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Michelin admits talks about F1 return
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Michelin admits talks about F1 return
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Feb 2010   |  5:12 pm GMT  |  44 comments

Michelin has publicly admitted for the first time that it is in talks with the FIA about making a return to F1 as a sole tyre supplier.

According to Bloomberg Michelin’s Jean Dominique Senard gave an interview in which he admitted to “formal discussions” with the FIA and said, “We might consider returning but there are some very clear conditions.”

These revolve around an insistence by Michelin that the rules were changed to showcase tyres which had a positive environmental effect and a wider appeal to the motor industry than at present in order to “show the performance they can bring, notably in terms of fuel saving and CO2 reductions.” Fuel saving tyre technology seems to be the name of the game.

Bridgestone announced that the 2010 season would be its last in F1 and although Bernie Ecclestone has been talking to the company about ways in which it might be persuaded to stay, it is interesting to hear that Michelin are interested in a return. This would be greeted with enthusiasm by most of the teams as Michelin’s tyre engineering was very highly rated in the F1 paddock – notwithstanding the debacle at Indianapolis in 2005 when they brought the wrong tyres and were not able to race.

This kind of thinking is likely to strike a chord with FIA president Jean Todt, who has said that he wants motor sport to move with the times. Ironically, back in Indy 2005 Todt, then head of Ferrari, was adamant that a chicane could not be constructed to allow the Michelin teams to race, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

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44 Comments
  1. Jo says:

    Indy 05….My understanding of that was that Todt/Ferrari didn’t endorse a chicane, but said if everyone else agreed they would not stand in the way. Subsequently it was Mosley who quashed the idea of a chicane. Am I wrong?

    1. F1 Dave says:

      The Michelin based teams initially said that it was Todt/Ferrari that blocked the chicane, However Todt later said that he was never consulted by the Michelin teams & would have supported the idea.

      Michelin also claimed Schumacher & Barrichello were against the chicane although they also later said they were not even made aware at just how bad the situation was & nobody ever asked them about a chicane but that they would have supported it if it were designed correctly.

      Incidently Peter Windsor (SPEED Channl pit lane reporter & now USF1 co-owner) reported that the Michelin tyre problems were not as dire as they let everyone believe & that there was only ever a problem on the Toyota’s caused by Toyota’s rear suspension layout which saw them have to run more camber than other teams which was causing the sidewalls of the tyre to overheat.

      The issue was overblown in order to gain public support against the FIA. At the time the GPMA (The manufacturer’s) didn’t have a great deal of public support & it was Indy 2005 that shifted support towards the manufacturer’s & against the FIA.

  2. Freespeech says:

    They must be mad if they do come back after the way the FIA treated them.
    They are a first rate company and were made to look cheep to the whole world, they also had a likely world championship stolen from them when Mosley’s (Todt) FIA did what they could to ensure Ferrari won again.
    Why would any top flight company want to be the sole tyre supplier in any case, far better to have two or three companies showing us all what they can do, this is better for them, better for the teams and better for us watchers of the sport (sport now there’s a joke :)

  3. Kevin Baines says:

    I personally thought Michelin always had better overall tyre performance than Bridgestone. There always seems to be issues with Bridgestone tires but Michelin were always very reliable and of good quality. The 2006 spec Wet tyre they introduced was amazing and made B/stone’s wets (normally the class of the field) look second rate. I always felt that Michelin always conducted themselves in a first class manner too. Their response to the Indy 2005 fiasco was superb, offering to refund all ticket holders and holding their hands up to the mistake.

    1. F1 Dave says:

      Was actually the other way around.

      The Michelin tyres had a lot of reliability issues, especially in 2004 where there was a lot of Michelin tyre failures.

      So many that the FIA launched an investigation which found that Michelin were recommending teams to underinflate the tyres in order to gain performance. This was making them more prone to picking up debris & failing.

      Michelins were also prone to suddenly losing performance during a stint. Montoya at Austria in 2001 comes to mind, His tyres (And other Michelin runners) fell off by 2 seconds a lap for no real reason, happened many times.

      Michelin wet/intermediate tyres were also hopeless. Look at Silverstone 2002, Michelin runners had no tyres to run. It got too wet for dry’s but the inter’s & Full wets were so bad they were reluctant to run them.

      1. Kevin Baines says:

        A lot of your examples were from Michelins first couple of seasons in F1 and as i said the 2006 wet tyre they introduced was superb, look at how Alonso carved through the field while the B/stone runners went backwards. As has been the case for many seasons and last season showed Bridgestones continued performance issues with tyres. There were race weekends where the softer of the two compounds could barely be used. Often you would see drivers coming in after just a few laps to swap on to the Hard tyre so they could get the soft tyre phase out of the way. Once Michelin got on top of the Tyre issues things came good which resulted in the majority of the grid switching to them and they played a crucial part in Renault’s double world titles. Yet Bridgestone with a few more seasons experience have still had issues and that really isn’t right especially when they are the sole tyre provider.

