Insight on FIA rule change to run 18 inch wheels in Formula 2 for 2020- F1 in 2022

Insight on FIA rule change to run 18 inch wheels in Formula 2 for 2020- F1 in 2022

FIA rule change to run 18 inch wheels in Formula 2 for 2020 season heralds change at a broader level within Formula 1 structure which enters a new era of Motorsport in ever changing fan-base climate.

Liam Lawson Formula 3 Round 2 at Spielberg Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ultimately, the sole contract provider of Formula 1, 2 and 3 Championship tyres has been Pirelli since 2011, and the change from previous 13 inch wheel to 18 inch was first mooted back in 2016/2017. Then, car performance was key element in making the change a reality, move ahead 4 years and other factors come into play.

FIA and Formula 1 Management stated in 2019 Media release 3 fundamental principles of change making an existing list of rules and regulations longer, more demanding on Teams to adjust and most certainly out there in terms of altering the nature of ‘who follows F1 for the future?’

Key points were: change to racing cars aerodynamic designs to minimize downforce for the following car. FIA’s Head of Single Seater Technical Matters Nicholas Tombazis explains: ‘”typically, from about a 50% loss of downforce for the following car at two car distances [in 2017] it’s down to about a 5-10% loss. So we have a massive reduction of downforce for the following car'”.

FIA and Formula One Management Media Release 2019

Such changes of downforce have concertina like effects on disturbing air flow which in turn affects tyre performance. The change to 18 inch wheels from 13 inch specifically aims to reduce tyre degradation. Other factors come into play as well.

According to Tombazis: ‘”it’s about how to make tyres really step up and be in a position where they enable people to race; they don’t degrade, they don’t force people to manage the tyres so much”‘. Equally important in same Media release was proposed outlaw of tyre blankets by 2021. So, Formula 1, 2 and 3 Teams would operate racing under new rims, lower profile tyres of approx 30kgs in weight, and head out onto track on cold rubber.

Second key point is to compact grid racing to allow greater opportunities for midfield Teams to compete against the longevity heavy-weights of Mercedes, Maclaren and Red Bull. Through tighter regulations on technical engineer designs, budget caps along with issue of standardized car components, objectives cite leveling the use of access to resources for all Teams.

Formula 2 Round 2 Spielberg Photo Credit: Getty Images

Formula 1’s Managing Director of Motorsports Ross Brawn states: ‘”Undoubtedly, from the relative freedom teams have had so far, it’s going to be frustrating. But if they can take the approach that these regulations are the same for everyone and we’re going to do a better job than anyone else, we just won’t be two seconds faster, we’ll be two-tenths faster – that’s what we want from Formula 1″‘.

Third key point was broadening marketability of Formula 1 through ‘aesthetically pleasing’ car designs which is not only aimed at fan-base past-present-and for the future but also targets road car manufactures marrying technological engineering on the race track for transition to road car driving.

The latter has considerable merit as stated by Mercedes technical director James Allison: ‘”Aligning our world better with the road car world means it’s probably more relevant- what we are doing- to the road cars. That’s important. It’s also important because it means that in time manufacturers are inherently more interested in being part of Formula 1, which is an important part of our sport, making sure that we have strong and committed time partners”‘.

Marcus Armstrong Formula 2 Round 2 Spielberg Photo Credit Getty Images

All of which satisfies many queries on FIA rule change to 18 inch wheels for Formula 2 in 2020 and F1 in 2022. The angle is loaded with the strategy to steer Formula 1 and the feeder Series in progressive trajectory which encompasses markets beneficial for the Motorsport’s future.

Pirelli’s racing manager Mario Isolo confirms: “It is not all about tyres, it is about the sporting regulations, technical regulations – they [FIA, FOM and Strategy Group] are planning big changes for 2021 including the tyre sizes”‘.

With 2020 Formula 2 and 3 already raced Rounds 1 and 2 at Spielberg, the results of running 18 inch wheels garnered plenty of discussion. Conclusions are on wait-and-see basis- as the Series progresses- provoking plenty to go on for F1, 2 and 3 Teams heading into ‘021 and ‘022.

Words: Sharon Cox

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