Free Tyre Choice In Formula 1?
In a strange request, Pierre Dupasquier, head of Michelin Motorsport, suggested that Formula 1 teams should not only be able to use any rubber compound, but also be free to choose which manufacturer’s products they will use. The proposal would give teams the freedom to decide from race to race whether to use Michelin or Bridgestone tyres.
Mr Dupasquier’s suggestion forms part of the ongoing Formula 1 tyre debate, which has seen teams try to reduce costs, improve safety by lowering speeds and make the sport generally more exciting by increasing the likelihood of overtaking. In addition, the fact that improvements in this year’s lap times can mostly lead back to the “black gold,” as Michael Schumacher once said, suggests that a new regulation needs to be made.
Another factor which has contributed to the debate is the general dissatisfaction among the car manufacturers. They are annoyed at the fact that many of the achievements of the engine are overlooked and that instead the media focus on the tyres of Bridgestone and Michelin. Both companies end up being mentioned in the media, sometimes Michelin promises improvements, sometimes Bridgestone, making the most of the obvious marketing opportunities.
Should a new ruling send Formula 1 back to a situation, similar to when Goodyear was the exclusive supplier, then tyres will no longer be the topic of conversation. A one supplier arrangement means tyres are no longer a possible reason for victory, but an excuse for defeat.
Therefore, neither Michelin nor Bridgestone would be pleased if the FIA decides to permit only one tyre supplier. In this light perhaps Mr Dupasquier’s suggestion to free-up teams’ tyre choice, is designed to keep the tyre part of Formula 1 competitive, while appeasing the teams. If Mr Dupasquier’s suggestion was taken on board then competition between Bridgestone and Michelin would be as fierce as ever. On the other hand, commercial factors oppose the suggetion. The current contracts bind teams to suppliers for three years, if this is reduced to one race what will become of the original equipment contracts that are linked to F1 agreements.