Formula 1 set to drop major 2026 regulation change after U-turn

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, leads the field at the start of the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

Max Verstappen leads the field at the start of the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix

The 18-inch Formula 1 wheels appear here to stay, after a plan that would see them downsized for 2026 was reportedly thrown out.

Formula 1 has been racing with 18-inch Pirelli wheels since 2022 after an upgrade from the previous 13-inch rims, though a figure in between the two of 16 was mooted for the 2026 Pirelli rubber, the year where F1 will introduce new chassis and power unit regulations.

Formula 1 set to retain 18-inch wheels

A key goal for governing body the FIA with these new 2026 rules is to shed weight from the cars, with smaller wheel rims among the options to achieve this.

However, claim that route has been scrapped following the latest FIA technical advisory committee, due to timeline concerns for the production changes and testing, as well as because smaller wheels would contrast the trend of road car-relevant technology.

Speaking to the publication, Pirelli’s F1 chief Mario Isola also raised performance worries as he confirmed that the firm wants 18-inch wheels to remain, while also playing down the weight-saving potential in reducing the tyre size.

“We are close to the final version of the sizes,” he said.

“Obviously when you design the wheel, you have to consider all the package, brakes, wheel, suspension, tyre, so I believe we are close to the final sizes.

“We have to change because the new car is different, and in any case, we have to design a smaller tyre.

“The discussion is between 16 and 18-inch tyres. And our preference is to stay on 18-inch tyres. And I believe that there are valid reasons to stay on 18-inch, with smaller tyres, but still the same rim.

“That’s what we are discussing, just a bit smaller diameter, a slightly lower profile and slightly narrower tyre.

“There is an element that is weight and clearly that affects all the package, and also the wheels. The difference between 16 and 18 and a narrow 18 is not huge. So the weight element is there.

“But it’s not the only element. There is an element of performance. Because obviously if you were to go to 16-inch tyres, much smaller, the risk of overheating is much higher. A smaller diameter means that you disperse the heat in a different way.

“And so there are many elements that if we wanted to design a tyre that is in line with drivers’ expectations. For performance, the 18-inch tyre is better than the 16.” recommends

F1 2026: Confirmed teams and power unit suppliers for F1’s huge regulation changes

F1 2026 driver line-up: Lewis Hamilton and four other drivers already confirmed for 2026

Rather than simply chasing lighter cars, Mercedes technical director James Allison has been vocal in his belief that the current ground effect-philosophy cannot be carried over into 2026 if Formula 1 wants to make these regulations a success.

“I think that there are things in the regulations that don’t serve any of us well,” he told media including

“I don’t think it’s sensible to have cars that hug the ground in the way that these cars target and I think the idea that you get good racing by controlling wakes, while ignoring tyres and the whole idea of controlling wakes being something of a tilting at windmills type of challenge, I think that side of things has been tested to destruction fairly evidently.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong in particular with ground effect floors, but the particular layout of these ones that have a response to rear ride height that is not particularly good for the cars, that isn’t something that we should carry into 2026.

“I think the FIA is still very much of a mind to place weight management at the top of the tree of everything, sacrificing other stuff.

“And I think it’d be helpful if there was more of a balanced approach to that.”

In the meantime, Formula 1 is preparing for Round 3 of the 2024 campaign, as Albert Park hosts the Australian Grand Prix on March 24.

Read next – ‘The tightest field ever in F1’ – Is Alex Albon right to say F1 isn’t boring?