The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina on December 13th will be the last race in Formula 1 history run on 13-inch tires with a technological revolution coming from next year after more than half a century, in which Pirelli will play a key role with its new 18-inch tires.
To celebrate the changing of the guard, all the 13-inch slick tires used in Abu Dhabi will carry a special logo on the sidewall: “Next year I turn 18” – underlining the switch to 18 inches by bidding farewell to the current tires before welcoming the new size next year.
Pirelli first ran an 18-inch 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-inch 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-inch tires in Formula 2 since the 2020 season and completed 36 days of 18-inch testing with Formula 1 cars that were modified to accommodate the new size.
Tires in 13-inch 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-inch 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.