New Pirelli tyre concept reveals long term thinking going on behind scenes in F1
Ferrari F1 car at speed
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jul 2014   |  3:58 pm GMT  |  98 comments

The appearance of the Lotus F1 car on low profile tyres with 18 inch wheels seems to have been largely positive from the F1 community and from fans.

A Ferrari snap survey yesterday revealed that 70% of respondents liked the look of the wheels and tyres, there was little objection at the other end of the scale and some apathy in the middle.

Pirelli is aware that Michelin is lurking in the background, looking to get involved in F1 from 2017 onwards, while there are rumours that Bridgestone has also had some preliminary discussions with the FIA.

However the wider significance of the test yesterday was that it gave the rule makers, teams and other stakeholders a chance to learn, listen and review. This has to be considered a positive step and it is part of an important ongoing programme behind the scenes to re-imagine F1.

Maserati 250F

F1 cars have had many shapes and sizes over the years, from the front engined beauties like the Maserati 250F and the Ferrari Dino 246, to the rear engined cigar shaped cars of the 1960s, the wedges with wings in the 1970s, the early monocoques of the 1980s and then the derivatives from the 1990s onwards which have evolved to where we are now.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 15.46.05

Behind the scenes there are studies and considerations on what F1 cars can look like for the future; leaving aside what the current rules may say, imagining what an F1 car should look like and then consider from there what the rules should be to achieve that.

Long-term, joined up thinking is precisely what F1 needs at the moment. This should also include a review of the way the sport is marketed, especially in newer markets like India, Asia and the USA, the way that supporting content is issued via digital, online and social media and so on.

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 15.47.11

The cars need to look sexy, the emphasis needs to be more on the drivers, rather the engineering; although F1 needs to remain the pinnacle of motorsport technology. And the visceral quality of seeing and hearing thrilling prototypes being wrestled with by the world’s best drivers needs to be front of mind in all future planning.

Battles like the Alonso vs Vettel duel at Silvestone should be the order of the day, rather than the exception.

Budgets need to be brought under control. If a cost cap is unattainable, there should at least be some controls on the R&D, construction and materials spending, which is where the greatest difference exists between the haves and have nots.

Pulling all this together is the key task for F1’s stakeholders and it is positive that rather than just deciding something short term, the low profile tyre test was a public study exercise.

Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo has called for a meeting of stakeholders, teams and some TV companies as well as innovators from outside the sport like Google and Apple. He proposed a meeting at Maranello the week before the Italian Grand Prix in September.

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I have always studied the F1 tires flexing, as this gives us an idea of the extreme forces and energy involved with F1 cornering. The 18″ tire low side walls may hide this aspect. I hope that the tires will not exceed 17″ but agree that 13″ rims have reached their ‘sell by date’.


hey! Instant emails are now being delivered to me form wordpress to prompt me when someone responds to my post.


Sorry it took a while to fix glad we are there now


that’s understandable james. i didn’t give up on you guys but i think there might be a possibility of haven’t the email sent after moderation rather than as it is now, instant.

kenneth chapman

well done james. back to business.


in the end it is up to teams (the most $ ones) to decide what you’ll see on the track;

opinions divided ?!?! we are so many ….billions ; all it’s life…arguing !!

now for the new Noise…..actually what i heard seeing a GP, gets my acceptance

just MO


Correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t the Ferrari boss attempted a few of these get togethers without much success in the past few years?

Have people actually accepted his invite this time?

