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Michelin favourite to supply F1 tyres in 2011
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Michelin favourite to supply F1 tyres in 2011
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 May 2010   |  7:23 am GMT  |  23 comments

The 12 Formula 1 teams under the banner of FOTA are due to meet this morning (Sunday) in the paddock in Barcelona to discuss a number of subjects of which tyre supply for 2011 is the most burning issue.

New tires in F1 next season
The teams have said that they want a decision this week.

All teams are now deep into the design phase for the 2011 cars and they want to know what tyres they will be running on, particularly if they are to be different from the current ones.

At present there are three principle avenues open, including Pirelli, Michelin and Avon. However this weekend the new boss of Bridgestone Europe has been in the F1 paddock and has been meeting with Bernie Ecclestone and team representatives.

While it is unlikely that the chairman of Bridgestone in Japan, who is keen on green initiatives, will reverse his decision to quit F1, under discussion is the possibility of Bridgestone continuing to supply the tyres on a paid basis, perhaps to Ecclestone who would then offer the tyres as a branding opportunity to another tyre company.

This might offset some of the cost for the teams, many of whom are concerned about having to find tyre costs they hadn’t budgeted for.

The advantage for Ecclestone of the rebranded Bridgestone approach is twofold; the sport would be able to control speeds by specifying tyres and it would give him another lever of control over the teams.

Michelin remains the favoured option of FIA president Jean Todt, as it is a strong brand, which is what he feels F1 should have . Many of the teams like the idea of Michelin too; they were in F1 as recently as 2006, they provide wind tunnel sized models of their tyres, which is a huge advantage to teams and they are prepared to supply tyres on 13 inch rims for the next two seasons, with a view to phasing in their preferred low profile tyres on 18 inch rims in 2013 when the rules are due to change again.

Michelin were originally looking for €3million per team, but have dropped that price in half, albeit with less tyres being supplied.

Pirelli has also tabled a bid, but there is some anxiety about their ability to produce F1 tyres with no reference data. Pirelli was last in F1 in the 1990s and in those days the tyres were fairly inconsistent. Avon is the other possibility.

As well as the commercial terms, safety is a central issue here.

With anything new the teams will want to do extensive testing, but testing has been banned to save costs and teams are reluctant to go back to a heavy winter test schedule simply to accommodate a new tyre.

McLaren boss and FOTA president Martin Whitmarsh met with Bridgestone bosses on Saturday afternoon and said, “Bridgestone have done a great job in F1 and if we can persuade them to stay in the sport that would be very strong.

“There are a number of other prospects out there but you have got to remember that F1 is a very challenging environment and we have to be careful with newcomers that we don’t take too many risks. People that know about F1 analyse the risk and this means the engineers get good data to design the cars and it means we have safe tyres.”

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23 Comments
  1. Rich C says:

    Wow. The very idea of Bridgestone producing re-branded tires – presumably for one of their major competitors – is staggering.
    They wouldn’t do it at a loss though, even for good ol’ Bernie. They’d have to make a profit, and that’d make ‘em pricey.

    1. Andy C says:

      Yep, what a joke. No premium tyre company would want to be the f1 supplier but using someone elses tyres surely.

      What an advertisement for your brand (were in f1 but someone else has to make the tyres fir us).

      F1 in association with hankook or Yokohama just doesn’t have the same brand value. Nevertheless it’s the type of crackpot deal that bernie might like (as it would give him more control).

      1. Drez says:

        And their lies the naivety… Brigstone have a manufacturing facility + knowledge + people employed. If they can sub contract to someone else to offset costs and probably make a profit they would not gve a stuff for a year or two if it kept Michelin out.

        They have nothing to fear market wise from the minows.. including Pireli or Avon.

      2. Paul Kirk says:

        Yeah but wot about rebranded engines, eg Illmore branded as Merc, and I just forget who makes the Honda engine for IRL, and Mazdas branded as Fords, and I service a Range Rover branded as a Honda! Seems like it’s the modern trend!
        PK.

  2. Flog says:

    Interesting to read. Would be happy to see either Bridgestone or Michelin provide next year. Michelin seems like it’s going to be a hard one for F1 to turn down, since they’ve dropped the price.

    I definitely don’t want to see multiple supplies though to different teams, it created such a performance disparity it made for a joke much of the time.

    Oh, and tell Bernie to keep his grubby mits out of it ;-)

    Flog

  3. David Jerromes says:

    Hi James,

    Interesting and up to date piece, thanks!

    I cannot see why Bridgestone would want to supply their tyres for 2011 only to have them branded under another tyre manufacturers name……., unless there was a huge financial incentive.

    I can certainly see Bernie wanting to tie-up the tyre issue for the future and what better way than having them made for ‘him’ to then re-supply to the teams. As for a branding exercise the majority of people would know the tyres to be of Bridgestone make so I cannot see the logic in that direction.
    I CAN see the logic of Bernie having tyre supplier control, but then again would we be seeing ‘Ecclestone’ on the sidewalls in replacement of Bridgestone??? ;-)

  4. Formula Zero says:

    So far Pirelli doesn’t sound like the tyres that the fans or most of the teams would prefer by any teams. On the other hand Micheline is a very popular choice with everybody. As much Micheline will be welcomed back to F1, Bridgestone will be a big loss as well. So, FIA should try harder to keep such a great brand in the sport.

