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Tyre concerns ease over cause of punctures, but Michelin step up pressure
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Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Aug 2013   |  10:38 am GMT  |  36 comments

The F1 drivers taking part in the Belgian Grand Prix have accepted the official explanation of the punctures of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel yesterday, when presented with a piece of metal off Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, which was retrieved from Turn 13 after the end of yesterday’s running.

Meanwhile there are strong indications from sources in the F1 paddock that Michelin is lining up a return to the sport, which would be supported by the FIA.

Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa, who is also a leading light in the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, told BBC Sport Online that the drivers were satisfied with this explanation.

In last night’s driver’s meeting they expressed concern to the FIA’s Charlie Whiting, asking for some reassurance about what he would do should there be problems in the race, as there were in Silverstone.

“We only asked to know what it was,” De la Rosa said. “If it had been the first time we’d seen it, we would have been relaxed but after all the problems this year we were definitely concerned.”

Pirelli maintained after practice that some debris had caused both punctures.

The construction of the tyres introduced from the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards, based on a kevlar belt, now is broadly the same as last season, where there were no problems.

The episode comes against a backdrop of behind the scenes intrigue, as is seems that there is a fresh impetus for Michelin to return to the sport in 2014, despite the late stage.

Pirelli has contracts for next year with eight of the 11 F1 teams, it is believed that Force India and Lotus are among the teams with whom it does not have a contract. There is also a commercial agreement in place.

However this is contingent upon there being an official tyre supply contract with the FIA, whose president Jean Todt is known to be keen to see Michelin back in F1.

This weekend in Spa the talk has been of a fresh push to return Michelin and that makes the punctures which occurred on Friday following on from tyre problems in Bahrain, Spain and Silverstone in particular, so politically sensitive.

Michelin is known to favour a move away from tyres that degrade, which was Pirelli’s strategy with Bernie Ecclestone over the last few years. If they were to return, they would push for some changes to Sporting Regulations, which would change the character of the races.

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36 Comments
  1. DB says:

    Any hope of having both Pirelli and Michelin?

    1. All revved-up says:

      If I recall Michelin don’t want to be the sole tyre supplier and hence left F1. Michelin wants a competitive situation between two tyre manufacturers.

      Unless there has been a change in thinking by Michelin?

      1. Yes, a global recession might well have changed their philosophy.

  2. Elie says:

    I think it would be great if we had a different tyre manufacturer. It would put the teams engineers under pressure for next year but it would be a clean slate for everyone and too many fans are sick to death if hearing about Pirelli failures.

    Aside if the tyres, James is there any move from the FIA & Charlie whiting to have better inspection of the track between events ?. I would have thought that all these issues of debris would have forced some more stringing guidelines for inspecting & cleaning the track .

  3. Spyros says:

    Aw come on people, the summer break is over! Let’s talk about the racing, PLEASE!

    1. Spyros says:

      Wait: they say they want to bring 18″ rims in the next two years?

      Forget my previous comment then, bring them on! NOW!!

    2. franed says:

      There isn’t any yet, that’s tomorrow.
      But meanwhile the Pirelli situation is a huge issue that could change F1 massively.

      Unfortunately Pirelli’s common sense request to use larger diameter wheels and tyres was turned down. The teams will pay the price for that next year when their only option will be to reduce the torque output of their engines.

      That the situation has been allowed to develop by Todt is criminal. It is time the other FIA members took control from him. If he gets Michelin to come back next year, (and I doubt they have Pirelli’s lightening quick reaction time and lead time of only a few days) for the sake of having a French supplier it will be a great surprise if he and the FIA are not sued for many millions.

      1. Spyros says:

        But Michelin also wants to return only if it can introduce 18″ wheel rims in no more than two years (per the BBC website)! And let’s not forget that the low-profile tyre idea was theirs to begin with, back in 2010!