If he fails again, doesn’t say much for his influence at the moment.

kenneth chapman

@ james….in light of the numerous and interesting opinions from all the posters re F1 would it be possible for you to give us your understanding of just what are the criteria for you and many other motoring journalists to continue to label F1 as ‘the pinnacle of motorsport’?

it appears to me that, ‘prima facie’, F1 no longer fits this nomenclature. to me the ‘pinnacle’ really means that there is no other form which surpasses it, in all areas. it is not the simple fact of ‘speed’ but all the ingredients that collectively signify a superior form of racing. those elements should/must be the very best on offer in order to claim the ‘pinnacle’. as a poster previously said LMP1 has thrown their series wide open and if F1 wants to be seen to be the very best of the best then they will have to emulate this and then take it one step higher.

the americas cup is a great example. that series was always a development series. then when certain elements found the going difficult they switched to what was basically a spec series and then when that failed they then opened the series up again and now we have the most thrilling boats ever seen, racing as never seen before. if you haven’t seen the fights between the multi hulls on san francisco harbour you should. it is mind bending.the sheer size, speed and handling is nothing short of breathtaking.

i’m sure that we would all like to get your opinions as you are our trusted man on the spot and i/we rely on you to keep us well informed.


f1 is the largest and most successful motor racing competition therefore it’s called the pinnacle of motor racing.


with all due respect f1 has a lot more following than any other car racing series and you know that. f1 is a lot more regulated than any other and you know that too. f1 uses more technologically advanced systems and materials than any other motor racing series and you know that very well. the very best drivers drive in f1. the best motor sports engineers work in f1. the best marshals and best mechanics work in f1 so why is it wrong to describe f1 as the pinnacle of motorsport?

i wish i could understand your argument, but success of any sport/show is measured by the public interest which is measured by the attendance ie the amount of money raised. the more money is raised, the more money can be reinvested in it to make it even better. what is the point in improving a show to extreme heights when attendance is low? sponsorship is based on the size of the ordience. can you name a motorsport with a bigger audience size than f1? ask the sponsors and they will tell you why they pay so much in f1. success in tv i has only one indicator, viewer numbers. james knows what he’s talking about.

kenneth chapman

your summary is tosh. it is pointless debating the issue as you insist on the assumption that audience size determines whether or not a motorsport series is, or is not, at the very highest point of engineering solutions.the pinnacle. cars are an engineered product are they not? what makes one car faster than another? brilliant technical innovation, that’s what. IMO LMP1 & 2 are actively doing more by way of new technology and overall innovation than F1.

audiences attend to witness a spectacle and the greater the spectacle the [presumed] greater the audience. if i am correct F1 audiences are dwindling? anyway i am going to close my comments. either you accept the premise i have outlined vis-a-vis the meaning of ‘pinnacle’ or you choose to rely on descriptions that are irrelevant. sometimes the truth hurts.


i am a fan of the truth so i look out for the truth. anyone who follows a car racing of any kind knows about f1 and they understand that it’s the best of the best. have a look at nascar chat rooms and you will notice how they perceive f1. look at how montoya and hamilton performed when they swapped cars with nascar drivers and listen to how they were in awe of f1.


if you compare all the reality tv shows, the best of them will have the highest number of fans. the best car racing series also has the highest number of fans.

kenneth chapman

@ aveli…the best of the best has the highest number of fans? look for a parallel. would you say that ‘lifestyle/reality TV’ is the best of the best as it happens to have a bigger audience share than say quality drama?

the ‘pinnacle’ is simply a name given to F1 by F1 in order to sell appeal. for example take the USA and try to tell the audience there that F1 is the pinnacle! they, the US motorsport fans would laugh at you. NASCAR is, to them, the pinnacle.

F1 may have been the ‘pinnacle’ in the past, for the reasons that i have explained, but it is no longer.


yeah, best of the best is at the pinnacle. the most successful is the best of the best and the best of the best has the highest number of fans. what’s the point in calling a sport the pinnacle if no one watches it?

kenneth chapman

@ aveli….really,is that right? IMO the usage of the word ‘pinnacle’ means the highest possible achievment/ the peak of perfection. this has absolutely nothing to do with audience size. this accolade should IMO, cover all aspects of the entire range of disciplines employed in all motorsports. audience size is immaterial. why don’t you read my post thoroughly then if you disagree kindly elucidate and we can debate the point.


I am not a journalist, merely an interested viewer, but F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport because F1 cars are some of the fastest cars on the planet, and because the cars are open wheeled and have wings they are very difficult to drive, and harder to race.

