Michelin could return…if F1 wants real tires

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Pirelli’s tire contract for Formula 1 is set to end at the end of this season and the FIA has suggested it will put out a tender for a new contract. Pirelli could very well renew its agreement but Michelin says they would be interested in coming back to F1 having left the series back in 2006.

The issue is that Michelin would only do so if certain parameters were met including 18” tires and a focus on durability instead of the tire being used as a construct for the “show” with high degradation as its key component.

Pirelli have done a good job of providing what F1 asked for but Michelin feel it’s antithetical to what real tire manufacturers should be doing in motor sport. Michelin Motorsport director Pascal Couasnon summed up the current situation perfectly saying:

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“Tires should offer stable performance and grip levels.

“It’s not normal that after a few laps a driver says ‘I need to slow down otherwise the tires won’t last’.

“That shouldn’t happen. These days F1 drivers can’t show their talent because the tires don’t allow them to.

“At the Spa 24 Hours GT race, too, some tires can’t even last for two consecutive stints.

“This happens when you are in a sole-supplier regime and you have no motivation to improve. That’s called mediocrity, not technology.

“If instead you have a technologically interesting rule book, even if you are sole supplier, you are forced to offer a product at its best level.”

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The F1 Strategy Group has said in the past that it would unlikely that the series would move toward a 18” tire and here is the crux and feckless nature of the group. On one hand you could understand their aversion to an overhaul of F1’s engine regulations for next year as that would be a drastic move and the big teams would trumpet increased costs as the reason not to do anything.

They would most likely suggest that moving to a larger tire would also mean exorbitant costs in new chassis design and supplier parts etc. So F1 is locked down over a cost fear and yet the moves it does make are galactic in cost scope such as hybrid engines.

The tires would be the same for everyone and not a particular impediment to any team. Mercedes enjoys a comprehensively dominant engine at the moment so you can understand their reticence in changing the engines but the tires are something the sport should seriously change and Michelin have it right.

It think it is only fair to suggest that Pirelli too would find it more beneficial to create a high performance tire that lasts and would be more than happy to provide such a specification. I am a fan of multiple tires options but some fans didn’t like the so-called tire wars. Will F1 stick with a sole supplier or allow multiple brands?

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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Tom Firth

F2 is going to have 18″ tyres?

Jason Paul

I am constantly reminded that these people don’t know much about cars. Or racing. No wonder Bernie looks like a(n evil) genius by comparison.

Nigel

Imagine that you own a tyre company like Pirelli. Would you rather have motorsport fans turning on a race and thinking “Wow, Pirelli did an amazing job making a seriously fast tyre, and it is incredible that they were able to last the whole race!” OR “Wow, Pirelli did an amazing job making a tyre that degrades quickly and requires the drivers to slow down during the race to preserve them”…..?

JustCoz

You’re slightly missing the point, close but not quite. If the FIA didn’t have Pirelli making crap tires, noone would ever mention Pirelli. Sure, the drivers would wear the hats on the podium and they might get mentioned once or twice over the course of a race weekend’s TV coverage, but they wouldn’t get talked about nearly as much as they do now. And as the old saying goes, all press is good press. From an advertising standpoint, I think a sole supplier is the worst thing that can happen to the tire manufacturers, because the supplier becomes completely irrelevant… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Not all press is good press, for Michelin Indanapolis GP 2005 was really bad publicity and lead to Michelin withdrawing from F1, which then lead to the sole supplier deal that we have now where only Pirelli were prepared to bid for the contract (Michelin and Bridgestone both said no thanks.

DRS_Matt

Coming at the “18 inch wheels” issue with a mind to “Keeping it road car relevant” Why? Some of us still drive performance cars that dont weigh 3000-4000 pounds or more (lol bmw, audi, merc) and as such good grip and stopping power can be had with 16 and 15 inch wheels, even as small as 13 on some real performance cars and not something more at home on a heavy duty work truck. A formula car is even lighter still, and being able to use the weight of the tire effectively as a secondary suspension makes them able to… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Hi DRS, you’re 100% right from an engineering point of view, but I think if F1 does go to 18″ wheels it will be because many people associate very low profile tyres (and big rims) with high performance, so the tyre manufacturers will want to display their low profile tyres on the ultimate performance cars. I’m not sure how they’ll find a way to display their name so prominently on a really shallow sidewall though – they might have to put it across the tread, spaced differently for each curcuit so that at HD camera scan speeds it appears to… Read more »

PM

I would love for Michelin to reneter the support. They don’t seem like the type to easily succumb to the willy nilly demands of the strategy group and will focus on making high performance, low deg tyres.

Junipero Mariano

Is the 13″ wheel a locked in specification? Does the larger rim size allow for more stopping power and better cooling? Would that offset the needed changes in suspension?

JustCoz

18″ wheels would allow for larger brakes, but I doubt the teams would run them, since larger brakes means more unsprung weight. The biggest change would be in suspension, since right now a lot of the suspension travel (the TV talking heads keep saying around half) is simply from the bouncing of the tires. Frankly, I’d think the teams would prefer to move from relying on the deflection of the tire, which is completely out of their control, to a suspension system with longer travel, but that’s just my 2 cents. There are also aero changes associated with it, but… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Isn’t there a plan to introduce 18 inch wheels from 2017 when the tyre contract is renewed? There was a fair bit of chatter about it after the ‘test’ when the lotus ran a few demonstration laps with 18 inch wheels at Silverstone last year. The idea might have been dropped because the teams were saying they’d need test tyres from about now to be able to engineer the cars for a switch in 2017. While I agree that from an engineering point of view the teams might prefer to have a more controlled tyre/wheel/suspension system, I think the costs… Read more »

MIE

The 13″ wheels are in the regulations specifically to limit the size of the brake discs. In the 1970s F1 cars had 15″ wheels, but the wheel sizes were controlled as a means of limiting the braking distances. Already the braking distances are too short to allow overtaking, imagine how short they would become with much larger brakes. In addition the extra control of the aero performance by not having so much undamped movement would lead to a reduction in lap times. So something else would need to change to keep cornering speeds in check. Perhaps limiting the number of… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Great input MIE, you’re knowledge and understanding of F1 are amazing

Schmorbraten

There are other ways of limiting braking power – just measure the discs, or force them to use steel brakes or whatever. To me it just doesn’t make sense that teams invest huge amounts to develop high-tech suspension to fine-tune those 50 % of the suspension that they can control and then give them bouncy, wobbly life-savers instead of what the rest of the world uses. Same goes for the other arguments in the vein of “you can’t change x because that would impact on y”. I hope that someday, someone will be in charge of the rules who asks… Read more »

Junipero Mariano

Thank you for the information! Has the state of racing engineering matured to the point that technology banned on the grounds of safety or cost can be reintroduced?