Cooper Avon a better choice than Michelin? Or is it just leverage?

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An interesting story from Mr. Noble at AUTOSPORT suggests that Cooper Avon tires may be making a late push to possibly enter F1 in 2011. As Mr. Noble points out, Formula One Teams Association members have agreed in principle to Michelin’s stipulations for returning as they supplier for F1 in 2011. Current supplier, Bridgestone, announced that it will leave the sport at the end of this season despite FOTA attempting to persuade them to stay.

Michelin left the sport in 2006 under a cloud of consternation having been at odds with former FIA president Max Mosley and Formula One Management’s Bernie Ecclestone. Michelin stated then that they had no interest in being a sole supplier and relished the thought of competition to prove their product in the spirit of battle against Bridgestone.

Many believe that the French tire company was done wrong bu F1 management and that they now have the upper hand in negotiations of their return as F1 is in dire need of a tire supplier and spec for 2011 so the teams can start construction on their cars.

Mr. Noble suggests that sources revealed Ecclestone’s desire to seek another supplier although FOTA have agreed to all of Michelin’s demands for a return to the sport in 2011. Not difficult to believe as Ecclestone is not one to be held over a barrel in negotiations and is usually the one holding his opposition over the barrel.

FOTA is seeking a meeting Sunday with Ecclestone to ascertain his concern about Michelin’s stipulations upon returning and his desire to seek Cooper Avon’s entrance to the sport. On one hand, Michelin should relish the competition with Cooper Avon as they stated they left the series as they do not like sole supplier situations. This would also make the expense of servicing all the teams less for each company but Noble’s story gives the impression that Ecclestone is seeking Cooper Avon as a sole supplier to the series. Noble may not be implying that but it is how I took the story given its verbiage.

Perhaps Cooper Avon would be an interesting entrant to the series but I would be concerned about their ability to support a $100mm operation world wide. It seem Kuhmo, Toyo or Yokahama might be a better option with more resources but I may be completely wrong on that notion. Supplying F1 is no small task and Goodyear can vouch for that.

There is a romantic notion for me as Avon has been a marque in racing for many years but my hunch is that Ecclestone feels Michelin’s terms may be steep and a little competition might help sharpen pencils at the French company’s offcies. Interesting too that I have not seen an official tender from the FIA to all tire suppliers they deem capable of supplying the series. If the new teams have taught us anything, it is that the FIA’s vetting procedure is not the most complete process at Place de la Concorde. Tires are one of the most critical elements in F1 and bringing a small supplier in on a whim might do more damage than good.

Important too is the teams confidence level of the suppliers quality, design and compatibility to their chassis. Michelin is a proven leader in tire technology and racing integration. Their tires have been on many championship-winning cars throughout the years and they are large enough to support the series globally.

So is this just posturing from Ecclestone or is there a reason Cooper Avon would be a better fit for F1? Will Ecclestone allow a tire war again with both Michelin and Cooper Avon? FOTA asked Bridgestone if they would consider staying and supplying just a few teams but they declined. So we are left with many questions. The questions that FOTA are hoping to get answered on Sunday.

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