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Michelin boss confirms they are ready to come back to F1
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Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Aug 2013   |  9:48 am GMT  |  239 comments

One of the notable stories in the background of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend was the renewed push on Michelin to come back to F1, either to compete with or to replace Pirelli.

And in yesterday’s Le Figaro newspaper in France, the current boss of Michelin sport, Pascal Couasnon, confirmed that the company was ready to come back to F1, as long as the decision is made by the end of October and the FIA is willing to change the character of the sport, away from fast degrading tyres. Michelin also wants an undertaking that during its tenure F1 would move towards 18 inch wheels; in other words towards a lower profile tyre.

Meanwhile current supplier Pirelli is spending significant money on developing its 2014 tyre and say they “have to assume that it’s going to be okay.”

Whereas Michelin has previously insisted on an open competition against another tyre maker, that condition of entry has now been dropped,

“We have always said that the presence of a competitor interests us,” said Couanson. “However we have evolved our thinking on this and now the absence of a competitor, which would have been a problem in the past, isn’t any longer. Today we are ready to go in alone, as long as there is a technical challenge, even as a single tyre supplier.”

The story of Michelin gazumping Pirelli has ebbed and flowed over the last few months, but this interview in France is quite a strong statement and follows strong indications last week that the return of Michelin is now a real possibility. “It’s real,” one of the F1 team bosses told this website in Spa on Sunday.

The current situation is that Pirelli has a commercial contract with Bernie Ecclestone’s company and with most of the 11 F1 teams, including Red Bull. It was eight before the summer break but Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said at the weekend that he had been busy signing other teams (without saying who) and Le Figaro claims that now 10 teams are signed up. Force India is certainly one that has not signed.

But crucially Pirelli does not yet have a contract as tyre supplier to the FIA. This has been something of a consistent battleground between Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt, who made a public rapprochement in Hungary, promising to sign a new Concorde Agreement soon.

Michelin were the other bidder last time the tyre supply contact came up, but the teams went with Pirelli, partly on a cost basis – the tyres cost each of them in the region of two million euros a year.

However the debate over fast degrading tyres – leading to more pit stops and different strategies and exciting finishes – has polarised the sport and many of its fans. Speaking to teams over the weekend, even ones who feel aggrieved by Pirelli’s mid-season switch to more durable tyres, there is a certain anxiety about returning to the processional racing of the past, on “perfect” tyres that barely degrade lap after lap.

What an F1 car on 18" wheels might look like


If Michelin is to return, it will be to showcase its technology, not to create a show. It has apparently developed a slick tyre that cane run in the wet and Couanson is adamant that if it comes in, the sport must accept a change of culture,

“We really don’t like the way F1 is presented today, not at all,” he said. “It disappoints me and even angers me. You don’t create a good image of such an important automotive product, a tyre, by changing it every few laps or even every few corners.”

This last point and particularly the way it is expressed with obvious exaggeration, is interesting. Couanson is clearly dismissive of Pirelli and its willingness to risk its image for the sake of a sporting show. Of course the Italian company has also run into problems with tyre failures this year after the disastrous experiment with the steel construction, which led to the worrying scenes at Silverstone with a series of high speed tyre failures.

These occurred partly because of the way the teams were operating the tyres, swapping them around, running extreme camber angles and low tyre pressures, which Pirelli tolerated earlier in the year, but no longer.

It is interesting and instructive to speak to teams like Lotus who have not had any problems with the tyres and even Force India, who had a failure on Paul di Resta’s car in Spain, but otherwise were performing well on the steel belted tyres and have struggled since the change. Although they mastered the difficult tyres, there is also concern about going back to a perfect Michelin tyre and the risk of F1 becoming a procession again with the outright fastest car at the front every time.

Even engineers whose job is to pursue excellence, admit that F1 isn’t always very exciting when there is nothing to throw a spanner in the works and upset the natural order, beyond the odd rain shower.

It is a debate F1 needs to have quickly as time is running out for Pirelli or Michelin to produce the tyres for 2014. As the incumbent with a realistic expectation of remaining so, Pirelli has had to do extensive work on 2014, which may go to waste if F1 turns its back on them and embraces Michelin.

