Michelin is sticking firm on its stance that F1 needs a change of tyre philosophy. After the blowout saga of Spa, and now the post-Monza tyre pressure controversy, it might be said that Michelin has put its nose in front of Pirelli when it comes to securing the official supply contract for 2017. Not so. Amidst all the recent tyre-related drama, Bernie Ecclestone - who will decide which manufacturer gets the nod - issued a statement of full support for Pirelli.
The statement, circulated by Ecclestone's company FOM, said Pirelli has been encouraged "to provide tyre compounds with performance limitations because tyre degradation contributes to the challenge and entertainment of a formula one race. "Thank you, Pirelli, for helping us to deliver excitement to formula one fans!" another section of the statement read.
Michelin, on the other hand, has never hidden its attitude that a F1 tyre should not be designed to degrade, but rather to allow the drivers to push hard and show their talent. "We have been very clear for some time now," said competition director Pascal Couasnon. "We're not saying that Pirelli are doing the wrong thing, what we're saying is that the philosophy of Michelin is different," he told UOL's Grande Premio.
"Two things," Couasnon explained. "First is that we believe a tyre supplier needs to show a positive aspect, but we believe a tyre that wears out after a few laps does not give us the possibility of developing a strong product. The second thing is that today, the tyres used in F1 are 13 inches with a very large sidewall, which is definitely not representative of what is used in normal cars, not even cars with high performance."
However, since the Spa tyre blowout story, some have pointed out that Michelin has also had serious safety problems of its own in the past. Asked if the absolute debacle of the 2005 US grand prix is denting Michelin's chances of working with F1 again from 2017, Couasnon said firmly: "No. That was long ago, and in that ten years, we have learned a lot."
"I think we prove it every weekend, in very difficult forms of motor sport, such as LMP1 with Porsche and Audi, and even FIA GT with Ferrari and Corvette and all these great brands that trust Michelin. When they have a choice, they choose Michelin," he insisted. "I am sure that the FIA and even F1 acknowledge that we are a very strong brand," said Couasnon.
And he didn't want to comment specifically on Pirelli's problems encountered at Spa, saying: "I don't know how the tyres were made and we were not there. We do know that Spa is a difficult track, but I have no comment to make on that subject." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing