Pirelli to test low-profile tyres on Lotus at Silverstone test
Pirelli will test low-profile tyres on the Lotus at next week's in-season test in order to see what a Formula One car will look like with tyres closer to a road car's.
The tyre has been specifically produced for the test in order to show the teams and fans the impact of such a change on the aesthetic of an F1 car. However, Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery said it was not a realistic change for another three years and will only happen if the sport decides to back the idea.
"We've always said we'd do what the sport wants and there was a lot of discussion about what it would like to have a Formula One car on 18-inch tyres," he said. "We thought it would be worthwhile creating - particularly for the F1 commission and for the strategy group - images of a current F1 car on 18-inch tyres. It's a solution that is quite commonly used in motorsport, but going forward even 19- or 20-inch tyres would be the direction you want to go because you would create a unique product.
"It's not in the regulations, it's not going to happen for two or three years, so it's part of enabling people to understand what it would do for the look of the car. We will have to make some minor changes to the car to enable us to do it, but we thought it would be a worthwhile exercise, because everybody has talked about it but it's not something anyone has seen."
F1 currently uses 13-inch tyres, which allows Pirelli clearer branding on the chunky sidewalls, but Hembery said the tyre company is keen to offer 18-inch tyres as an option for the future.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch," he said in reference to the limited branding space. "We said a few years ago that larger diameter rims is something we would always go along with, but we have also said we would do what the sport wants and that really is the over-riding factor. We thought let's have a look at it to see what it looks like, because essentially it is about aesthetics to see if it looks more relevant to a road car and is that a direction the sport would like to take."
The tyres have not yet been developed for performance and remain a concept, but Hembery said the challenges of low-profile tyres could be overcome if needs be.
"The biggest challenge is going over kerbs and stuff like that because they are more rigid. That's the biggest challenge but everything else is remarkably okay. You'd be surprised, you can control the pressure inside the tyre better because there is less of it."
Low-profile tyres are currently used in sports car racing and in the new Formula E series.