        How ironic it will be if Michelin is shoehorned in, with 18″ wheels that last the whole race? Pirelli tried to make do with an unworkable formula (make the tyres degrade please — no wait, that’s too much!), and Michelin might come back to bring us back to the era when tyres were irrelevant — except we have since dumped pit-stops, too, AND testing…

        So what’s left? Remember back in the 80s and 90s when there were still fierce debates about which is better, Indycars or F1? OK Indy has long become a shadow of what it used to be, but how long will it be before we are forced to admit that F1 is still not as far above it as it deserves?

      2. Quade says:

        The FIA’s get out clause will be safety.

        I’ll bet my last penny that Pirelli will do their utmost to avoid the PR disaster of a prolonged court case in which they have to defend the safety of the wretched tyres.

      3. Monza71 says:

        Despite fears over his connections with Ferrari, so far I have been reasonably happy with Jean Todt’s leadership of the FIA.

        However, the shoddy treatment of Pirelli is quite beyond the pale. Their reputation has undoubtedly been damaged by the requirement for short-lived tyres and the testing and other restrictions imposed upon them have caused many problems.

        To see them without a contract at this late stage in the build up to the massive changes due in 2014 is quite intolerable a deeply disrespectful to the company and Paul Hembury.

        The fact that we are in this situation has a lot do do with the fact that the interloper is a French company.

        I would be happy to see a return to competition between two tyre suppliers but this has to be introduced from 2015 to be fair to all parties.

      4. GEoffO says:

        Agree with Monza71, Pirelli did as requested and have been denied by the FIA time and again.

        They should sue the FIA and FOCA for damages.

      5. JIMMY DELL says:

        Michelin has already made it understood to all that building tires to cope with the extremes of F1 is beyond their technical expertise, remember Indianapolis USGP 2005, so why would they want to try again? Better question; why would anyone allow them to try again?
        I don’t remember there ever being a problem with BridgeStone tires.Why Pirelli agreed to these Public Relation nightmare rules is a mystery.

      6. Grant says:

        The teams are NOT tyre experts, why does Pirelli keep asking for permission?
        Incompetence…..

      7. Cliff says:

        “The teams are NOT tyre experts”, correct, but they do have a say in the contracts and technical regulations that govern F1.

        The teams must allow the tyre manufacturer (whoever gets the contract) to conduct tests with a current car. With cars evolving over the season, I would hope that the tyre manufacturer would be allowed to conduct in-season tests to enable them to keep up with developments. Wishful thinking?

      8. Minesh says:

        Awwww, C’mon…

        The teams are not stupid; and neither are the tyre manufacturers. Pirelli are simply doing what they are told by Bernie. It may not be clever, it may not be ‘pure’ racing- but they simply following the dicdat re ‘spicing up things’ that he thought was the way to go at the time. .

        If Michelin were to come in with fundamentally different rules, re ‘spicing up things’ (e.g. the thoughts on less pit stops) then it would confirm Pirelli were on a hiding to nothing.

        Pirelli would then have grounds to sue, in my opinion, re some form of “willful defamation of character’ and ‘business propriatry’ arguments. In my opinion only, of course.

        Basically, they could argue that that were contracted in such a way – vs any newcomer who had significantly different parameters – that any reasons given for not renewing with them that stared ‘underperformance’ or failure to meet contract, or similar, were BS.

  4. jpinx says:

    Jean Todt showing his partisan colours again! Really, F1 management is such a little boys game, boosting egos and bank balances. It’s very noticeable there’s little reported comment from BE, but then he has other things to think about.

    Meantime, back on the track where it matters, a couple of guys had punctures and the offending debris was easily and quickly identified. That really should put an end to that specific, As to RB rubbing their tyres against the bodywork, I reckon there’ll be a silence about that because RB won’t want to tell what they were up to.

  5. audifan says:

    pretty obvious that todt’s prime objective is restore the influence of all things french to motor racing

    imagine appointing someone with zero motor racing experience to be head of medical services ..because he is french !

