The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina last weekend was the last race in Formula 1 history where Pirelli ran its vehicles on 13-inch tires. Next year, vehicles will run on 18-in. tires, and Pirelli updated its tires in celebration of this. This year, all the 13-in. slick tires used in Abu Dhabi will carry a special logo on the sidewall: “Next year I turn 18” – underlining the switch to 18 in. by bidding farewell to the current tires before welcoming the new size next year, the company said.
Pirelli first ran an 18-in. tire on a Formula 1 car back in 2014, at a test at Silverstone with Lotus reserve driver Charles Pic. Initially, Formula 1 planned to adopt 18-in. tires from 2021 as part of a package of new technical regulations but this was pushed back to 2022 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, Pirelli successfully ran 18-in. tires in Formula 2 since the 2020 season and completed 36 days of 18-in. testing with Formula 1 cars that were modified to accommodate the new size.
Tires in 13-in. size have raced for nearly the entire history of the championship to date, from the 1960s. Nonetheless, at the time – and into the subsequent decade – there was still a lot of regulatory freedom around wheel size. In the 1980s, 13 inches finally became the definitive size. Pirelli first ran a 13-in. tire in Formula 1 at the 1981 San Marino Grand Prix with the Toleman team consisting of Brian Henton and Derek Warwick. Then, in the same season and subsequent ones, other teams adopted the Italian rubber for their cars, the company said.
The first win for Pirelli’s 13-in. tires came at the 1985 French Grand Prix courtesy of Nelson Piquet with Brabham-BMW. Pirelli was then back with a new generation of 13-in. tires from 1989 (two years after the P Zero name was born) until 1991, before the current return from 2011 as Global Tyre Partner: when Sebastian Vettel claimed the first championship for a Pirelli 13-inch tyre with Red Bull. Since Pirelli returned to the world championship as sole supplier, more than 400,000 13-in. tires have been produced from the factories at Izmit in Turkey and Slatina in Romania, Pirelli said.