Pirelli vs Bridgestone as tire tender heats up

An interesting article by Jonathan Noble over at Autosport yesterday regarding the Formula 1 tire tender/RFP that is in process with the FIA. It’s interesting because it is the first time I can recall Pirelli really lobbying on behalf of themselves in the media.

A few years ago, when the tire contract was up for renewal, I know Hankook was in the running but to be honest, I don’t recall Pirelli feeling much of a threat given their ability too scale and supply, with alacrity, a global racing series.

This time around, things are a little different. Jonathan quotes Mario Isola:

“In these 13 years, we always try to do our best to fulfill the requests we had in different years.

“From 2011 there were high degradation tires, then we had different power units, and the wider tyre, to the 18-inches. Then more degradation, and then less degradation. We always adapted our product to the different requests.

“On top of that, we have been very active on the promotion side and marketing side, supporting all the requests from the promoter and from the FIA.

“I believe that our role is the role of a partner more than a sponsor. And we would like to be like this.

“We want to be part of the sport not because we want to dictate anything, but because it means that we cooperate in a good way with our stakeholders, plus talking to the drivers and talking to the teams.

“We have built a system that is super-efficient, to supply data to them. I was comparing a report that we did in 2011 with a report we do now and it’s incredible [the difference]. You will laugh at the one page we provided in 2011 compared to the book that we provide now.

“All of this is sometimes taken for granted, because when you do that step-by-step, you don’t realize how much you have done in this long period.”

Reminding F1 of all the things they do outside simply making bespoke tires and supplying around the world, Pirelli wanted to make sure F1 knows how hard they work at promoting the sport. I can attest as a media source that they do provide great insight and media content in a very timely manner.

This time it’s a bit different than when Hakook was involved. This time the process has moved to stage 2 with only two bidders—Pirelli and Bridgestone.

The latter is a massive Japanese company who knows how to make racing tires and supply them worldwide. In fact, they are the largest tire manufacturer in the world and that’s is very stif competition for Pirelli.

Bridgestone boast 55,000 employees and 50 production facilities in the Americas alone. Pirelli is around 7th in size of tire makers globally.

There is also another issue that could be at play here. With 37% of Pirelli owned by Sinochem, a Chinese company, is possibly looking to sell it’s 4.8 billion Euro investment in Pirelli and this could put the company in play for buyout firms.

Bridgestone already enjoyed FIA environmental accreditation and supports their ecoRally Cup. Pirelli have their work cut out for them and while they were doing a bit more chest-pounding in the early days around 2013, they have certainly changed their tune and are offering a very hat-in-hand approach to this new tender.

“What I can tell you is that the tender document was a lot more complicated than in the past,” said Isola.

“There are many sections and many elements added compared to the last one we applied for.

“There is a big part linked to sustainability, a big part linked to our ability to supply a product with certain characteristics, and a service with certain characteristics, a number of engineers. We had to work quite a lot to get all the papers needed for that.”

The one thing I am interested in as Michelin. I’m a bit surprised but then if the tender called for high degradation tires, Michelin may not have been interested in proceeding with any bid. I agree with Michelin, I do not like high degradation tires and wish the new tender would avoid them. They are a construct and have an invisible impact on the racing to the point of tilting the machine while no one at home can even see them or understand the impact.

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