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Former Pirelli boss: F1 might have missed a trick with 18-inch tyres

Speaking exclusively to RacingNews365.com, former Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery has outlined that F1 missed out on an opportunity to be truly unique after making the switch to 18-inch tyres.

Paul Hembery, former boss of Pirelli's motorsport programme, reckons Formula 1 had the opportunity to do something completely unique when the decision was made to change from the old 13-inch tyres to the new 18-inch size. The 18-inch tyres are introduced for the 2022 season, with the F1 cars looking and driving completely differently due to the much larger wheels and tyres. It is a new engineering challenge for the teams to take on, after more than 30 years of the small wheels, but Hembery thinks F1 should have evaluated going even larger than the 18-inches. "On some levels, I was quite keen on the 13-inch tyres, because it gave Formula 1 cars a different look," Hembery told RacingNews365.com in an exclusive interview. "Possibly, it would have been more interesting to go to 19 [inches]. There's only one championship I recall that runs on 19 – that's Ferrari Challenge. "So 18 is a little bit [the] same as existing championships. Maybe there was a trick missed there." But Hembery said the switch to the 18-inch tyre still represents a new challenge for the teams, who have to forget everything they have learned about tyres in the past. "The teams have got to throw away a lot of data; they've got years of data of running the previous generation tyres," he went on to comment. "They're gonna have a lot of unknowns, how the tyres will react in real conditions. "They've clearly got the simulators running and, judging from what I'm told, the performance of the package is probably faster and stronger than what anybody had envisaged when the rules were being made."

Hembery: "Tyre development shows the true ability of people in F1"

With overall lap times expected to be broadly similar to what was seen at the very end of the 13-inch tyre era, Hembery said the rate of development bears testament to just how strong F1's engineering departments are. "That, in itself, shows you the ability of people in F1," he said. "You think it's a massive challenge, and then they start putting their brains to it. Lo and behold, before we even start, they're already thinking they're not going to be so far off of previous times! "It wouldn't be a great surprise to see lap times not hugely dissimilar, certainly by the end of season, to what we've already seen in the last few years, which is a surprise on many levels. "That means the teams have adapted well to the new regulations in terms of the aero challenge, but also that Pirelli has provided a tyre that's got the grip levels of the historical product."

Predicting the F1 pecking order for 2022

While the teams' engineering prowess has seen them overcome most of the initial challenges of the tyre switch, Hembery reckons there are still plenty of hurdles which could have an impact on the pecking order in 2022. "There's a whole lot of areas there that the teams won't yet understand," he added. "They will do all the simulation they want but, as we've seen in previous years when there's been big changes, there's always a couple of teams that struggle, there's always a couple of teams that really dominate and get on top of things very rapidly – so that is to be expected. "With no great changes to the power train, you would still expect strong showings from the last group of winning cars, so you'd have to expect Mercedes and Red Bull to be strong. "Let's see where Ferrari are, with having had time to digest the new regs and make a push after backing off, from the outside, for the last year. "McLaren, as well, have been edging closer and closer to the top group. Alpine will be interesting, they have all the facilities, they've made huge investments into the Enstone setup, they've made changes to their structure, and that's obviously with a view to becoming one of the top runners. "It's always interesting when there's a rule change. As fans, we're all hoping that the running order will be substantially disrupted. "That's no disrespect to Red Bull or Mercedes, it's just as a fan, you just want to see something a little bit different, even if you can obviously respect the quality of work that the top teams provide!"

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