For some time now, we have been hearing talks about Michelin’s bid to re-enter Formula 1 as the sole tyre supplier and competing head-on with Pirelli for the same. Now, Michelin has again emphasized on the fact that its interest to enter F1 is solely dependent upon the Formula 1 cars switching to 18-inch wheels from 13 inchers after the 2016 season.
Michelin’s head of motorsport Pascal Couasnon warns that they will only return if Formula 1 agrees to make the changes and said, “If the sport decides to stay with 13-inch wheels, we respect it but it would not make sense to us. That is why we are going to wait for the next time (the contract is up for tender).”
2006 was the year when Michelin left Formula 1 but now, it wants to return and develop tyres that last longer than Pirelli’s. Michelin’s involvement in Formula-E has given them a reason to reconsider entering Formula 1.
There is some flexibility to increase the tyre size according to current FIA tender which says that “if the tyre manufacturer feels there may be advantages to the competitors by doing so”.
Couasan said the transfer of tyre technology to road tyres is important to Michelin and F1 cars need to have smaller sidewall and be similar to those used by regular drivers that also last long.
Pirelli’s current F1 compounds are engineered to degrade and increase the strategy options for the teams. Cousan said that they were not prepared to make a tyre that wears out quickly.
What is interesting is that F1 drivers complain regularly about the fast-degrading Pirelli tyres and how it forces them to ease of the throttle and change their strategy. Drivers feel that cars are not as challenging to drive as they once were.