    Off the topic, I have no idea how FIA stewards are penalizing people this season. Some people get penalized & some don’t for the similar incident. Well, this has been a season of weirdness. Looks like it will continue.

    1. Andy C says:

      I’ve always liked Michelin as a brand, and in f1.

      James,

      on tyre related issues, marbles seem to ruin a lot of chance of overtaking offline towards the middle/end of race.

      Is that an issue anyone in f1 is considering, or is it just inevitable on soft compounds?

  5. PaulL says:

    So have Michelin dropped their demand to be in competition for next year?
    Also I wonder if drivers with Michelin experience might benefit.. Like will Alonso be able to return to his understeery sharp turn from the mid noughties? Prob not but I’ll be interested to see if it has an effect.

  6. Julian F says:

    Hi James and All,
    Is there still any talk about a much larger wheel size than current? 18 inch?
    That still being discussed?

    Cheers
    Julian F

  7. Dave Cameron says:

    Its interesting to note that yet another aspect of F1 has extremely high barriers to entry – F1 teams are reluctant to partner with a new tyre company with limited modern F1 experience, which is perfectly reasonable in itself, but the fact that Pirelli will never be able to garner that trust without 1000s of miles of testing means that F1 paints itself into a corner with their only choice being Bridgestone or Michelin.

    What happens when Michelin and Bridgestone go broke? Or for whatever reason are adamant that they won’t return to F1…will safety suddenly not become such an issue?

    It really frustrates me at how short-sighted and narrow-minded the management of F1 can be – how can we expect to see the pinaccle of motorsport when young driving talent doesnt have the opportunity to test at all during an F1 season (unless a team restricts the testing schedule of one of their race drivers during a weekend), and now new tyre suppliers cant prove their stuff on the track to show the F1 teams that they can cope with the demands of modern F1.

    Even new teams and their management aren’t safe – how can you justify giving a race slot to USF1 who were led by a race manager with a string of F1 defeats already on his cards from 15 years ago, and a journalist! Compare that with Dave Richards and his Aston Martin group who (I believe) were dealt with very harshly when they clearly had a viable business proposition, and the money on the table waiting to go…F1 has already turned their back on him twice, why should he ever bother again when he sees USF1 being given a slot and then not showing up? It cheapens the entire process!

  8. Rich C says:

    The only way to get as much testing as needed on the tires and not dis-advantage any teams would be for the supplier to practically run their own f1 team, perhaps with a last year’s car and a current test driver.

    1. Adrian says:

      That would seem like a very sensible approach…so probably won’t happen.

      I’m sure there are drivers like David Coulthard who have recent enough F1 experience who would be happy to clock up the miles in a 2009 F1 car testing different tyre compounds etc.

      I seem to remember Michelin doing something similar prior to their last F1 foray…

      1. Rich C says:

        I’m seldom accused of being sensible, but you’re probably right: for F1 thats too much to expect.

    2. Andy C says:

      Pretty much recall bridgestone doing the same thing. Can’t remember what chassis they had but I’m sure they did.

  9. pedantico says:

    “albeit with less tyres being supplied”

    do you mean FEWER tyres?

  10. RickeeBoy says:

    The 13″ rims are terrible – the wobble of the tyre seen in slo-mo at the Spanish GP – trying to control a massive inflexible structure is inherently unstable – so no wonder all other formula and road cars use much bigger rims – ITS F1 THAT’S TERRIBLY BEHIND THE TIMES – all because Bernie / FIA has restricted them to this rim – Now even the teams are worried about costs moving to a bigger rim – RUBBISH – they design a car depending on the expected forces – All of F1 needs to get on with it and move away from 13″ ASAP – If this involves a new manufacturer then so be it – Bernie rebranding old Bridgestones stinks of yet more political filthy touches – They propose changing engines which cost more than cars but baulk at changing tyres to 18″ – what total rubbish – someone should DEMAND that we move to 18″ rims as a safety aspect because 13″ are totally unsafe.

  11. RickeeBoy says:

    Ref Dave Cameron –
    F1 let in Dave Richards with a viable business proposition ????? – Now here is the politics – Dave Richards has been successful in virtually everything he has done ( massive respect for the man ) – So why let that into your den where the split of available revenues is semi comfortable – You’d be mad to let him in – far, far, far more sensible to give a ticket to USF1 or something controllable who isn’t going to upset the applecart.

  12. Drez says:

    Providing windtunnel sized models of their tyres is a huge advantage!!!!!!!! Come on James, you really let yorself down sometimes.

    If the teams model shops can’t manage an accurate round tyre then your doing them an injustice.

    And before you start about details, these guys have their hands on the tyres at least 4 days each weekend… no spy photograpjs required.

    1. James Allen says:

      I’m afraid that you are wrong. If you ask about this subject you will find out that wind tunnel model tyres are very hard to do and Michelin is one of the few companies who do them

  13. tom says:

    if some of the smaller teams are concerned about redesigning cars that they have just built, on limmited resources, to incorporate 18″ rims, would it work to give them the option of, say, 18″ michelins and 13″ pirellis or what ever? they could choose their tyre supplier as before, why not rim size?

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