This paper presents a new method to find the tire cornering characteristics that satisfy the required handling performance of a vehicle in the early tire development process. The tire cornering characteristics should be considered in the sense of not only absolute levels but also balance between front and rear tires in order to satisfy handling performance of a vehicle. As a result, it is difficult to find the appropriate tire characteristics when trial-and-error approach is used. In this study, the virtual optimization technique is applied to find the required tire cornering characteristics in more efficient way. The optimization framework consists of a vehicle dynamic simulation tool to predict the handling performance of a vehicle and an optimization tool to find the optimal solution. The objective function and the constraints are defined in terms of vehicle handling objective parameters associated with the subjective assessment. The objective function is to minimize the steering response time delay and the constraints are yaw rate and lateral acceleration gain, which are important for the vehicle behavior. Design variables are the parameters of the Magic Formula tire model that are associated with the tire cornering stiffness. Finally, the method is applied to an actual tire development project and its effectiveness is validated.