“We are working towards 2014 and are spending a lot of money for 2014,” said Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery in Spa. “We have contracts in place and hope people will want to adhere to them. It’s a bit farcical really; it’s September in a week’s time. We are obviously working for next year with the teams who are on board and the promoter on board. So you have to assume that it’s going to be okay.”

It’s not just a discussion over who supplies the tyres, it’s about what kind of sporting show F1 wants to project to the world.

Tyres have been too big a talking point over the last few years, sometimes for the wrong reasons,

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1

Bernie’s already confirmed Pirelli for next year. Bye bye Michelin, it would have been good to have a tyre war on though..:)

2

Its a bit of a joke really for everyone to nail Pirelli for producing tires that degrade – they were asked to. How far they take it is their choice I suppose but with the change of compound and construction we have much more stability and certainly no more 4 stop races. If the teams really were switching tires and this was the cause, what are Pirelli supposed to do?! The last thing we or anyone else wants to see is Vettel or even a Merc driving off into the sunset next year; though Hamilton doing that would not be that bad really. Pirelli deserve to remain and come out of the storm, their experience this year should help them deal with all the unpredictability and desire for an entertaining race in 14′

3

‘…..pirelli [they] were asked to’. they could’ve always said ‘no/non/nyet..whatever’. pirelli should not be in control. quite ridiculous really.

4

If they did bring in two tire makers. They would have to allocate who runs on what tire. 1st in the championship Michelin, 2nd Pirelli, 3rd Michelin and so on.

5

Michelin will have to improve their production processes a fair bit if they’re serious about supplying a full grid of F1 cars 20-odd times a year otherwise that guy in the photo at the head of your story will have his work cut out for him.

The quality / consistency of the product looks a bit patchy as well.

6

Didn’t Paul Hembery say that if Michelin wants to come back, they should’ve annouced their willingness do so last September. It’s almost September again so Michelin to bid for 2015 tires?

Then again, this is F1.

7
Craig in Manila

It’s just not feasible to lower the tyre-profile : Pirelli’s branding would be sooo much harder to read if it were any smaller.

🙂

8

Two things here:

1) I don’t want, and I’d argue many are with me, processional grand prix racing like we had with Bridgestone. The engineering challenge we have had with Pirelli has been great. The only ones who have whinged have either short memories or support a team/driver who hasn’t excelled with this challenge.

2) I’m rather disgusted in the FIA’s underhanded behaviour with this. Pirelli have been, largely, brilliant and loyal advocates for the sport and should be treated with tremendous respect and dignity by the governing body. It’s a good 12 months late for the FIA to be doing this, and to be doing it with such a deliberate lack of transparency is unnervingly similiar to the FISA days of the 80s… While I was personally a fan of Michelins when they were in the sport in the early 2000s, I don’t share their ‘vision’ for what F1 should be any longer in terms of tyres.

9

processional racing has very little to do with tyres….per se. aerodynamics is the main culprit.

10
Lachlan Mackinnon

A summary for consideration James:

1. Tyre supplier has a contract with commercial rights holder (young Bernie)

2. Tyre supplier has contracts with individual F1 teams – the entire field signed up except Force India

3. The all important signature/contract with FIA still pending

4. Michelin missing the publicity of F1 and using this as an opportunity to have their name in the public forum for a couple of months – some good PR

2014 will see significant regulation change for teams to manage/cope with without introducing further complication of another/different tyre manufacturer – yes, a larger/better financed team will cope but how about the teams sitting on row 5 and lower?

What is the end game of the FIA? My first three dot points is highlighting the complications of big business – multiple contracts with multiple stakeholders and even then we have a situation where a tyre supplier is still not chosen for racing in 2014 at this late stage – why all the contracts if they mean absolutely nothing!

The FIA got what they wanted – fast degrading tyres. Unfortunately this went too far when disintegrating tyres came about due to politics, lack of testing and teams not agreeing to change.