  4. Alex says:

    I would love to see Michelin back. Was disappointing to see them leave in the first place when the ‘single tyre supplier’ rule was implemented which meant that a very interesting element of intense competition was removed from the championship. I have good memories of WilliamsBMW and Renault putting the Michelins to good use with the likes of Montoya and Alonso against the Bridgestone-shod Ferraris and McLarens.

  5. Freespeech says:

    They must be mad if they do come back after the way the FIA treated them.
    They are a first rate company and were made to look cheep to the whole world, they also had a likely world championship stolen from them when Mosley’s (Todt) FIA did what they could to ensure Ferrari won again.
    Why would any top flight company want to be the sole tyre supplier in any case, far better to have two or three companies showing us all what they can do, this is better for them, better for the teams and better for us watchers of the sport (sport now there’s a joke :)
    Let us not forget who is the past current president of the FIA and who was along with his chum the ex president the reason for the US debacle – I for one haven’t forgot or forgiven them for stealing hours of my time and serving us up that junk :evil:

  6. SerbianVoice says:

    It would be really AWESOME to see Kimi+Newey+Michelins again.
    Dream come true.

    At least there won’t be bad front suspensions in Red Bull which caused low heating.
    And also we could see Alonso&Kimi more agressive styles back.

    Cheers

  7. CoolGav says:

    It seems that F1 is moving towards using fuel economy as a differentiator between engines (and presumably aero – if the Force India has lower drag than McLaren or Mercedes, they should use less fuel with the same engine). Michelin know that tyres play a relevant role in fuel economy, and have the sense to know that F1 could showcase their road-relevant technology to the everyday motorist, and petrolhead. Without a tyre war to focus on outright grip, Michelin would presumably be free to highlight the difference that rolling resistance can have. I switched from Michelin Energy’s to Goodyear’s last year and have seen significantly worse economy – F1 cars might instantly need to carry less fuel for a race distance.

    1. R.B. says:

      That’s an interesting angle. However I doubt that less friction will produce better overall results. Surely more fuel efficient, but at much slower speeds that will harm those teams’ racing in the first place.

      1. CoolGav says:

        Well I was thinking more along the lines of all the field using lower rolling resistance tyres (as the FIA don’t want a tyre war), and so lap times increase slightly (FIA say “Thank You” to Michelin), but teams suddenly design cars not to carry 160kg fuel, but 140kg…

        Also the cornering speed depends on grip (mechanical and aero) and weight. Lower weight and less grip is needed to maintain the same cornering speed.

  8. Adrian says:

    Since the current 2 compound rule was brought it to satisfy Bridgestone, I hope that we might see the end of compulsory tyre changes when they leave the sport…

    1. Paul Kirk says:

      Agreed,—-2 different types of tyres for a race is crazy !!!
      PK.

  9. N. Weingart says:

    James,

    Could this signal the end of the dangerous 2 compounds per race shenanigans which have clouded F1 since Bridgestone became sole-supplier to the series? One can only hope.

    1. James Allen says:

      I don’t think so, not in the short term

    2. Paul Kirk says:

      Absolutely !!!!!!!
      PK.

  10. Torrent says:

    Hi James,

    Nothing to do with MICHELIN.

    I would like to ask you a question about USF1 team. Do you think they can make it. It seems strange that nothing is ready till now, not even the full driver line up…
    As for CAMPOS, do you think it’s already over for them ?

    Last, what do you think about the FIA denying that teams are allowed to miss 3 races eventhough it seems an agreement on that was granted to the new teams ! Is there a plan to have STEFAN GP onboard by forcing either USF1 or CAMPOS out… BERNIE’s in control as ever !

  11. Jodum5 says:

    Most of the established teams have experience working with Michelin. Except for Ferrari and Sauber. I wonder how Ferrari would feel about a Michelin return.

    1. Zobra Wambleska says:

      Well, if Bridgestone leaves I’m sure they’d rather have Mechelins than run on bare rims.

  12. Mark Vadnais says:

    Please write a column on Bruno Senna F1 status and the poor management advice he has been given since Honda pulled out of F1. He cleary beat Buemi, Kobayashi and Petrov in GP2 and he is now in the worst position of all.

  13. Carlm21 says:

    I loved the days of Michelin vs Bridgestone. I remember when Mclaren kept changing from one to the other, whereas ferrari stayed loyal to Bridgestone and boy did it pay off big time, but for 1 season- 2005. Either way good to see Michelin back.

    1. F1 Dave says:

      McLaren only changed once.

      They ran Bridgestone’s untill the end of 2001 & then ran Michelins from 2002 onwards untill Michelin withdrew.

  14. Nevsky says:

    When a poacher turns gamekeeper anything is possible.

  15. Bob Q says:

    All I can say is what the heck is wrong with these people?
    Tires that result in fuel savings on an F1 car? Are they serious?

