Behind the Scenes: The New 18-Inch Tyres by Mario Isola

Behind the Scenes: The New 18-Inch Tyres by Mario Isola
Mario Isola, Pirelli Head of F1 and Car Racing, Formula 1 World Championship 2021, Styrian GP 2021, June 2021. Photo Credit: Federico Basile.

From the design of the virtual model to the construction of the physical prototype and testing, Mario Isola, Pirelli Head of F1 and Car Racing, walked Sports Pundit through the development process of the new 18-inch tyres.

In 2022, major technical new regulations will come into effect in Formula One, alongside a switch to the new wheels.

On Thursday, a full-scale model of the 2022 F1 car was presented to the world, fitted with the 18-inch tyres at Silverstone, only a few days ahead of the Formula One Pirelli British Grand Prix.

A glimpse of the new era to come in which Pirelli, Formula One Global Tyre Partner since 2011, plays a key role.

What is the most significant change from the current 13-inch tyres to the new 18-inch prototype?

Everything is new, the construction, some of the materials that we are using are new, we have to redesign the profile completely. Also, we had to design a new intermedium and full wet tyre.

We have a good experience with the size because most motorsport is now on 18 inches tyres.

Could you take us through the process Pirelli underwent designing the new prototypes, meeting the new technical regulations?

First of all, we made the virtual model; we started to investigate different profiles, constructions, and geometry with a virtual model.

It is the same virtual model that we provided to the teams, because as you probably know, the teams have a simulator, and they have a virtual model of the car, so we give them the tyres. But in this case, they are just virtual tyres and then, they come back to us with feedback.

From designing the tyres with a computer, we moved on to the first physical prototype.

We tested the physical prototypes within our indoor facilities to assess the level of integrity, collecting any other data on its characteristics.

After that, by the end of 2019, we started with the first track testing; we had three sessions that year.

One session took place in February 2020 with Ferrari in Jerez (Spain), then, unfortunately, we had to stop our development because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We restarted at the beginning of 2021, once again in February with Ferrari in Jerez, so we finished at the beginning of 2020 and resumed on the same track with the same team in the same period, and then we made several sessions.

The first part of the development was to freeze the profile and then to freeze the construction, and now we are focused on the compounds because, as usual, it is the last part of the development.

I would say that now we have 90 percent or more of the final version of the construction.

We have another [test] session in Silverstone after the race [British GP], and the last one would be in Budapest after the grand prix - I am talking about the slicks, then we are going to homologate the tyres after the summer break.

And we have an additional session for wet intermedium tyres in Magny- Cours in mid-September.

One of the primary objectives of the new regulations is to allow closer competition. How do the new compounds can contribute to it?

We agreed with the FIA, the teams, and the drivers, a new target letter to define the targets for the new tyres, having to design a completely new product.

It is not only the construction and the size but also the compounds, now come from a completely different family. We are using new ingredients and a new concept in order to have compounds with less overheating.

Our main target is to have less overheating and a wider working range, which should help the drivers to be able to push on tyres from the start to the end of the stint. And also, thanks to the new cars designed in a different way, with a new aero package, affecting less the car following, that is really helpful for the tyres.

Obviously, with the current machinery, when you are following another car, you lose up to 45 percent of the downforce, and it means that the tyres start to slide and overheat.

The new cars, they lose at the same distance, I believe 15 percent or something like that of downforce, meaning the car that is in the back still has a lot of downforce, which helps the wheels to work properly without overheating, and that is exactly what we are doing.

Brake disc size will be increased from 278 to 330mm while brake drums and ducts remain the same but still a key development area.How was the development process to ensure less overheating and boost the consistency of the tyres?

As you said, the brakes are an important part of the performance and the tyres at the moment because the brakes are very close to the rim.

The teams are using the brakes to heat the rim or cool it down depending on the temperature they want to reach and the pressure they want to achieve in the tyre. Basically, they are able to drive the temperature of the air inside the tyre.

Next year, it will be different because the brakes and the rims are quite far from each other. Therefore, the heat transfer between the brake and the rim, I want to say, is not possible, but it is a lot less relevant compared to what we have now.

On top of that, we also have the cover on the rim that is important for the aero package. It has been decided for aero purposes, but it also influences the heat exchange between the brake and the rim; these are all new concepts.

Even in this case, we are trying to understand and to anticipate what is going to happen next year in order to test with a mule car a situation that is, as representative as possible of what we’ll have next season.

Early in July, Scuderia AlphaTauri tested the 2022 slicks tyres with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda at the Red Bull Ring racetrack.Overall, how do you assess the development tests carried out by different teams and the most recent one by the Italian squad?

We have been happy with AlphaTauri and the test in Spielberg. It’s important that several teams are testing our tyres because we supply the same product to all the teams, and that means we have to try our best, optimizing to fit tyres on very different cars.

The cars look very similar, but the reality is they are different in terms of performance, stress from the tyre, level of downforce, and so on, so it is really useful for us to have all the teams on board.

This year, it was a bit more complicated because the 2022 cars did not exist, so we had to use the modified cars - the mule cars - but all the teams know, or better to say, they can estimate the level of performance that is expected next year.

Obviously, we will discover that only next February, when we have the pieces at testing. But with the data available, with the technical regulation that is available, they can estimate the performance for the 2022 cars and try to make a mule car that is as much as possible close to next year’s cars.


Following the British GP, Pirelli will run the first of two tyre testing days this week.

Haas F1 Team will be taking to the track at Silverstone with Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin at the wheel on both days - Tuesday and Wednesday, alongside Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll representing the squad.

Red Bull Racing is scheduled to hit the track on Tuesday as Reserve Driver Alex Albon takes on testing duties at Silverstone.

Cecilia demartini
Sports Pundit staff writer @ceci_2812
Cecilia is a writer and journalist, passionate about motorsport and tennis.Her articles are published in newspapers and international online publications.

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