PARIS — Formula 1 racing's much-anticipated shift to 18-inch rim diameter race tires next season has been postponed until 2022, a byproduct of the international series' efforts to deal with fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) — F1 racing's sanctioning body — postponed implementation of the 2021 Formula 1 technical regulations until 2022 as part of its efforts to help the F1 community come to grips with a shortened and compressed 2020 season, which is due to kick off July 3-5 with the Austrian Grand Prix in Zeltweg, Austria.
F1 tire supplier Pirelli & C. S.p.A. will continue to supply the sport's 10 teams with 2019-spec tires this year and into 2021, according to the agreement, and will postpone the debut of the 18-inch spec tires until 2022.
The current regulation stipulates 13-inch rim diameter tires for Formula 1.
The FIA's World Motor Sport Council approved changes to the F1 Sporting, Technical and Financial Regulations "due to the ongoing need to reduce costs and safeguard the sport in light of the COVID-19 pandemic."
In a statement, Pirelli said the COVID-19 situation made it impossible to organize and regulate this kind of commitment. In addition, the "hectic run" of a compressed season — 15 to 18 races in about 22 weeks — left no room for a "proper and deep testing schedule."
Even before the pandemic spread, the 2020 season would have been very intense, Pirelli said, with 22 grands prix on the calendar along with several testing sessions for the 18-inch tires.
The FIA's F1 companion Formula 2 series — slightly lower-powered, spec-chassis versions of F1 cars — is going ahead this season with the scheduled conversion to 18-inch tires, Pirelli said.
F1 racing's 2020 season nearly got under way in early March. The season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend was canceled abruptly as Friday practice was about to get under way after some personnel from one of the teams tested positive for COVID-19.
In the interim, the FIA canceled the first eight races of the revised 2020 calendar. The revised season-opening race in Austria will also mark the 2020 debut for F1's companion Formula 2 and Formula 3 series.
The FIA's 2020 season revision notice also includes freezes on the development of components such as chassis, gearbox, mechanical components and impact structures, moves to limit aerodynamic changes slated for 2021 and restrictions on the teams' budgets.