F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed suggestions that Michelin could return to Formula 1 as the sport’s sole tyre supplier – replacing Pirelli – next season.
His comments come in the wake of the French tyremaker contacting the FIA during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend to express its interest.
That the FIA chose to release details of its interaction with Michelin shows rather how low the relationship between Ecclestone and the FIA’s President, Jean Todt, have sunk.
The pair has been engaged in a protracted dispute over who should continue as Formula 1’s official tyre supplier next year, with Ecclestone backing Pirelli and Todt supporting Michelin.
“FOM (Formula One Management) and Pirelli have a contract,” Ecclestone told Speed.
“They [The FIA] are nothing to do with commercial. The FIA’s position is that they are regulators. They regulate all the regulations that have been agreed. Jean is the president of the FIA. If it’s a matter of a vote in the World Council, he has one vote. As it’s not a matter for the World Council, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.
“All the teams who have spoken to me say they are very happy with Pirelli, and the problems they’ve had, they’re happy that they’ve dealt with them.”
Ecclestone’s comments are, however, not strictly true.
While Pirelli may have commercial arrangements with the teams FOM – which extends to trackside advertising – it is actually the FIA that ratifies the decision.
“A single tyre manufacturer will be chosen by the FIA for subsequent seasons following an invitation for tenders to supply tyres to all the cars entered in Championship Events for the duration of such subsequent seasons,” Article 25.1 of the FIA’s F1 Sporting Regulations reads.
Ecclestone may want to claim that the decision over tyre supply is a commercial one, but there’s clearly a regulatory aspect to it too.
What’s also clearly indicated is that a tender process has to occur, and were the FIA to be entertaining a return to Michelin – whose last tyre supply deal stretched between 2001-6 in competition with Bridgestone – it’s ridiculously late in the season to be entertaining the idea.
The 2014 season – which will present enough complexity with radically new aerodynamic and engine regulations – is fast approaching, and it would give Michelin barely any time to develop suitable tyres for the teams to run in the pre-season.
For the moment, the situation looks rather messy and Pirelli will be none too happy with the FIA’s latest antics.
That being said, it seems unlikely that the Formula 1 grid will be shod in anything other than Pirelli tyres in 2014, but stranger things have happened in a shorter period of time…
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