Michelin fight back against F1 ‘public’ opinion

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The perception in the paddock during the British GP weekend, was that Pirelli should easily win their bid to become Formula One’s tyre supplier from 2017-2019.

The perception of a return to Michelin tyres appears to have been largely negative  amongst all but those who believe a tyre war would benefit F1. Of course, Michelin’s preferred choice has been that there should be two suppliers of tyre to F1, with Michelin being one of them.

Yet in the past twelve months, Michelin have done a rather large U-Turn on this topic and are now part of the current bidding process to replace Pirelli as F1’s sole tyre supplier.

Ecclestone did little to help the French tyre manufacturer’s cause when he claimed that F1 racing with Michelin tyres would be boring.

“All Michelin would do is make a rock-hard tyre that you could put on in January and take off in December because they don’t want to be in a position where they can be criticised.

“That would make absolutely 100 per cent sure, if there was a question mark about Mercedes winning, it would be removed.

“It would be all the things we don’t want, and goes against all the things Pirelli have had the courage to do from what we have asked, which has made for some bloody good racing.

“If we had a rock-hard tyre, we could just forget about that.”

Michelin may well now be prepared to be the sole supplier of tyres to Formula One, however, they have made their position clear and listed the specific non-negotiable conditions under which they would participate.

“We want 18-inch tyres, which we already use in Formula E, and soon in another series.

“If F1 wants to consider our proposals we are here, fully open, with a strong will to return.

“If, instead, the prospects are to keep things as they are now, then thanks but we aren’t interested”.

This take it or leave it attitude has created some anger amongst the senior F1 team personnel. Eric Boullier explained during the Friday FIA Press Conference in Silverstone: “I think it’s up to Formula One and the FIA as well to put the conditions of the tender, not up to the potential tyre manufacturer supplier to impose what they want”.

“We [the teams, the FIA, FOM], as far as I’m concerned, are running our own business and we know what we want to do with the sport – or I believe we are. It’s not up to the others to tell us what to do. So, I think if the tender has been properly addressed then they should have the right answers”.

Whether Michelin have refused to bend or not – only time will tell.

It appears Michelin have finally realised their ‘take it or leave it approach’ has not gone down well and so their motorsport director Pascal Couasnon, is now on a PR offensive.

“We love competition, love automotive racing at its best, and like many people are sure Formula 1 can be very exciting”, Couasnon told Ian Parkes..

“It’s not my role to criticise or to talk about what’s going on at the moment.

 

“We simply believe in giving an opportunity to the driver and the engineers of the cars to extract the maximum possibility from each component, and with the driver being a very noble component.

“To get there you need a very high performance tyre, phenomenal grip, and that’s what excites us.

“When you see what is going on today in sportscar racing, the great battle we had at Le Mans, where it was pretty much a sprint for 24 hours.

“It was interesting to listen to Nico Hulkenberg say ‘I was tired’, that the race was a fight for 24 hours, and he could go to the maximum all the time.

“That makes us happy, and the reason why we develop tyres, so if we could do that in Formula 1 it would be great”.

There has been a perception created that there is no tyre management occurring in WEC racing, which is not true. The conversations around the trade-off between changing for new tyres and or managing the old ones to save time in the pit lane is frequently a significant part of the viewer experience.

Couasnon continues. “Michelin has injected excitement into sportscar racing, so why should we not be able do it in Formula 1?”

Michelin has always insisted that any return by them to F1 coincide with an increase in wheel rim size from the current 13 inches to 18-19 inches. So the FIA now must decide whether to ditch the current 13 inch wheels to retain Michelin’s interest.

“We need more modern sizes with a smaller sidewall which would bring us closer to reality with high-performance or super high-performance cars,” explained Couasnon.

“That means, yes, a minimum of 18. If it’s 19, why not? On that we are flexible.

“Where we have a major issue, and it is a [deal] breaker, is if the sport decides to stay with 13 inch, with a big sidewall. We don’t really see an interest.”

Michelin believe their tyres can immediately and significantly up the pace of Formula One cars, and are negotiable on the new proposals to make the tyres fatter/wider..

“That’s a discussion we can have later,” Couasnon said. “It’s important to first understand what and not how.

“If the ‘what’ is a faster car, then we know how to go three, four or five seconds faster right away.

“Our proposal is we want the driver to be tired at the end of a race, so we want to give them good mechanical grip, to be closer to reality so our investment in terms of technology can be useful and transfer from track to street.

“If it means a wider tyre at the rear, why not.”

So there it is. Michelin’s last public effort to win over opinion – before the announcement of the next F1 tyre contract is made.

This effort at a charm offensive from the French tyre manufacturer though feels as though it has fallen short and the pros of faster cars may not necessarily outweigh the cons of reduced overtaking in the races.