  16. Tom Mitchell says:

    Good on Michelin to be insisting on only entering if they can use it to improve environmental performance. This is a clear sign of Mosley’s forward thinking; he said of KERS that it’s performance would become a differentiator and drive car sales to the manufacturer with the best KERS (and therefore environmental) credentials. That didn’t happen because FOTA has little or no forward vision (as proved by the surprise exits of manufacturers – i.e. it was a surprise even to the team bosses that had to exit), but Michelin seems to have that same vision that Mosley had.

    This has to be the way the sport heads and the teams need to take Michelin’s lead.

    Probably none of this will happen if FOTA have anything to do with it, and we’ll be stuck this time next year with no tyre supplier.

  17. Dale says:

    Can you just imagine the FIA going cap in hand to Michelin?
    I say let’s have more than one tyre supplier as it just makes F1 more dynamic, who knows if the FIA did this then maybe Bridgestone would stay and if Michelin and Goodyear came in it’d be terrific – will it happen, not a chance :(

    1. Rich C says:

      I’m still thinking Hoosier should get it. What a hoot that would be!

  18. xortap says:

    i just hope the sport doesnt turn its back to the fans again by introducing eco-friendly-hole-in-the-ocean technologies. no thanks Michelin, you could use another sport for your “eco” campaign.

  19. Bec says:

    Interesting … But I have to say, I’m getting bored of this ecomental holier than thou fad doing the rounds.

    1. Paul Kirk says:

      Totally agree, Bec.
      PK.

      1. Tim says:

        What utter self-righteous tosh. You fellows may enjoy your trips to the petrol pumps, but I’d rather go as infrequently as possible, myself. It’s not about being holier than thou (physician heal thyself, by the way), it’s about flogging tyres.

        Michelin have always maintained that F1 should be made more economically attractive for participants, rather than being a huge black hole. They need to research more fuel-efficient tyres, and they’re prepared to come back into F1 if they can divert some of that budget. That way, not all F1 R&D goes down the pan, as has historically been the case for tyre manufacturers.

  20. Marc says:

    Tyres have been kind of boring since 2007. Would be nice to hear something on the subject other than ‘graining’ and ‘warmup’.

    Hopefully a fresh supplier can bring something new to the equation other than just supplying boring circular rubber things???

    1. Rich C says:

      But thats what they are – boring circular things.

  21. Brian Harvey says:

    More mileage= less grip

    1. Jason says:

      less grip more road noise, m i n i m a l fuel saving, bloody awful, will never use again. do like (and use) Mich tyres, just not the eco bollox ones

  22. Kent Paul says:

    The irony of Todt now in charge and Michelin coming back

  23. Andy C says:

    F1 was always about innovation, so why not use it to push the boundaries on tyre technology.

    I don’t want to see the racing affected, as f1 is my fav sport, but it doesn’t mean the racing would be effected.

    I don’t think it’s ecomentalism, it’s about progress.

  24. The Limit says:

    @James Allen.

    I remember Jean Todt pulling that trick at Indianapolis too back in 2005, and unfortunately, that debacle really set me off Michelin. I was not sorry to see them leave but, following the decision that Bridgestone have made, it would only seem logical for the French company to return.
    What I find hard to understand James, is the fact that Goodyear are never mentioned in F1 anymore, after being so involved in the sport years ago? Is there a reason for that than you can shed light on please?

  25. Steven says:

    I would rather see Goodyear return or failing that let’s have Dunlop or Pirelli or Avon or Yokahama or Hoosier!
    Or Bridgestone could reverse their decision and stay in the sport :)

  26. Ben Cooper says:

    Hi James, i hope you see this comment!

    I saw this blog-post with some kind of update to the Michelin return story and just wondered if you can shed any more light on the matter

    http://www.autoblog.com/2010/04/09/michelin-considers-returning-to-f1-with-some-conditions/

    Keep up the good work. Ben

  27. Bibendum says:

    Think about it… who could step in at “short” notice to produce a viable tyre that can withstand the pressures of a whole race distance? Who has the capacity, capability and technical progress to make it happen? Does Cooper/Avon have the technology? No. All the key people (except Dupasquier) are still there, they have a team of keen and technically knowledgable people just dying to get back on the world motorsprot stage. Today where are Michelin? No F1, no WRC, no Moto GP – they need a world stage. OK so they said “no” to single supplier but if they could introduce compounds which demonstrate fuel saving with low rolling-resistance imagine being able to ride with 20 litres less fuel and still win the race… they will create competition within their own product range – teams can choose – traditional set-up or less weight and fuel-saving tyres. Everybody wins. There is no choice – Michelin WILL be back in F1 – put simply, nobody else could even hope to make the grade in the available time… 18″ rims .. why not? What the hell does Adrian Newey get paid for? Just get on with it and design a car which has sufficient suspension and doesn;t rely on “fat” tyres to compensate… bring it on.

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