Motorsport is about man and machine, and while I can appreciate that other cars go faster (in a straight line) and that there’s actually lots of skill involved in something like NASCAR, there isn’t a single other racing series that requires a team to design and build a car itself, a car that’s extremely quick, that’s very hard to race in because of the design and that uses extremely high tech engineering.

ergo “Pinnacle of Motorsport”.

LMP1 is probably the closest but the cars are easier to drive and are slower than F1 cars.

F1 has many faults, but for me, it’s still the pinnacle of motorsport.

kenneth chapman

@ mark, interesting viewpoint but some of the points you have raised surely are questionable. to begin with, F1 cars are not the fastest, but some of the fastest but as i said ‘speed’ is only one ingredient. the fact that they are ‘open wheeled and have wings’ is, from a drivers point of view, easier to drive firstly because you have greater vision and greater grip.

LMP1 have both catergories, ‘enclosed and open’ LMP2 have the majority of open topped cars and they are exceptional. teams within LMP1 & 2 also build cars. joest racing are the factory team of audi like AMG mercedes is the factory team for mercedes. there are numerous constructors in LMP racing, rebellion is another. however do F1 cars actually

build’ there own cars? yes, but only to a degree. customer teams and factory teams all use third party brakes,ECU’s, telemetry, and numerous other bespoke and off the shelf items. non factory teams buy in engines, gearboxes and i some cases entire rear ends. i could go on but i think that i have made my point clear.

as for technology LMP is streets ahead of F1 in the variety of PU’s, not only in hybrid and 4x 4 combos but in power sources and alternate fuels. i really do think that you should spend some time looking at this area and see for your self just where LMP is in the world of motorsport. when i put the question of just what was the ‘pinnacle’ to james, as you have no doubt read, he simply said it was the ‘pinnacle’ because of audience size? i am still shaking my head and trying to figure this out.

IMO F1 is not the pinnacle of motorsports any longer and that is a crying shame. every time new engineering solutions are created to add speed/grip etc etc etc it is usually banned by the FIA. F1 will only regain the ‘pinnacle’ when the sport/business controllers relinquish the stranglehold on innovation. that is partially why adrian newey is leaving.


Well the audience for a start surpasses anything else by some margin. Nothing else comes close

kenneth chapman

@ james….. is that it then?


The wheels need to be widened quite a lot for the bigger rims to look good IMO otherwise they look like a wagon wheel.


As I recall, the rot started when someone in the FIA decided the old V10’s (2003-ish) were getting fast beyond the ability of mere men to control.

Thus opened the sluice gates of performance-capping regulation – beyond simply outlawing peculiar anomalies – fan car etc – but a general focus on measures to universally hobble the cars.

Since then there has been a plateau in opinion of whether F1 is ‘improving’ – and a probable overall decline in excitement.

If paying customers had a choice of seeing the 2014 field race, or dusting off the 2003 field and putting today’s drivers in there – I know which would be more popular.

An alternative to regulation would be to actually see whether speed ultimately is self-limiting – will drivers push themselves beyond the point of being able to process inputs or will they naturally reach their own individual limits?


I can summarise my post even better – the formula for F1 cars should ensure the driver limits the speed of the car, not vice versa – whilst the circuit regulations should ensure nobody is killed…


“…the emphasis needs to be more on the drivers, rather the engineering.”

Er… No.

Drivers are important and interesting when they clash, but deemphasising the engineering is the path to single-maker racing. IMO that killed Indycars.

BTW: As far as driver attitudes go, the radios from Alonso and Vettel in the British GP were reminiscent of football players trying to pressure the referee into making a call in their favour. Very annoying and contrasting with the great racing they did.


I missed the great revelation as per:


Could someone please point me in that direction?

Carlos "casep" Sepulvedaq

“The cars need to look sexy, the emphasis needs to be more on the drivers, rather the engineering; ” Heck NO! It’s all about engineering.


