BID TO RETURN TO F1: Tyre supplier Michelin could return to F1. Image: Clive Rose / AFP
LONDON, England - Michelin has no interest in supplying tyres to Formula 1 unless the sport agrees to make them bigger, a change motorsport head Pascal Couasnon feels sure will happen eventually.
The company and current suppliers Pirelli are the only bidders for the three-year contract from 2017, when rule changes could be introduced to make the cars quicker and harder to handle.
TYRES NEED SMALLER SIDEWALL
Michelin has stressed that their bid depends on a change of tyre specification from 13" to at least 18".
Couasnon said: "If the sport decides to stay with 13", we respect it but it would not make sense to us. That's where we are going to wait for the next time (the contract is up for tender)."
Michelin supplies 18" tyres to the world rally and endurance championships and Formula E.
The current FIA tender document opens the way for an increase in diameter "if the tyre manufacturer feels there may be advantages to the competitors by doing so."
Read: Michelin 'dissapointed' with F1's tyre state
Couasnon said the transfer of technology was important for Michelin and F1 tyres needed to have a smaller sidewall and be more similar to those used by regular drivers as well as longer-lasting.
Couasnon said: "We don't want a banal tyre. We want a tyre that is getting close (to road tyres) so then you can transfer."
Whereas the Pirelli F1 compounds have been engineered to degrade and increase the strategy options, Couasnon said Michelin was not prepared to make a tyre that wore out quickly.
He said: "It's not the message we want to give which is 'we're going to invest a lot of technology to make a tyre which doesn't last'.
"I respect the strategy of my competitors but that's not really the image and philosophy of Michelin. We can create pitstops with some other ideas but what Michelin would like to deliver first is a tyre where the driver has fun and is tired at the end of the race. Today they are not."
SWITCH TO LARGER TYRES?
Drivers regularly complain that the current rules force them to look after fast-deteriorating tyres and ease off the throttle to save fuel, and that the cars are not as challenging to drive as they were.
Asked whether he felt the switch to larger tyres would have to come one day, Couasnon replied: "I am convinced."
Jean Todt, president of the governing International Automobile that drew up the tender documents, told Reuters it would be inappropriate for him to make any decision on the matter.
Todt said: "It is important that it is addressed by people with more skill than I have about the size of the wheels."
Michelin withdrew from F1 in 2006, a year after a farcical US Grand Prix that went ahead with only six cars after all the Michelin-equipped teams withdrew on safety grounds.
F1 has had a sole supplier since then, with Bridgestone replaced by Pirelli in 2011. Couasnon was confident the memory of the 2005 race in Indianapolis would not be held against Michelin now.
Couasnon said: "I remember 2006 was pretty good. We've learnt quite a bit from this event. We've done Silverstone for many hours and didn't have any issues. For me that's the past.
"I hope that people will remember more what we've done over the last two or three years and what we are prepared to do for tomorrow."
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