The last thing fans want is a return to processional racing, but we all want to see F1 drivers going hammer and tong. I would love to see the FIA have a few more stones and be a little more proactive rather than reactive. The sport seems to lurch from one issue to another which is brought on by themselves – surely we can learn from our past lessons! Bridgestone tyres that last forever, refueling, DRS, mechanical grip, aerodynamic reliance…….the list goes.

Dear FIA, Please map out a way forward that will allow all the attributes of F1 racing to be on show – driver, strategy, technology, etc. Not easy but clearly they don’t have it right at the moment 🙁

11

I would stick with Pirelli even after the Silverstone fiasco. I like the tyres as they are to be honest. The more durable ones, will make the cars with better aerodynamic grip, like the Redbull even faster, but with the new regs and hybrid turbo engines, I would allow for Pirelli to remain, and have refuelling return to the sport.

What tank you start with in Q3, will be the tank you start with on race day and you base your strategy from there. This rule would require a more proactive strategy approach, rather than than the reactionary pitstops we are seeing today (with everyone starting on full tanks and reacting to the undercut, or the guinea pigs that are out there with a different tyre compound and rival teams checking out their lap times- not much skill there). With refuelling, teams have to think through the weekend more deeply, I don’t understand why people do not want it reintroduced.

Also, I do not see how Michelin would do a better job- in fact I am worried if they entered and have a slick tyre able to cope in wet weather conditions, then that would be disastrous for F1- you are basically eliminating more variables that can alter a surprise race outcome. We need more variables and options (like teams deciding if they wish to have KERS or not- lighter car without it vs. turbo boost with it but heavier). Whilst I do not wish F1 to be a Hollywood showpiece entertainment sport- and the DRS is a bit of a gimmick- I do encourage some strategic options to be available to teams (like refuelling) and having 4 tyre compounds available on race day instead of 2 for instance. Or if there is another tyre manufacturer, then have half of the races go to Pirelli and the other half to Michelin, and it can be decided by drawing lots. That would challenge teams to understand the tyres even more, because they are of entirely of different construction and material. Best team will be partly the one who can cope with both tyre manufacturers the most efficiently.

But a tyre war on track is definitely not what I want to see either- the focus will shift to the tyre manufacturers rather than the cars. I do not want to see that AGAIN! A more controversial move would be to ban DRS and have non-automated gear transmissions return. It would make the sport more pure, but also more entertaining.

Just my 2 pence!

12

The real problem is not the tire, but the ratio of grip to aero…

Focusing on the tire is focusing on the symptom… the disease in F1 is excess aero…

Cars on rails is what makes F1 dead boring.

Aero needs to be cut 50% and the tire should be wider, the chassis wider and the engines have more BHP.

13

I agree, although a wider chassis would reduce overtaking, could make cars lighter as well to keep them at current speeds.

14

The grass is always greener.

I hate the idea of going back to low deg tyres.

We have had a few years of great racing after several years of trying different things to get the formula more exciting.

I seem to remember an analysis of the amount and cause of overtakes (drs, non drs) since the introduction of Pirelli rubber and DRS systems and the fact is that the Pirelli tyres have allowed more overtaking and created more uncertainty in the races.

If you think Vettel is dominant now imagine what he will be like on perfect tyres with no overtaking.

15

Split the race distance into four quarters, and in one quarter, the teams have to elect which quarter to have a really soft tire- I’m thinking similar to how the BTCC have operated successfully this season where you have to choose a race in what to use the soft Dunlop.

Though I reckon we should keep Pirelli….does anyone not remember people were screaming for fragile tyres a few years ago? And didnt Michelin quit in a huff after their tyres caused a race boycott and sent RSC flying into a wall at Indy?

16

I don’t like the way Michelin (supported it seems by Mr. Todt) are trying to muscle Pirelli out of F1. Pirelli have only produced rubbish tyres because they were instructed to do so in order to ‘improve the show’. They deserve better treatment from the FIA.

Having said that, Michelin do make some sensible points. I agree F1 should go to larger wheels. In the 21st century old fashioned tall tyre walls should not be providing the majority of an F1 cars suspension movement, it should be springs, shocks, roll bars etc. skilfully engineered by each individual team. Michelin are also right, we should have more durable tyres. I want to watch modern racing cars being driven FLAT OUT by the best drivers in the world, not ‘nursed’ to the finish line. What would Senna have thought?

