MILAN — Pirelli Motorsport is getting a head-start on the transition of tires it supplies to Formula 1 to a lower-profile, 18-inch rim diameter specification — set for the 2021 season — by introducing the new spec tires to the FIA Formula 2 Championship in 2020.
Formula 1 promoter Liberty Media Corp. and the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) agreed recently to switch the F2 series — the racing series one step below F1 — to the 18-inch tire next year.
The choice, which still is subject to approval by the FIA World Motor Sport Council, will allow Pirelli to test and develop the new spec tires in a "competitive and technologically advanced" racing environment like F2.
Pirelli said it will work with F2 organizer during the 2019 season to develop the tires through an intensive testing program with an F2 single-seater. The first shakedown took place recently at the Autodromo del Mugello in Italy.
Mario Isola, head of F1 and car racing at Pirelli, said this move "will assist us greatly as we develop a new generation of Formula 1 tires for 2021, and also benefit next year's Formula 2 drivers themselves as they gain early experience of the future tire size in Formula 1."
The FIA decided last July to transition Formula 1 to 18-inch tires and wheels, starting with the 2021 season, as part of its tire supply tender offer for the 2020-23 seasons.
The change is a jump from the current 13-inch spec, which has been the norm for the past several decades.
Pirelli, which has been Formula 1's designated race tire supplier for the past eight seasons, won the bidding for the new contract in competition with Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. Pirelli first proposed moving to 18-inch tires in 2014 and has been testing prototypes since.
Pat Symonds, Formula 1's chief technical officer, said: "The FIA Formula 2 Championship has already proven to be the best possible feeder series for young rising talents who aspire to succeed in Formula 1 and now it's going to used as a feeder for technology. … The amount of data that Pirelli and Formula 2 will be able to collect in the next 16 months will be very important for the next generation of Formula 1 tires."
FIA Formula 2 CEO Bruno Michel said: "This is a great opportunity for Formula 2 and our drivers: we are the training ground for Formula 1 and as such it is important that we race with the same type of tires as the ones used in F1."
Mr. Michel noted that F2 will have to develop an upgrade kit for the current-generation F2 cars to fit the new tires.