Michelin ready to bid for 2014 tyre deal

Michelin’s interest in returning to F1 is genuine, sources close to the FIA have confirmed to this writer.

While it’s long been assumed that Pirelli will remain as sole supplier in 2014, and has made commercial arrangements with both teams and Bernie Ecclestone, the bottom line is that it has not yet signed a deal with the FIA.

Nor has the FIA yet issued an official tender for the supply contract, which it would normally be expected to do.

It’s believed that Michelin’s formal interest would trigger a tender, and that the FIA will go through the motions of asking all possible suppliers if they are interested before considering the offers from those who are.

It goes without saying that recent events have weakened Pirelli’s position with the FIA, and upset teams as well – some of whom may be keen to see a change. They are also still frustrated about having to pay for the annual supply.

It remains to be seen whether Michelin could really be ready in time for 2014 – and it’s highly unlikely that Pirelli would agree to do an interim deal for 2015 and then walk away.

The other key issue is that Bernie Ecclestone is close to Pirelli and is more than happy with the lucrative ongoing commercial deal that he has with the Italian company. Meanwhile it’s no secret that Jean Todt is close to Michelin.

There are some other key questions, not least the fact that Michelin always said it preferred competition and ultimately wants to go to low profile tyres, as used in other forms of top level sport. The FIA’s informal position on that is that current F1 tyres are unique and there is no point in switching just for the sake of it, when there are technical compromises involved. Wheels would also be heavier and potentially more lethal in accidents.

One possible outcome could of course be a return to tyre competition by 2015 or beyond, but the rules would have to be changed to alllow it. The upside is that two companies would be pumping money into the sport, but the complication would be controlling speeds and keeping a lid on testing costs.

Meanwhile Pirelli is pushing for a change of rear tyre sizes for 2014 as it continues to learn more from the teams about the new car/engine packages, in terms of the expected downforce levels and the loads put through the tyres.

In essence Pirelli wants a bigger contact patch, which could be achieved by a combination of diameter and width increases. The former however would involve significant design changes for the teams, and even at this stage it would delay their 2014 projects. An increased width – the figure 20mm has been discussed – is a little more realistic.

The problem is that the technical regulations have been defined already and the FIA is reluctant to agree to a change.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “Michelin ready to bid for 2014 tyre deal

  1. Don’t Michelin want a bigger wheel rim size because it’s more relevant to road cars? That would shake things up too….

  2. Brian

    Wow. The Michelin folks must have exceedingly short memories and/or be gluttons for punishment.

    //

  3. aran

    People at michelin must have short memories and probably dont remember why f1 didnt go back to the US for a decade and why they pulled out of the sport

  4. Ashjar

    I can’t believe how small F1 makes itself, 1 Tyre manufacturer. They should take a look at Sports car racing and realise that this is how races should be run. lets get back to some sanity in F1′s sprint races you don’t need to be using t sets of tyres and you don’t need to refuel. Michelin are quite capable of producing a tyre that will last the whole distance of an F1 race so go with them and send the drivers out and tell them not to come back till the chequered flag has flown

    • Er, I think you missed the point about pit stops being an integral part of F1, like or not. As indeed they are in sportscar racing, even if the tyres can last for a few hours…

  5. peterg

    I’m sorry, forgive my shortsightedness………..but F1 needs a tyre war now like a hole in the head!

    Considering the PR bashing Pirelli have been given for supplying a spec of tyre that they were ASKED to produce, i.e a high degradation cliff and compounds that are a half a second a lap apart, this might be a perfect exit for them.

    • floodo1

      The problem with Pirelli isn’t the tires that they’ve produced which a) worked b) thankfully didn’t last the whole race. The problem has always been how they have conducted themselves outside of race weekends. Secret deals with this or that team. Always needing something changed, and doing things at the last minute.
      For me the last time there was an issue with the tires was when Bridgestone made some compounds of tires last the entire race even though the rules mandate that competitors must run two different compounds of tires. Ever since Pirelli came in they’ve made tires which didn’t last the whole race, usually not even close, so competitors have had to manage their tires, which is a crucial component of F1.

      That said, I vote for a return to the mighty Michelin. I mean they managed to supply tires that worked great for multiple teams back when Bridgestone was making their tires specificially for Ferrari and then pawning off enough to meet the regulations about supplying multiple teams! Sure they borked that race at Indy that one year, but I believe them when they said that the load from the banking was off the charts which caught them out. Sad that the FIA had no choice but to run the race without the chicane that Michelin requested, but these things happen, just not usually at the scale of tens of thousands of fans who were so dramatically affected.

      In any case, I wish the whole subject of dissatisfaction with tires would go away. There’s been far too much talk of this and far too little talk of the actual drama in the sport….you know, who is winning and losing and signing up here or there!

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