Return of the ‘Tire War’? Is tire war the new refueling?

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It seems that Michelin could be close to negotiating a return to F1 next year. AUTOSPORT reports that the French tire manufacturer are in discussions with the FIA on a return the the series as the current single-source supplier Bridgestone announced their departure at the end of this year.

Michelin has a sordid past with F1 and left the series in 2006 under a cloud of consternation. Michelin’s most difficult moment in F1 was the debacle that was the US Grand Prix in 2005 when the tires were not safe to compete on. The solution offered was to place a chicane before the long front straight but Ferrari’s boss, Jean Todt, scuttled the idea and the FIA acquiesced. Todt is the very man at the helm of the FIA now and is most likely involved in some of the current negotiations with Michelin.

Bridgestone’s departure has left a host of question marks and time is certainly of the essence. Any tire company wishing to enter F1 would need confirmation as soon as possible to start designing and developing the 2011 specification tire.

Michelin has made no bones about its intent. Their most successful product is their more eco-friendly product and they want confirmation that F1 will not only promote that products benefits but perhaps fashion the series to be more “green” in doing so.

Asa we reported here, Michelin is keen to return should certain conditions be met.

“We might consider returning but there are some very clear conditions,” Senard said today in an interview in Paris. Rules on tire use would have to change to “show the performance they can bring, notably in terms of fuel saving and CO2 reductions.”

AUTOSPORT suggests that Michelin cannot be handed the single-source contract and that must go our for tender. They state that this process could open the F1 world back up to multiple tires suppliers and a return tot he tire war. Hankook and Kumho have been rumored as interested parties.

We have yet to determine just how the 2010 season will turn out with the lack of fuel stops and dependency on a tire that is by all appearance, durable irrespective of what compound is being used. The notion for this season was that a softer or option tire choice by a team would be a liability but we are finding that both the option and prime tires are working just fine.

Some have suggested that Bridgestone should make a less effective tire to spice up the action but I assert that a company leaving the series is not about to spend R&D dollars doing so or take the brand equity hit when the tires are made to be inferior.

A tire war played into several championship title over the years and this element just may put the disparity back in F1 as teams with good rubber will be dominant over teams without. An inferior performing car can make great strides on superior rubber.

Can the tire war replace the tactical element of refueling? Will it be good for F1 or is it another false element that renders even good teams marginal due to a tire performance issue? What do you think about a tire war in F1?

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