And whilst we are making a few changes, lets reduce the effectiveness of the wings massively, lets have some proper unassisted overtaking again.

Maybe Bernie could bang some heads together and put the sport back on track because once he’s gone it won’t be done by committee. It’s the least he should do, he’s done quite well out of it!

17

“What would Senna have thought?” Have you ever watched an F1 race from the 80’s I ask you? If you think for one second that cars from the previous eras were driven flat out you are totally wrong. Tyres were a limiting factor then as well as other things… some trying to nurse the car to the finish line on a set of tyres while other diving in for a set of fresh rubber… creating, in a similar way as today, good racing.

I can’t believe so many people want everlasting tyres. The only problem with todays rules is that you are forced to use all compounds (and the stupid DRS, how are people going to defend on old tyres if everyone is allowed a free pass each lap).

18

Very much of the focus is on Pirelli Tyres, but not on the Teams for how they Use them. I actually thought Ferrari did a Brilliant Job in Spain with the Four Stop Strategy, Equally Di Resta’s One Stop in Canada and Button’s Two Stop in Malaysia that could have been such a Different Result if it wasn’t for only 3 Wheels going on at the Second Stop.

It was a Boring Race, but Mercedes controlled the Race Brilliantly in Monaco to Win. However, a lot of Team seem to have wanted to stick to the ‘Norms’ in terms of Strategy and then Complain about driving ‘within the Tyres’, but they are not taking a Risk with Strategy, either adding the Extra one in and Actually Pushing, or Trying to get further on a Single Set.

At the End of the Day, I want the BEst Car, Driver Team Combination to win, and surely part of being the Best Team is Understanding and Working with the Tyres, even if they do Degrade Quickly.

I don’t want another Tyre War, so think it should be One Supplier, and ultimately want the racing to be exciting, maybe Pirelli’s First Tyre this Year were a Bit Extreme, but I don’t think it’s been the Shambles everyone is making it out to be.

19

This makes me Angry!!!

Pirelli has made a huge contribution to the sport, providing some of the most exciting races in years, and so many troglodytes crucify them for doing this

I remember last year when noone could know who would win the next race, and the first hald of the season had superb and entertaining spectacles race after race. In the second half, the better teams catched up and where on top of the tyres, what could be better planned than this?

Do you want to watch cars going 100% all the time, well then just watch Nascar, as your mindset doesn’t go any higher than that

Pirelli is being bullied for far too long now, they are the easy kid to take a beating. So many other real problems at F1, and it’s the same bull***t every weekend, tyres

They’ve hurt their image to provide what was in their contract, wich if they had gone the easy way, making tyres that would last an entire race, they’ve would have escaped

Not all has gone well, some weekends the tyres have had too much meaning in race, but I’ll take that to a procession any time

Just imagine this. At the moment Vettel and Red Bull are dominating F1, being arguably the best driver in the best car, so can you imagine what that dominance would be like if tyres weren’t an issue?

No, I don’t work for Pirelli, I don’t even have Pirelli road tyres on my car, I have some great BFGoodrich, wich is part of Michelin, but injustices makes me ANGRY!!

21

Simple, have them both in, Michelin does durable tyres for performance and a proper race with everyone pushing, Pirelli makes tyres for a WFF show and let’s see which tyres the teams pick 😛

I rather have 100 races like Spa 2013 with cars and drivers dictating the outcome than 1 lottery race with WWF tyres dominating the outcome.

22

my only question is- if f1 cars have low profile tyres, what is going to absorb the massive g-loading? because my understanding is right now its the tyres. so if they are low profile will it mean the driver and car will have to absorb the g loads then? i mean driving an f1 car is apparently a bruising experience so i don’t get how that would work?

on a different note, i think competition is good in any environment. be it in business, of which lets be honest f1 is a business. hence i don’t see the problem with michelin coming in. it will hopefully dilute the power of the fia because they seem to be the problem. alot of people blame pirelli for the tyres that melt like candles but they were only doing what the fia asked for.

