One of the secondary notes from the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting yesterday in Dubrovnik, was the announcement that Pirelli will continue to supply tyres to Formula 1 in 2014, but for how much longer than that remains unclear.
The FIA statement said that in future the choice of tyre and fuel suppliers will be FIA business and that the commercial rights holder will have the opportunity to do a commercial deal with them for track signage etc only once the selection process has been completed.
We will deal in another post with the suggestion that F1 may move to a single fuel supplier – which would cause problems for Mercedes and Ferrari in particular as they have substantial commercial deals with fuel companies.
The FIA’s move on tyres is to avoid a repeat of the current situation where Bernie Ecclestone had concluded a five year deal with Pirelli and the teams had all signed up too, before the FIA had been through its process.
The FIA has said that “In this new process, the FIA will be confirmed as the body in charge of conducting the tender process. The Commercial Rights Holder will be entitled to run the commercial negotiations with potential suppliers, with a view to the selected single supplier being officially appointed by the WMSC.
“In order to cover the transition period and considering the contracts already settled by FOM and the Teams with Pirelli, the WMSC today confirmed that Pirelli may continue to supply tyres to competitors in the FIA F1 World Championship, subject to the requisite technical and safety standards of the FIA being met.”
This leaves Pirelli somewhat in limbo, they have at least a season, but presumably there will be a tender process for 2015 onwards. Paddock sources say that the commercial contracts are only valid if Pirelli has a valid contract as official tyre supplier to the FIA.
Michelin has expressed an interest in returning to F1 but only on their terms which are to move away from high degradation tyres, which are meant to spice up the show. Also they want F1 to move towards low profile tyres on 18 inch rims.
Pirelli have already invested heavily in the 2014 tyre research and test programme, as the 2014 tyres are completely different in character from 2012/13. The torque from the turbo engines is significantly higher and Pirelli say that the current tyres would be shredded by a 2014 car in a few laps.