5 Companies in the Running – F1 Tyre Supply Saga Continues
The plot thickens. The news that five manufacturers are involved in talks with the FIA about who will supply Formula One tyres next season, suggests a decision is not immanent, as had early been suggested. We knew that Bridgestone wanted to walk away from F1 and that the FIA are trying to tempt them back. We also knew that Michelin had thrown its hat into the ring subject to the series taking a more ecological and competitive slant to its supply, which is currently run on a control tyre basis. Then Cooper staked its claim, followed by Pirelli who picked up on Michelin’s request for 18-inch wheels as an opportunity to show its strength in high performance sizes. The latest reports suggest Kumho is now promoting itself as a contender.
According to reports on motorsport website Crash.net, efforts to convince Bridgestone to reverse its decision to quit “remain the leading priority” for the powers that be. These reports pointed out that, despite the fact that five names are “seemingly” in the ring, the required “equality, consistency and cost” priorities mean “two of them are currently favoured rather more than the other three.”
However, Bridgestone could yet pull a u-turn, leaving the series as a control tyre. During the weekend of the Spanish Grand Prix (7-9 May 2010) the recently appointed Bridgestone Europe head, Makio Ohashi, is said to have visited the Circuit de Catalunya at the to speak to Bernie Ecclestone.
If this kind of deal cannot be struck, Michelin is seen as the next in line to the incumbent. However, the French company has stipulated that it wants to participate in competitive supply arrangement. If Michelin had its way, it would supply tyres on 13-inch rims until 2013 before a transition to lower profile 18-inch rims. According to Crash.net, the French manufacturer has also sweetened its offer, by halving its financial demands from 3 million euros per team to 1.5 million euros after “more competitive bids” from Pirelli, Avon and Kumho. However, none of these have any current race data for F1, with Pirelli having not competed at this level since 1991. The others have older or no data at all.