F1 Tyre Ruling Causes Controversy
The governing body of Formula One, the FIA, has made a ruling that could effectively brand Michelin’s tyres as illegal. This follows a complaint, believed to have been made by Ferrari and Bridgestone, although both have denied it, that Michelin’s tread is wider than the 270 mm permitted by F1 regulations. The complaint is that, although Michelin’s tyres conform to this rule before a race, during the actual race itself, the area of tyre gripping the road may be larger or, as the FIA put it: “We feel there may be systematic use of a part of the tyre as tread that doesn’t look like tread when the tyre is submitted for scrutineering.” The FIA has written to all teams, warning them that the tyre’s tread width may be measured differently from the Italian Grand Prix (14th September at Monza) onward.
If Michelin has to scrap its current tyres, the company says it cannot possibly modify the design before the Italian Grand Prix on September 14th and Michelin’s Pierre Dupasquier has suggested that the five teams running on Michelins might boycott the Monza GP. He says: “Our partners would have to spend a lot of money without any guarantee that they would not be disqualified. It is up to them to decide.”
Mike Gascoyne, Renault’s Technical Director, makes the point that a tyre’s contact patch is constantly changing, so how do you decide whether it is random or happening all the time and giving an advantage?
Michelin is definitely unhappy and has issued a statement regarding the “new interpretation” of the regulation. The company’s tyres, Michelin points out, have been deemed to comply with F1 regulations in writing by the FIA. The proposed change (to measure the contact patch after the race, rather than before) means that the new measuring system is unknown and thus prevents any further development work, says Michelin. The company also asks for clarification of definitions, saying that a tyre in use “can be in systematic contact with various objects, for example kerbs, which according to the profile and position, can touch up as far as the middle of the sidewalls.”
The French tyre manufacturer is unhappy with the timescale involved, rather than the new interpretation itself, saying: “We are fully open to discuss this regulation change wished by the FIA and help to define a measurement porocedure which could be enforced in 2004. We feel it is not realistic to ask for it before the Italian F1 Grand Prix.”