Bernie Ecclestone has downplayed Michelin’s prospects of replacing Pirelli as F1’s sole tyre supplier, despite the French company formally confirming to the FIA that it is interested in the role.
Ecclestone has always been close to Pirelli, while FIA President Jean Todt is known to be sympathetic to Michelin.
One senior team figure told this blog at Spa that it would require a bold decision by Todt to open the door for Michelin at this late stage, and given that an FIA election is the way, such a controversial move seemed unlikely to happen.
When questioned by about Michelin’s chances Ecclestone said simply that “FOM and Pirelli have a contract.”
Asked why there was not yet a contract between the FIA and Pirelli – the one that Paul Hembery is awaiting – Bernie dismissed its relevance.
“We don’t need one, I don’t think,” he told this blog. “They are nothing to do with commercial. The FIA’s position is that they are regulators, they regulate all the regulations that have been agreed.”
He was keen to downplay any role for Todt in the process of selecting the tyre supplier.
“Jean is the president of the FIA. If it’s a matter of a vote in the World Council, he has one vote. As it’s not a matter for the World Council, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.”
Bernie also denied that there was any interest from the teams in joining forces with Michelin.
“None of the teams who have spoken to me have said that. All the teams who have spoken to me say they are very happy with Pirelli, and the problems they’ve had, they’re happy that they’ve dealt with them.”
Although the regulations currently ensure that F1 has a sole supplier, there does seem to be some logic in a potential move towards competition in the future, especially if both companies are willing to pump money into the sport.
Intriguingly Bernie indicated that he does not support the idea of Michelin competing with Pirelli: “Because they will want to pick the teams that they think will win, and they’ll pay them a lot more money to take them as opposed to somebody else. We have a deal with Pirelli, anyway.”
Exactly how the tyre saga will play out in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that time is running out for all concerned.