The possible tyre future for F1?

Published 09/11/2015, 9:40 AM EDT

Pirelli is under a contract to be the sole tyre supplier till the conclusion of the 2016 Formula One season. May 2015 saw F1 open tenders for the supplier from 2017 till 2019 (a 3 year period). Pirelli, who have been supplying tyres since 2011, have submitted their bid, along with French Manufacturer, Michelin who had exited the sport in 2006.


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Following the Belgian Grands Prix, a lot of criticism has been directed against the manufacturer over their tyres, following high-speed blowouts suffered by Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg. At Monza, Pirelli wanted to change the tyre pressure it would recommend to the teams but withdrew it when it faced severe criticism from the drivers.

Vettel’s blowout at Spa resparked the Pirelli criticism.

Another interesting thing is that 2017 will see a change in the tyres, with the supplier required to make wider tyres, with the rear ones being 420mm wide compared to the current 375mm. Also, considerations are being made to increase wheel diameter from the current 13 inches to 18 inches.


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Pirelli, who have been supplying since 2011, have been known for the fast degrading rubber. This was done so that the drivers have to pit often, leading to more exciting races with pitstops in the thick of the action. The F1 supremo, Ecclestone believed that this was the approach to keep the spectators entertained.

However, the drivers feel that they have to manage the tyre’s more often, to utilise them to get the best pit stop strategy. Red Bull boss, Christian Horner said,

The drivers want consistent tyres on which they can push every lap.”

This means they are not pushing the car to the limits. Continued criticism had even seen the most outspoken of the drivers, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso and Rosberg being told to keep their frustrations out of public view during Free Practice at Monza.

The 2015 compounds used. in Formula One

There are 20 days till the new contract will be awarded and Pirelli’s pitch to the FIA is they will adapt to whatever rules the governing body lay down for the season. However, they want more testing with the driver’s and governing body support in 2016, so that they can develop the optimum tyre that could satisfy all parties.

An interview given by Pirelli boss Paul Hembery summed up their issues.

It is pointless some drivers wanting this, the sport wanting something else and the public wanting something altogether different again.

“That needs to be an open discussion while we are defining what is going to happen in 2017.

“Somebody might not like what has been decided but if that is the way we are going then you have to buy into what F1 is.”


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Michelin on the other hand are said to be only wanting to re-join the sport if they move to 18 inch diameter wheels and use long lasting rubber, as it does with Formula E. This harder rubber approach, by stretching tyre life means the drivers can push their cars more while still running an optimal number of laps. From the drivers point of view, this is what they want, the ability to push the car on a consistent basis.

The 18 inch diameter wheels that Michelin want to use if they become the manufacturer. This is the same dimension on formula-E

However, the downfall of the Michelin bid is that they won’t be flexible in their bid and unless the sport goes for the 18-inch diameter wheel. Also people still have an unpleasant memory of the company, with the 2005 US Grand Prix controversy that led to a race with just six cars starting, as their tyres were unable to cope with the high-speed turn that had caused Ralf Schumacher to crash back then (Bridgestone, who were a manufacturer then, had no issues on that turn).


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Currently, both bids have been accepted by the FIA on sporting and technical grounds with Ecclestone to make the final decision on 30 September 2015. However, mostly its believed that Pirelli will be getting the new contract, as Ecclestone has always backed the Italian Manufacturer and has not been in favour of Michelin’s return to the sport, especially given that they want to introduce a long lasting rubber compound.

While it seems likely that Pirelli will be given the contract, maybe if Michelin proves to be a more lucrative commercial offer, expect them to be handed a contract. However, both teams now have a set of demands that needs to be fulfilled if they are to supply the sport.




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