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Michelin Ready for 2014 F1 Take Over? Not As Unlikely As First Thought…

by on June 25, 2013

mmanIn a previous post, I suggested that Pirelli may be out of F1 by 2014 and also suggested that Michelin may be poised to take over. This is pure speculation on my part.  I’m simply playing the role of devil’s advocate. To recap, Pirelli currently has an agreement in principle with many (but not all) of the F1 teams as well as with Formula One itself.  It does not however, have any agreement with the FIA as of yet.  In order for Pirelli to participate in F1 in F1 in 2014, it requires contracts with all three groups.

A noteworthy fact is that Michelin has not denied a return to Formula One. If one follows their Twitter feed, one might have noticed an increase in F1 related Tweets/Re-Tweets in recent weeks.  While in the paddock in Canada, I heard a slight buzz about Michelin and a possible return, but there were far too many rumors floating about before the International Tribunal. Especially after the Team Principle press conference on Friday when Pirelli’s Paul Hembery was advised by legal counsel not attend.

Paul had his own conference in the Pirelli mobile office, which I and several others attended.  Hembery was quite calm and very open and accommodating.  He answered questions and wasn’t overly guarded however he was cautious about how he answered certain questions.

Ross Brawn...what can you do?

Team Principle’s Press Conference, Canadian GP (before the International Tribunal). Notice Paul Hembery is not present.

Back to Michelin now who have suggested that they would be able to provide high performance tyres as they did previously in 2006 when they last won the championship with Renault.

Although the French manufacturer also suggests that in order for them to return, they would welcome some changes to the tyre regulations.  They  would like to see less fewer sets of tyres used per race.  They would also like the sport to move to using a tyre size more in line with today’s road going cars.  The initial vibe is that they would require some changes to be made to the regulations pertaining to tyres.

Hankook has said they are not interested and a Bridgestone spokesperson has also said, “We have no current plans to re-enter F1,” to AUTOSPORT in a story put forth by Dimitris Papadopoulos and Edd Straw earlier this month.  (http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/107869)  How many others would be ready to provide proper racing tyres to handle the performance requirements of F1?

Involvement for a tyre manufacturer in Formula One has limited benefits.  The biggest benefit is the global brand awareness and bragging rights.  Bragging rights by way of being able to associate one’s brand with the supposed “Pinnacle of Motorsports”.  Short of that however, there isn’t much value in it.  The technology transfer to road going tyres is limited, one might argue.  The sizes and compounds used in F1 are not really relevant to road car tyres.  Given the negative press and criticism that Pirelli have had to endure, one must wonder why any tyre manufacturer would want to hop in bed with the FIA and F1 in the current climate.

I suppose the question is not whether or not Michelin could come back in 2014 as sole tyre supplier then, but rather whether it wants to.  Let’s not forget the disaster in 2005 at the USGP which saw all Michelin-shod teams pull off after the parade lap.   Arguably, this was the nail in the proverbial coffin for the French outfit.  How far is either party willing to bend in order to strike up a deal?

Other questions that pop into mind are, will they be asked to produce similar compounds as the current Pirelli tyres?  If not, is F1 at risk of falling back into the processional doldrums that prompted the change in the first place?

So is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? We won’t know for certain…but it may not be as unlikely as we first may have thought.

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