The competition among F1 teams starts with wind tunnel development: the role of Pirelli’s mini-tires.
Despite the F1’s future goal to eliminate their use, wind tunnels still play a crucial role in the development of single-seaters.
The evolution in material research has led to the replacement of old wooden models, crafted by modelers, with 3D-printed carbon components.
Despite the stringent limitations imposed by the FIA, teams can simulate the car’s behavior even under load, as if it were cornering.
In this perspective, the role of tires is fundamental, especially considering how the wake from the front wheel can significantly influence a car’s aerodynamics.
As explained by Motorsport.com, Pirelli, the exclusive supplier to the championship, provides teams with 12 sets of mini-tires per season.
The Italian manufacturer has developed a design that replicates the profile and deformation of the tires used on the track.
The only difference? The presence of a single “demo” compound, unlike the five available to teams during race weekends.
Wear in the wind tunnel:
The development game shifts to the evolution of the wind tunnel. Teams have covered the rolling road, on which the wheels rest, with plastic materials capable of reproducing even the asphalt’s roughness.
Mini-tires, like their 18-inch counterparts, undergo wear, and teams must manage their usage within the hours allocated by the Federation.
For example, Red Bull has 608 wind tunnel hours for the first six months, a relative time considering the 1108 hours available to Haas, the last among the 2023 constructors.
The advantage for the Milton Keynes-based team is the ability to use the “fresher” mini-tires earlier. Haas, like teams with more hours available, will have to manage their consumption more gradually throughout the season.