I can’t help but think that “the emphasis needs to be more on the drivers” and “formula One needs to remain the pinacle of technology” are contradictory.


To the mass non-F1 regular, a switch from 13″ to 18″ will have zero impact. Whether a 8-15 year engages in the sport, as much of us did when we were younger, due to the wheel size will be close to zero.

F1 needs to work on its availabilty – free to air, you tube, the drivers, the battles..

It is dieing on its feet (wheels?), and they are missing the bigger picture.


All the new changes constantly being proposed worry me because they aren’t really focused on one thing.

It is becoming more and more clear that F1 no longer understands its own identity and the role it wishes to play. which is why we go round endlessly and flip flop the rules with all the silly additions (double points, spark makers etc) and bigger engine and aerodynamic changes.

F1 needs to decide what it wants to be, it needs to decide which audience it wants to target and focus on it fully. Until then it will slowly wane in to decline as it has been loosing audiences.

Bjornar Simonsen

I’m signing up for the apathy option, unless there is a reason for it. No-one has explained why these tires are like this, just that they are pretty which i don’t care much about. But if they for instance should be easier for everyone to get up to temp and keep it there I would like it.

So, what is the point with these tires?

kenneth chapman


Bjornar Simonsen

Autosport explain it: “Such a move would largely be for cosmetic and commercial reasons because 13-inch wheel-rims as currently used in F1 are largely used only in the budget end of the production car market.”

So, just for looks. No actual purpose. A good way to spend money?


i like the look of the 18in wheels but are they practical? will they be out of balance after a single visit to a kerb?

it’s a good idea for the fia to engage the fans with future changes but i must add that the fia hasn’t done too badly with the changes over the years. i cringed when i saw the introduction of higher rear wing and wider front wings but now, the cars look a lot better than the previous generation cars. as the saying goes, “too many cooks…….”.

f1 should appeal to the senses to provoke pleasant emotions and if ideas can be got from the fans, why not?


Sorry – but LMP1 is now the pinnacle of motorsport technology – 3 different manufactures with 3 different technologies (more to come next year) all racing without artificial overtaking aids. Try watching 6 and 24 hour ‘sprint races!’!!!! Not to mention that they race with 3 other classes at the same time.

kenneth chapman

@ andrew….thankfully someone else shares my opinion. you are so right. F1 is now fastly becoming ‘old hat’. LMP1 is where we all go to see and hear what real racing is still about. le mans this year was without doubt ‘full on’.


I think that you could be right Andrew we don’t get much WEC coverage here in NZ but the cars to seem to be way more diverse and Innovative than FI rules would allow.

Those WEC cars run large diameter wheels and low profile tyres don’t they ? , so maybe that configuration could be effective in F1 as well.


I think the loss of the incredible sound will have a bigger impact than most expect – its the roar sound that make F1 such an awesome visceral experience – nobody watches F1 for the fuel saving technology


i remember when smokers used to occupy the top deck of buses and objected to the windows being opened because they were cold. i also remember being pricked by pins in new shirts as i unpackaged them. worst of all i remember child abuse being reported on tv with the frequent use of the words “rent boys”. all these, including the naturally aspirated v8 sound of f1 cars are things of the past. leave them there.

imagine road cars with hybrid engines with batteries being recharged by a generators propelled by exhaust gases.


impossible to imagine no one watching.


Imagine no one watching.


Comparing the 2.4 v8 lumps to the historical reporting of child abuse on the news, not to mention the other bizarre points you made, is an interesting angle to approach the subject from..



Great comment. In the sport most associated with technology, change is inherent. The negativity associated with any and every change is an unfortunate sign of an ageing and fogeyish audience.

I don’t 100% like all the gimmiky things like double points, but l agree with all the tech changes.


A quick question on the larger rims: how are they for safety? At least when you have 13’s, you are likely to be far more aware if you have a loss of pressure or a puncture… it’s part of the reason why I didn’t go too crazy with my road car. These F1 cars never seem to be too handy on anything less than 4 contact patches.

