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F1: Michelin’s Blurred Lines

by on August 29, 2013

mvspThe problem with Michelin coming into Formula One for 2014 is that it may be too late for both the French tyre manufacturer and the whole of F1. I have no doubt that Michelin can produce tyres to supply the sport for next season, however more than once they have said that for them to return, things have to change. Michelin would embrace a return to the sport and a tyre war with Pirelli but not with the current formula. Actually, they would return as sole supplier or in competition with any other manufacturer if the rules were changed to make things more relevant to road going cars.

Currently the compounds are made (as requested by the FIA) to degrade quickly to promote overtaking, which does not appeal to Michelin. While performance is important for consumers, so is safety and durability. This is clearly where Pirelli’s public image has taken a hit. What we must remember, (while there are many Pirelli bashers), is that the Italian tyre manufacturer was asked to produce these types of tyres (by the FIA) and was NOT afforded the same testing privileges previously enjoyed by Bridgestone and Michelin. It was reported in Le Figaro (France), that Michelin’s Pascal Couasnon stated, ““The current state of affairs in this series does not suit us…, It makes me sad and angry. By needing to change the tyres after a few laps, or even a few corners, you create an unattractive image of the product for ordinary motorists.” To make things more relevant, Michelin has also previously stated that they would like Formula One to make the switch from the current 13 inch wheels to 18 inches.

This is one of the main reasons that is too late for Michelin and F1 teams to go into 2014 together. Unless they change their stance on this issue, there is no way F1 teams will sign an agreement at this late stage. Especially after having spent time and a mound of cash (large enough to make most of us forget our names), in developing their challengers for next season. Many teams have already made the switch to concentrate fully on their 2014 cars. The technical impact to of making a change in wheel size is enormous and far too complex in many ways for most of us to comprehend. As many of you may know, there is very little travel in F1 car suspension and most of it is down to the flex in the tyre sidewall alone. It is an absolute game changer. There is already a fair amount of uncertainty going into next season with the engine formula change that adding in another element of change would be irresponsible and risky. Formula One will require stability during this transition period.

Let us also take into account a few things. First and foremost, Michelin doesn’t particularly need to be in F1 as it is already supplying other forms of Motorsports and will soon have its hands full with Formula E. FIA president Jean Todt, being French himself, I’m certain, would like Michelin to return and thus has probably been dragging his feet a bit when it comes to signing the deal with Pirelli for 2014. It is understood that FOM have signed the agreement as have many of the teams, however the FIA must also sign the agreement. It is however up to the commercial rights holder, FOM essentially to endorse the deal. There are some blurred lines and grey areas which are obviously causing the delay.

In the end, a decision should be made on which company should supply Formula One based on what is best for the sport, and that alone.






From → Formula One

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