Analysis: Why F1 has to 'take it or leave it' over Michelin tyre plans

Michelin wants to enter Formula 1, but not at any cost, as it has made clear to the FIA. Adam Cooper explains why the French manufacturer does not want anything to do with the current 13-inch wheels.

Analysis: Why F1 has to 'take it or leave it' over Michelin tyre plans
Michelin scoring tower
Michelin Tyres
Michelin pitlane advertising
(L to R): Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director and Martin Brundle, Sky Sports Commentator with the Pirelli 18
Michelin tire detail
Michelin tires
Michelin Man signage in pitlane
Pirelli 18
The new Michelin advertising banner on pitlane
Michelin tires
Pirelli 18
Pirelli tyres
Pirelli tyre

With talks set to continue this week about agreeing new Formula 1 cars for 2017, a perhaps as significant battle is raging behind the scenes between Pirelli and Michelin over future tyre supply.

The two companies are locked in a fight to secure the F1 tyre contract from 2017, but both are approaching the situation in a totally different manner.

While Pirelli says it is happy to do what the sport wants, Michelin has taken a bold gamble by putting all its eggs in one basket.

It says it is only committed to a future of 18-inch wheels - and has told F1 chiefs to decide whether or not they want such a change to be part of grand prix racing's future. If they don't, Michelin will walk away.

Michelin motorsport boss Pascal Couasnon told Motorsport.com: "We have been very clear.

"If the solution is to stay with 13 inches, we're not interested. That's the proof that we are there with very clear ideas.

"It's not that we just want to be absolutely visible on the track or whatever, we want to bring new ideas. We will respect the decision, that's fine, but that's the way we want to go.

"We've always loved the sport, that's not a secret. We have been proposing some ideas now for a long time, I would say since 2010. It would be easy to talk and propose stuff, and then when we had the possibility to act, say no we're not interested.

"So we have made a proposal. We've given some strong guidance, because we don't believe that staying with 13 inches makes sense especially in terms of justifying the investment. That would not be a cheap date!"

Road car relevance

The logic is easy to understand. Like any company involved in motorsport, Michelin's rationale for being there is a mixture of technology transfer and simple marketing of the brand. Thus racing tyres have to relate to their production counterparts.

"We want to make sure that what we will learn can be transferred, and the physics of a very high sidewall is so different.

"If you look in the parking lot this morning, you don't see these tyres. So let's take advantage of what we learn.

"And the track to street really makes sense for us. We are talking about 18 inches, but if it's 19 inches, why not? The key thing is get closer to reality."

Cost argument debunked

The argument from the teams is that a change of rim sizes will mean a complete rethink of braking and suspension systems, just at a time when the issue of costs is under sharp focus. Couasnon has an interesting answer to that charge.

"There are pros and cons. In terms of saying it costs a lot of money, it does. But today, I'm convinced that there is a lot of money that's being spent to understand the [Pirelli] tyre. So is it going to be much more money? I'm not quite sure.

"I would say we'll have a tyre that would be interesting to work with. We've seen with Renault – it's no secret that we are working with the Formula 3.5 – very good results so far.

"We see that there is potential with the settings of the car, maybe more ways to really play with the settings of the cars, which will make it more interesting for the engineers.

"We want tyres that are going to make the driver very tired when he's done racing. We are not against pit stops or a good show. I would argue that Le Mans over the last several years has been an incredible show, with great technology tyres.

"So it's possible to have a show, and we can have pit stops with a tyre that allows you to drive 100 per cent of the time."

Sporting excitement

So without the sort of degradation that Pirelli has been asked to provide, how would you guarantee that there would be pitstops? Michelin's ideas might not go down well with everyone.

"You could say for example you have two specs, and with Spec A for example you have 'x' laps maximum, and you use them the way you want. Or within 'x' number of races you've got that many laps."

To land the F1 deal Michelin has to please both Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA, as well as the teams. It's well known that Ecclestone is historically close to Pirelli, while Todt is sympathetic to Michelin.

"We've been starting to talk to the teams, we want to understand a bit further what they want," says Couasnon. "You need to go step by step. First of all it's really what's important for the FIA, what's important for FOM, what's important for the teams.

"We've been talking to Bernie for some time, we expressed why we are giving this guidance, and at the end we will respect his decision. We believe that we can bring something very positive to the sport, that's why we made the proposal. Then we'll do our best. What will happen will happen.

"We have a normal relationship with Jean, and I'm sure the FIA will look at the different proposals. Their role is to make sure that technically everybody can deliver what they said. They are very competent on that. We'll know mid-July what's going on."

shares
comments
F1 chiefs in fresh push to get rid of 'driver aids'

Previous article

F1 chiefs in fresh push to get rid of 'driver aids'

Next article

Analysis: Why Jean Todt prefers to avoid FIA wars

Analysis: Why Jean Todt prefers to avoid FIA wars
Load comments
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Prime

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed.

How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Prime

How Lotus uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Prime

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Callum Ilott what Red Bull couldn't Prime

How Ferrari offered Callum Ilott what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says Oleg Karpov, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021
The signs that point to F1's rude health Prime

The signs that point to F1's rude health

OPINION: Formula 1's calendar might still be facing disruption as the pandemic affects travel but, says Mark Gallagher, the business itself is fundamentally strong thanks to the epic rivalry taking place on track and the consistent arrival of new sponsors.

Formula 1
Jul 24, 2021
The unexpected benefit of F1's sprint race repeat Prime

The unexpected benefit of F1's sprint race repeat

OPINION: Formula 1's sprint race trial at Silverstone drew mixed feedback on Saturday, but there remained the true test of how it would impact Sunday's Grand Prix. While fans were busy marvelling at Fernando Alonso's progress, a key lesson was being learned that would directly contribute to the dramatic lap-one clash at Copse the following day

Formula 1
Jul 22, 2021
The off-track considerations that led to Hamilton/Verstappen F1 shunt Prime

The off-track considerations that led to Hamilton/Verstappen F1 shunt

OPINION: Formula 1’s 2021 title fight turned ugly last weekend when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided at the start of the British Grand Prix. Verstappen thankfully walked away unharmed, but this had been a clash long-since coming.

Formula 1
Jul 21, 2021
British Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

British Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The 2021 British Grand Prix will live long in the memory for the dramatic clash between Formula 1's two title protagonists, which opened the door for other drivers to capitalise. One did so in spectacular fashion, while others fluffed their lines

Formula 1
Jul 19, 2021