Further to some of the points made above, F1 has marketed itself for years by positioning itself as an elite product, with the large price-tag and restricted access to match. It has worked so long as someone has been willing to pay for it, but when the audience dwindles (through lack of e-tech or subscriber television) it affects the bottom line. CVC have long treated the sport as a cash cow, and only now are they looking for solutions. It’s a shame they hadn’t done appropriate market research sooner.

Matthew Cheshire

Its an interesting direction being taken if F1 is trying to predict what cars should look like and then adapting the rules to force it to happen.

On one hand, the ugly noses this season and the stepped noses for 2013 must have ruffled feathers across F1. No one wants ugly cars.

And 13″ wheels are an anachronism. Even minis don’t have those anymore. Maybe ambassadors and trabants?

But planning what the cars look like? Has anyone ever told Ferrari how to style cars? It sounds like a slippery slope. Like Tilke tracks- a sensible design exercise probably wont deliver something extreme and emotive as an F1 car should be. There is art and excitement at the start of each season when each team reveals their car. Is that lost when styling direction is dictated? If F1 becomes a silhouette series, it will loose too much of its DNA.

F1 is a leader not a follower. Who chooses design direction? A committee can’t foresee the best innovations of the thousands of engineers and aero specialists in F1.

F1 is innovation and technology applied at the highest possible level. The best and fastest cars that can be raced. F1 cars should precisely honed solutions to the multitude of racing parameters, not a product planned for marketing reasons.

Heaven forbid, F1 takes design direction from auto industry rather than the other way around. We’ll end up with Stock Cars.


Just my opinion, James, but I think that what your title suggests, – that the Pirelli tyre concept is evidence of long-term thinking in F1 is misleading.

If anything this is a knee-jerk reaction from the lack of audience fallout.

Why do I think that? Because the 18 inch wheel is a concept Michelin put to the F1 mob 2 seasons ago. If I recall it was a condition for Michelin coming back. Back then F1 dismissed it (typical we know better attitude, we are reluctant to change attitude, costs too much to redesign the suspension attitude, etc). And now that the writing is on the wall for F1 audience numbers they are looking for fixes – I know, let’s steal Michelin’s 18″ wheel idea and sell it like we’re so clever by looking forwards.

Why do you spin it into F1 propaganda?

On a side note, I like the concept – liked it two years ago (which implies F1 is actually looking into the past – not the future at all).


Hi James, do you know if the test to increase the noise of the F1 engine took place at Silverstone this week as previously reported, and if so was it succesufull?


“leaving aside what the current rules may say, imagining what an F1 car should look like and then consider from there what the rules should be to achieve that”

“The cars need to look sexy, the emphasis needs to be more on the drivers, rather the engineering; although F1 needs to remain the pinnacle of motorsport technology.”

Just my humble opinion, but it concerns me that this is the direction the pinnacle of motorsport that is F1 is heading. It was always my impression that F1 cars look the way they do because function necessitates their form and looked sexy as a by-product of this, much like an F15 or F18 fighter jet appeals to the eye in the same way. It has always been interesting to see what the engineering boffins come up with to make the car faster and subsequently change the look of the car.

But I can not see the sense in having the aesthetics of the car dictate the rules from a fans perspective and feel it a shame that these changes are all essentially driven by money, commercial interests and a need by the FIA to engage the younger generation due to an aging demographic. I can accept that change is inevitable and thus far have enjoyed the new formula and can see the direct benefits to the wider community as a whole for the development of hybrid technologies. I see this as a technical innovation to make the cars more exciting, not to look sexier or more modern.

I have always been under the impression that rules in F1 have been amended over the years in an attempt to encourage innovation and change in some areas while leveling the playing field in others. I sincerely hope that the rules are not engineered in the future to fit around what the car should look like over anything else.

I showed a friend a picture of the lotus with the big rims and his comment was “it looks Gangsta”, I cringed.


“Long term thinking” in F1 appears to mean “until Charlie W decides its wrong” so this whole exercise is a waste of time.