14 responses to “Michelin fight back against F1 ‘public’ opinion

  1. But it’s just a well know fact, Michelin is the best tire for racing on circuits.

  2. Having read what current and past F1 drivers have said about the Michelin and Pirelli tyres, can’t help but feel we’d have better racing if we had Michelin tyres. Its the way Pirelli tyres go through corners and the way they wear are contributing to the problems of drivers really going for it.

      • Damn, wish i wasn’t at work and more time to articulate this better, from I understand you might be no more likely to overtake with Michelin tyre, but they don’t get destroyed if you have a go and it goes wrong. Again this just from what I’ve read drivers saying, is the Pirelli tyre has a tendency roll through the corner and then snap when pushed and you cant feel/control it very easily, but the Michelin’s are far more progressive and you can push more in the corner knowing if you overstep the mark you can get it back.

        It sounds like I’m Pirelli bashing, but I do appreciate they get naf all testing to develop their tyres and have to go very much on the conservative side.

  3. …in other news:
    Blaupunkt express their interest in F1 – as long as the cars are fitted with a stereo;
    Kwikfit tender to take over the running of the pitstops – with the provisio that they can also conduct an oil change, top-up the screenwash, and fit a branded air-freshener;
    Rolex throw their hat in the ring to be F1 title sponsor – on the condition that the promoter alienates anyone whose income precludes them from buying a ridiculously overpriced timepiece…oh, that’s already happened.

  4. I am not sure the Michelin tyre will reduce overtaking. Even with the Bridgestone tyres in 2010 the number of overtakes doubled from the (15) years before. With DRS and Pirelli tyres (and competitive cars) it doubled again up until 2013, and dropped since 2014 and is now more or less on the level of 2010. (see cliptheapex.com/overtaking)

    From these figures I get the impression the making the cars more equal seems to have more impact on overtaking than the choice between Michelin or Pirelli tyres.
    So I would rather see the rules stay the same for a couple of more years to allow teams to catch up, than a new set of regulations which probably will see the grid more spread out (and maybe again one dominant team), and see less overtaking.

  5. Pirelli spend a lot of money on trackside advertising. Money that goes straight into Bernie’s pocket.
    Size of tyres, what they’re made from, etc, isn’t really an issue when Bernie looks at the large cheque from Pirelli.

  6. So to offer a simple question – was the 2012 season really so terrible?
    Was it not preferable to the 2015 yawn fest with respect to unpredictability?
    While I really want to see drivers pushing as hard as they can all race (you know, driving, as opposed to piloting to optimum settings as Fernando would say), but I still have to admit I enjoyed the chaos of 2012, and can only thank Pirelli for it. Like all things regulation wise in F1 it seems there is a lack of joined up thinking – tinkering with a bit here and a bit there – certainly return to tyres that allow for 100% attack is desirable, but should be accompanied by aero rules that will allow for cars to actually pass on track – without that we might as well just hold time trials over the race weekend and be done with it.

    To be fair to Pirelli, I think they did a great job to build the (dodgy) product that was requested of them in my opinion, and surely could have done a better job if they had not had their hands tied behind their backs with regards to testing (strange notion I know, testing with an actual current F1 car).

    This year they would seem to have gone over conservative in response to repeated criticism (unwarranted, criticism was with the desired product not their effort) and want to block the tyre free for all proposed by Force India I would say to prevent critisicm coming their way again, this has had the effect of reducing the spectacle.

    Mores the pity.

    • 2012 was a fine season. However, the same tires were used in the second half of 2013, and that wasn’t that great of a season. The issue was though, having failed to stop Vettel from winning a third title in the row in 2012, Pirelli came up with truly absurd tires for 2013. Nobody was racing for much of the first half of the season. The radio transmissions were filled with chatter like “Are we racing this car?” “We’re not racing this car” “drop back to save tires”. One race Hamilton refused to drop his pace because the car behind was a Caterham! Finally, the theater of absurd culminated with the clandestine “tiregate test” and the exploding tires in the British GP, at which point the series agreed to go back to 2012 spec tires.

  7. And more to the point a jump from 13 to 18 inch wheels is likely not to be made without some aero consequence and subsequent cost to re engineer.

    • Not just aero. The suspension would have to be changed as well. Right now, the tires with their large sidewalls are effectively part of the suspension system. With a short sidewall, the suspension would have to be changed to accommodate for that. It’s probably not a big deal though.

  8. “It was interesting to listen to Nico Hulkenberg say ‘I was tired’”

    I’m pretty sure he’d say he “was tired” if an F1 race lasted for 24hrs too…

  9. Pirelli is crap and only F1’s toxic and schizophrenic’s environment can tolerate such a mediocre and poorly engineered product among the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’. Yet the estabilishment and some less than brilliant people seemed married to it. So I don’t honestly expect them to leave so soon. Maybe if Silverstone-2013-like debacles happened every season…

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