Q&A with Pascal Couasnon, Michelin Motorsport

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According to Michelin Motorsport’s Pascal Couasnon, “Single-seater cars racing on 13-inch tires are a thing of the past”…

Since when have you sought to develop bigger-diameter tires for single-seater racing cars, and why?

“We first proposed the change to the FIA [Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile] in 2010 when there was a possibility of our returning to Formula 1. The proposition wasn’t taken up at the time. The chief reason why we want to switch to 18-inch tires is that they permit the development of new technologies that can be used for mass-produced road tires. We believe it is impossible to transfer technology from small-diameter tires with tall side walls, yet motorsport can play a significant role in speeding up the development of future road-going solutions. We need racing tires to have a similar profile to road tires to be in a position to develop new technologies.”

If that is the case, why did the FIA refuse?

“Formula 1 is a different sort of spectacle. The cars have no need to resemble what you see in the street. Staying with 13-inch tires is a form of treading ground. Formula 1 has successfully become more modern in many areas but it is not a hotbed of innovation in the realm of tires. Single-seater cars racing on 13-inch tires are a thing of the past.”

Beyond the transfer of technology, what are the advantages to be gained by running 17- or 18-inch slicks?

“In addition to the technology-related considerations, bigger-diameter tires provide single-seater racing cars with a more modern look. At the same time, the gain for drivers notably concerns cornering performance. Without making any special effort to fine-tune car set-up, the early testing we carried out last autumn with Renault Sport at Jerez, in Spain, revealed that the cars were faster and far more enjoyable to drive simply after replacing the 13-inch tires with 17- or 18-inch tires.”

Do you believe the FIA will renounce using 13-inch rims in Formula 1?

“I think the idea is gaining ground. The next decisions on the matter will be made at the end of 2015 for a possible introduction in 2017. Given that the new Formula E Championship cars use 18-inch tires already, and that promotional formulae like the World Series by Renault’s FR3.5 and FR2.0 championships which prepare for Formula 1 are perhaps going to follow suit, it seems to me that it’s a move that makes sense.”

Technically, what would be the chief impact if Formula 1 switched to 18-inch tires?

“A 13-inch tire with a very tall sidewall contributes to a car’s damping. The change to 18-inch tires with a smaller sidewall would certainly require a comprehensive revision of the cars’ suspension systems.”

If the FIA did decide to switch to 18-inch tires in Formula 1, would Michelin return to the discipline?

“We would study every aspect before coming to a decision. Let’s just say that having cars on 18-inch tires would be a step down that road…”

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About Author

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John joined UKi Media & Events in 2012 and has worked across a range of B2B titles within the company's automotive portfolio. Prior to joining the company, John worked for leading automotive design website, Car Design News. Currently editor of Engine Technology International, Professional MotorSport World, Professional MotorSport Circuit, and Transmission Technology International, John co-ordinates the day-the-day operations of each magazine, from commissioning and writing to editing and signing-off, as well managing web and social media content. Aside from the magazines, John also serves as chairman of the annual Professional MotorSport World Awards.

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