With less flex in the sidewalls such new tires would be outlawed for being “*less-movable aero devices”.


After watching F1 cars from the 70’s and 80’s, with those massive rear slicks and much smaller front tires, the current tire/wheel, and even the proposed 18″ wheels just aren’t doing it for me. The trend towards the large fronts (such as current sports cars) needs to stop. Look at a Williams FW07 and tell me the tire combo doesn’t look good and scream speed and grip.

Who cares if road cars today have low profile tires , and why should the cars at the pinnacle of motorsport have the same ?


Well, I’m one of the 30% who are not in favour of tyres with virtually no sidewall.

Even the Patron Saint of Fast Driving, Mr Jeremy Charles Robert Clarkson, also dislikes low profile tyres. Jezza dislikes them as they ruin the ride (Imagine on a bumpy track like Monaco, Hungary and Singapore, the poor drivers skeletons will be turned to dust), can be difficult to fit and crucially, lack fast corner compliance because their is no big fat sidewall to lean on!

I know an F1 isn’t designed for outright comfort, and most races only last about 1.5 hours in the dry, but netherless there has to be some degree of compliance in a tyre, not just for elements such as travel and pitch, but crucially, drivers comfort!

Don’t forget back in the late 70s/early 80s when F1 had ground effect cars – to make ground effect work properly the skirts had to fixed and the suspension rock hard in so far it was like granite. F1 cars suspension in the early 80s had no feel and compliance at all. Hence why many drivers hated ground effect and in fact Patrick Tambay (Ferrari) had to pull out of a couple of races because the intolerable ride caused him to have a compressed neck nerve, thanks to those ground effect cars all road shock when straight up a drivers spine.

Does F1 when to go back to the bad old days of the ground effect? Could happen with low profile tyres!


The way I remember the original ground effect cars they had normal suspension. The skirts used were spring loaded to adjust themselves as the suspension moved and maintained a good contact with the tarmac at all times. This type of sliding skirt was banned by the governing body ( for the 1982 season?) and the fixed skirts took over as Gaz Boy describes. The problems caused were a feature of the new rules rather than ground effect itself.

There was one attempt to restore normal suspension movement when Colin Chapman debuted the Lotus 88 twin chassis concept but it was banned immediately and never raced.


If anyone is fortunate enough to meet the likes of Our Nige, Professor Prost, Nelson Piquet Senior et al just ask if they would to drive their 1982 cars for old times sake. I suspect 9 out of 10 drivers would resoundingly say no way! Those wretched 82 cars were unspeakably nasty to drive.


Surely, lower profile tyres would just mean that the designers have to re-engineer the suspension systems to offer greater compliance with such a tyre and also to maintain a degree of driver comfort. After all, no point having having the fastest car if the driver is forced to retire with backache halfway through a race! One thing that teams always excel at is adapting to new regulations.


RE Wade Parmino: Gordon Murray revealed in a BBC documentary a couple of years ago that ground effect lateral loads had become so extreme that if GE hadn’t been outlawed G-suits would have been required for the drivers.

I wonder if low profile tyres are introduced to F1, airfighter pilot style G-suits might have to be introduced to stop the drivers blacking out with the extreme loadings?????


Anyone suggesting g-suits is unfamiliar with how they work, the principles involved (then or now, as regards F1).

G-suits combat the flow of blood to the abdominal/pelvic area, as well as the lower extremities, under conditions of significant POSITIVE g-loads. No g-suit is going to help under LATERAL loading.

(Same principle used for “shock trousers” under condition of severe hemorrhage.)


The ‘porpoising’ phenomenon of the ground effect cars could probably be eliminated with today’s understanding of aerodynamics and technology. Most teams didn’t adequately understand the physics of ground effect beyond the basic Bernoulli principal from which it stemmed.

The ride could be improved but one possible problem of ground effect being used again though, with today’s technology, would be the enormous lateral loads placed on the driver. Possibly twice the current amount.

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