Isola explains McLaren’s LED wheel covers

Jamie Woodhouse
18-inch Pirelli Formula 1 tyres in Abu Dhabi. December 2021.

A mechanic puts in place the 18-inch Pirelli tyres to be used in Formula 1 from 2022. Abu Dhabi, December 2021.

Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola revealed that the LED wheel cover lights tested by McLaren in Abu Dhabi can be used for many purposes.

As part of Formula 1’s switch to 18-inch tyres from 2022, wheel covers will also return, and during the post-season tyre tests in Abu Dhabi, McLaren gave us a potential glimpse into the future of the series.

Lando Norris rolled out onto the track for a single flying lap with LED lights gracing the wheel covers on his McLaren mule car, the only time they were seen during the two-day test.

And Isola said that moving forward, they could be put into use to display messages, making them a marketing platform.

“There was an idea to put some LEDs into the wheel covers, to use these wheel covers also for marketing purposes, that means you can display any kind of message,” he told

“But clearly you have to test them, because the wheel covers are also an element that could unbalance the tyre.

“It’s really important that the tyre is properly balanced, otherwise they start to have vibrations.”

Lando Norris testing 18-inch tyres. Abu Dhabi, December 2021.

The lights could though have a very wide scope for use Isola explained, serving many purposes to the teams and F1.

“When you fit this [LED light] device and the device is working, you can do whatever you want,” he confirmed.

“You can display the position, you can display logos, you can display the lap time in qualifying or something like that. There are many possibilities.

“You have the technology, so it’s easy to programme what you want to display.”

Isola went on to explain that the wheel covers have been modified from the initial design, after discovering difficulties for the mechanics, as well as weight balance issues.

“Next year the rims will be standard for everybody, sensors will be standard and rim covers will be standard,” said Isola.

“The first version of the rim cover was very close to the rim, and we had two problems. One was for the mechanics in the pit stops, because they need to put their fingers in and take the tyres off, and with the wheel cover it was not possible, so they had to modify it.

“The second was we couldn’t add the balanced weight on the outside. That’s why if you see the latest version of the wheel cover, there is a shape that is covering the rim, but then you have a step closer to the rim that is useful for the mechanics to take the tyre and for us to balance the weight.

“With this final version, we can balance the tyre when it’s fitted with the wheel and the wheel cover. Otherwise, if you add the wheel cover after balancing, it can be a problem.”


Nine of the 10 teams completed two days of testing on the 18-inch tyres in Abu Dhabi, with only Williams missing out on day two as they did not have a mule car to use in the test.