    1. Spyros says:

      Let’s not get carried away. Don’t forget that during the Bridgestone Vs Michelin years, he was very much in the former’s camp…

      1. audifan says:

        that was because bridgestone tailored their tyres for HIS team , and michelin did theirs for renault

        heaven forbid we should go back to those days

    2. Steven L says:

      This…

      Tyres are the biggest factor there is, things will be jumbled up next year with all the changes, the last thing we need is a tyre war going on…

  6. Barry says:

    Bring back the tyre wars I say

  7. Quade says:

    Tossing Pirelli’s monopoly in the bin will ensure that F1 never ever races on low quality tyres again.

    This season has shown how foolish it is to try to make F1 a spectacle. This is especially as F1 operates on the fine margins of technologies bleeding edge.
    Its by luck only that no driver suffered injury or death from the wretched tyres.

  8. Quade says:

    “technology’s bleeding edge.”

  9. darren w says:

    Of note in the BBC reporting on this was the fact that Michelin would require a change in the regulations away from the multiple pitstop formula and tires that degrade.

    That smacks of lack of confidence in their ability to deliver on the current brief. Nothing will make Pirelli look better than another tire company being afraid to take on a challenge that they themselves embraced and have delivered on even in the midst of typical F1 political BS.

    1. James Clayton says:

      No no no no

      This confirms that the current brief is flawed.

      Nothing can make Pirelli look good. They are the ONLY manufacturer that were daft enough work to such a brief and have come out, rightly so, looking foolish because of it.

      If it wasn’t for Pirelli accepting the FIAs terms then we would never have been in this mess in the first place.

      I’m pretty sure any tyre company *could* work to such an idea – but what serious company is going to plough millions of pounds into researching ways to make tyres fall apart – what value is that research to them? It’s the total opposite of what they’re in business to achieve.

    2. janis1207 says:

      Don’t think so.
      Yesterday once again we saw drivers driving to a set lap time instead of racing. Just so to nurture the tyres to the end.
      If Michelin wants to put a stop to this – I’m all for it!
      Next step then would be getting rid of the idiotic DRS. Overtaking used to be a demonstration of skill, as was defensive driving. Yesterday at Spa overtaking was a formality, hardly requiring F1 level skill.

  10. Paul L says:

    I’d welcome a change to Michelin.

    1. James Clayton says:

      I think many of us would.

      I also get the feeling it’s pretty much a done deal. The, grossly misinterpreted, comment from Jonathan Neale recently leads me to believe the teams feel it’s on the cards too.Obviously nothing could be announced now until the end of the season as who knows what Pirelli might do if they got dropped now.

  11. Olivier says:

    YES! Let’s get rid of the marbles and artificial pit stops! Make tires that last the distance. The new era should be about how well teams can harvest energy.

    Apparently Michelin wants to make the tires more road relevant by moving from 13″ to 18″ tires. They also want to pioneer a new technology that transforms slick tires to intermediate tires when it gets wet? (source: BBC) BIG like! It’s gonna be a GoodYear ;)

    1. Me says:

      “Apparently Michelin wants to make the tires more road relevant by moving from 13″ to 18″ tires.”

      Wheels…

  12. Phil says:

    Oh the irony.

    So Todt, whose intransigence with Moseley at Indianapolis in 2005 played a large part in Michelin leaving F1 with their tails between their legs now is trying to shoehorn them back in place of Pirelli?

    You couldn’t make this stuff up.

    1. Liam in Sydney says:

      Indeed, I was wondering myself just what love JT has for Michelin. Unless Michelin are putting something sweet under the table.

    2. Doobs says:

      It’s business, not personal.

  13. Grant says:

    Maybe the FIA deliberately ruined Pirelli’s reputation to open the door for Michelin.

    1. James Clayton says:

      Pirelli didn’t need any help from the FIA. Paul Hembry’s statements clearly indicate that they came into the sport wanting to appear like some kind of saviour. Because the sports was apparently in desperate need of their help? Yes because 2010 on the Bridgestones was just awful, wasn’t it? Oh wait… no it wasn’t. And neither were 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000….. Even 2009 had its moments.

  14. Richard says:

    No point in a tyre war, tyres will last all race, and there will always be a chance that we will see a remake of the Schumacher custum made Bridgestone.

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