing money at F1.

That is the sensible business decision.


Supplying your product at or near cost to gain an unfair commercial advantage over your competitors is called ‘dumping’ and is illegal in pretty much every country of the world.


What’s with this road relevance rubbish? If you want that then LMS and GT’s are the only option, F1 cannot be road relevant at least not post-actively, technology can leak down but it shouldn’t creep from road to track!

I agree with Michelin about the cost, that’s something that needs looking at throughout the sport but I think a control tyre is good for F1.

Also 18″ low profile tyres, that’s just cost cutting for them. If we’re honest they’re not exactly road-relevant for the majority of us. If they were interested in that sort of thing we’d have run flat tyres in motorsport! It’s just bringing it closer in line with their LM programme.


Agree; lets look at a couple of examples, shall we?

Carbon brake discs – no use on a road car

Front and rear wings generating huge downforce – road cars don’t need it and the drag means they would be fuel guzzlers

Sequential dual clutch ‘seamless shift’ gearboxes – no advantage to a normal road car that can’t already be done with an auto.

Diffusers – same as for the wings except for the drag comment

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