It has emerged that tyre manufacturer Michelin is ready to make a return to Formula 1 when the championship’s existing tyre contract with Pirelli comes to an end.
The French tyre manufacturer was last involved in 2006, opting to depart at the end of that year after a five-season spell as it was unhappy about a move to a single supplier from 2008.
Previous tyre manufacturer Bridgestone initially took up the reins prior to a switch to current supplier Pirelli from 2011, with its current contract running to the end of 2016.
In an interview with Italian newspaper Autosprint, Michelin Motorsport director Pascal Couasnon has stated that they are ready to return to the sport, but only if the sport changes its technical regulations and wants to use 18 inch tyres that are currently in place in the FIA Formula E Championship.
“Why not? We are fully open to a return, but on some precise conditions – Formula 1 must change its technical regulations, ” said Couasanon. “Tyres must become a technical object again, not just a tool to do a more-or-less spectacular show.
“Michelin has put forward some precise conditions in order to return to F1. We want 18-inch tyres, which we already use in Formula E, and soon in another series. If F1 wants to consider our proposals we are here, fully open, with a strong will to return. If, instead, the prospects are to keep things as they are now, then thanks but we aren’t interested.
“At the next tender for F1 tyre supply we will make our proposals, why not? Then it will be a problem for [Bernie] Ecclestone or the FIA whether to accept them or not.”
Further on, Couasnon states Michelin is now “open to supply tyres in a monopoly regime with a sole supplier”, as it is about to do in MotoGP when it takes over from Bridgestone.
Pirelli’s brief upon entering the sport was to make a high-degradation tyre that would lead to multiple pit stops after Bridgestone’s highly-durable rubber made for boring races. Even though Pirelli fulfilled the brief, the downside has resulted in drivers being unable to push to the limit, instead being forced to preserve their tyres.
When Couasnon was asked as to what he dislikes about the current F1 tyres, he added that the tyres should be stable and have a consistent performance of grip and that is what Formula One needs.
“Tyres should offer stable performance and grip levels,” added Couasnon. “It’s not normal that after a few laps a driver says ‘I need to slow down otherwise the tyres won’t last’. That shouldn’t happen. These days F1 drivers can’t show their talent because the tyres don’t allow them to.
“At the Spa 24 Hours GT race, too, some tyres can’t even last for two consecutive stints. This happens when you are in a sole-supplier regime and you have no motivation to improve. That’s called mediocrity, not technology. If instead you have a technologically interesting rule book, even if you are sole supplier, you are forced to offer a product at its best level.”