Michelin offers a sole-supplier tire war

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You may have guessed, I’m not a big fan of high degradation tires. Never have been. While I admit that DRS is higher on my dislike list, HD tires are very close. I have always believed there is a better way to race than to add constructs to the series to overcome the aerodynamic efficiency these cars have.

Today’s story from Autosport caught my eye because F1 released a request for tender for tire supplier for 2019 onward. The interesting part of that is the change to a 19” wheel instead of the current 13” wheel. Few companies would be keen to ramp up to supply a tire for a 13? Wheel only to then change a year later to a 19”. That seems to be Michelin’s concern.

“When we were informed of the key elements of the tender, we looked at it and fairly rapidly we saw that there might be some very serious roadblocks,” said Pascal Couasnon
, Michelin’s motorsport boss.

“Obviously the first one was the fact that we had to start a development of 13-inch wheels [for 2019], which really didn’t make sense. It would bring a lot of cost to something about which Michelin had a very clear position.

“When we were informed of the key elements of the tender, we looked at it and fairly rapidly we saw that there might be some very serious roadblocks,” he said.

“Budgets are restricted and we need to make sure that we use the money on something that is useful for motorsport but is also useful for the car of tomorrow. So that was one very serious roadblock to start with.”

The reason I like Michelin is because we both agree that the HD tire is not a good idea.

“The second issue in terms of philosophy was having tyres which degrade, and that again is something that we are not in favour of: spending technical resources and money for something that is not useful for the driver of tomorrow.

“The key thing is to really develop the package which helps the driver to express his talent and fight.

“We don’t believe degrading tyres to build an artificial strategy is the way to go for tyres.”

I couldn’t agree more. I am often pummeled by other fans when I bemoan the MGU-H and the bludgeoning weapon of choice? F1 is all about technology and advancing, not going backward. That’s when I say, we’’, how about truly embracing that and admitting that HD tires is a step backward not forward in tire technology. It is taking tires the complete opposite way they should be going in. What about road relevancy and all that stuff people harangue me about?

Michelin has a better way

Michelin believes they can create a tire war within a sole-supplier format much the same way they do in MotoGP. Each weekend three compounds are on offer that teams have to choose and complete the race on those compounds. Michelin knows F1 isn’t as good as it could be today and they point to the tires as part of the reason.

“Is F1 good today? That would be my question,” Couasnon said.

“The sport and the [tyre] manufacturer would have to take a risk, but compared to today [it could be good].

“Look at MotoGP. We bring three types of tyres for the front and the rear, and the riders can choose. You then finish the race with three different combinations on the podium.

“The best compliment we have received from journalists is that Michelin has recreated a tyre war with one brand, and that is what we would love to do for F1.

“Let’s not forget endurance racing for example. in GTs, we deliver specific tyres for each car because there is such a difference between a Ferrari, a Porsche, an Aston and a Corvette.

“And nobody complains because we work hard to give the best package possible, so everybody can fight. That is the philosophy we would like to bring to F1.”

Michelin didn’t offer a response to the tender as they have no interest in HD tires but it was a good move to go to the press with their plan and claim some ownership on the concept. If the FIA decide to stick with Pirelli but change to this type of system, Michelin will have already marked the tree and claimed the concept.

I am also curious as to how the Pirelli contract was done. Was it a shrewd move by the Italian tire maker or an unfortunate timing for the FIA? I suspect the latter as they did not have the 19” wheel confirmed at the time Pirelli extended their last deal. Regardless, it does put Pirelli in the lead as they already have a 13” solution and will have a season to also create their 19” version for 2020 onward.

Perhaps that was orchestrated that way or not. Regardless, Michelin are out front leading the concepting battle by trying to let the world know the current system is not good and that they have a much better plan if only the FIA would listen.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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Tom Firth
Editor

So a couple of things. I’m slightly unsure why the article with the Couasnon quotes appeared on Autosport several days after a quote free article on sister Motorsport.com. The other thing to bare in mind perhaps is that in the past few days, Couasnon has been promoted elsewhere in Michelin during a reorganisation and his replacement is now directly in charge of Michelin Motorsport but I’m unsure whether that’s significant? As for HD tires, I’m not a fan of them either and certainly not a fan of the conversation in recent weeks for the next tire set to go back… Read more »

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

I think Michelins concept would be great. What they have done in MotoGP is also great.

As for the road relevancy of it… By not having to nurse tires the drivers can push more giving us more on track battles. That will put the cars on or close to the limit of finishing (due to fuel), which will lead to increased focus on thermal efficiency of the engines.

Win-Win-Win.

Tim Woods
Guest
Tim Woods

So good to read such an intelligent article. Most F1 fans are fickle and not really bright.

Member
Fast Freddy

“Few companies would be keen to ramp up to supply a tire for a 13″ As far as F1 goes I don’t have much of an opinion. My problem is sourcing 13” tires for my old Lotus.

Member

When I first read this on Autosport, my first response was “why?” If anyone remembers the fiasco of the 2005 USGP at Indy, it should be an management employee at Michelin. I’m no fan of the present tire situation in F1 with Pirelli and I don’t watch enough MotoGP to understand their tire rules but bringing an artificial tire war involving one tire manufacturer and 10 teams sounds like a dead end idea and one ripe for abuse or rules bending. Why can’t FIA or Pirelli simplify the tires down to just 4 non-HD compounds and let the teams choose… Read more »

subcritical71
Member
subcritical71

The tire war Michelin has created in MotoGP isn’t like the F1 tire war of Bridgestone vs Michelin. Michelin bring a few different tire compounds to each track and it’s up to the teams to decide which tire they will use. It can even vary front to rear (so soft in the front and medium in the rear). I like it because different bikes / riders need different tires to perform optimally. This lets the teams decide which is best and that’s what they run. There are no pit stops to change tires so you are stuck with what you… Read more »