23

Keep with Pirelli as their tyres provide a lot of excitement in the races. Michelin and a long lasting tyre leading to processional races are definitely a No No!

24

I see this weekend’s race as a hint of things to come if Michelin bring a long lasting tire to the races. Sure there was some action further down the pack but overall the race was tame compared to the edge of your seat stuff that the first half of the season represented. There was no fight for the win.

I’m certain that those that complain about Pirelli’s improve the show tires will be the same ones complaining about processional races in 2014 should Pirelli return.

25

It’s interesting to hear Michelin’s derisive attitude towards Pirelli when they were responsible for the biggest controversy in F1 from the last 10 years, a 10 years that included McLaren/Ferrari spygate, Renault racefixing and Mercedes’ illegal test.

The US GP of 2005 is the worst thing that happened in F1 in the last 10 years. It ruined F1’s reputation in one of the world’s most important markets.

I am sure some people will blame the FIA, because the FIA gets a lot of flak (sometimes deservedly) but in this instance it was 100% Michelin’s fault. You can’t change a race circuit, you can’t change the rules of the race. Michelin was responsible for bringing a tyre that was fit for the racing environment and they failed to deliver – and this was in a year where testing was allowed AND Michelin had a huge tyre advantage over Bridgestone (they won every other race)

People may not like what Pirelli has done, but that is an issue that should be taken up with the FIA and FOM as they delivered the spec they were asked to. And Pirelli’s tyre issues this year – even Silverstone – are nothing like what happened in Indy 2005. And Indy 2005 might have been forgiveable had testing not been allowed and Michelin not had the option of bringing more durable tyres.

26

How is Indy worse than what occurred at Silverstone? I’d say they were one and the same.

Indy was caused by tyres not being up to the job of coping with the banked final turn so Michelin looked for solutions – including letting their teams run Bridgestones – but was thwarted at every turn by the FIA, mainly the refusal to install a chicane to slow the Michelin users down or let then run through the Nascar pit lane every lap*. Michelin publicly held their hands up and took the pain when all the teams pitted.

Silverstone was caused by tyres not being up to the job of running round fast corners with aggressive kerbs. Pirelli denied there was a problem, blamed the teams for the way they were running the tyres and let the race run. Cue multiple failures.

I have more respect for Michelin for having the balls to publicly be held accountable rather than Pirelli who hid behind the ‘no testing’ excuse. They had three years to get the tyres right with no competition to show them up but still failed. Indy set the precedent for tyre issues causing safety issues, so is viewed as the worst example. Silverstone was no less or more severe, but was badly managed.

* the Nascar pits was separate to the F1 pit so was available as an alternative line with a speed restriction.

27

There was a lot more testing in 2005 than there is today.

28

Not that replicated the banking, loads and surface of the final turn at Indy. IIRC the tyres were failing due to the resonance the surface created within the tyre structure, causing it to delaminate rapidly after a handful of laps. They could only test this at Indy. Silverstone is a normal high speed circuit so the loads and effects should have been easily forseen/replicated at somewhere like Barcelona’s turn 3.

29

Teams will not agree to an 18 inch wheel. The change will cost them massively and there are too many unknowns.

In my opinion, the tyre situation is fine as it is now. The new engines will give enough excitement in 2014. We don’t need Michelin to spoil the show.

If FIA chose Michelin, then Pirelli will take them to the courts. The fans may end up footing the bill.

31

James,

what happens if FIA and Force India bring back Michelin but FOM and 10 teams insist on Pirelli?

all about politics & politics…

32

Who is the tyre supply contract with?

Other contracts are contingent on that, I would imagine

33

If it is true that Pirelli is investing a load of money on the 2014 tyres I can’t assume that they will be really happy with a Michelin comeback

34

I am all in for the (18″) Michelins.

Tyres are the wrong differentiator. They should last the race distance, if not race weekend. It’ll certainly spice up the qualifying again as well!

I don’t think we will go back to the 2005 processional races as we have ERS and DRS that can be applied on various parts of the circuit. F1 has moved on.

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