Michelin Still Not Interested in F1 Unless It Can Supply Tires That Don’t ‘Destroy Themselves’
Michelin’s CEO tells The Drive the company simply doesn’t agree with how F1 uses tire degradation to amp up the drama.
Pirelli is the current tire supplier of Formula 1, but the end of its multi-year contract isn't too far away with an expiration date set for the end of 2024. Originally scheduled to end at this year's season finale, it was extended one more year due to the global pandemic and other technical regulation delays. This has potentially given competitors additional time to throw their hats in the ring and engage in negotiations—with many wondering if former tire supplier Michelin would consider a comeback.
In conversation with The Drive's editor-in-chief Kyle Cheromcha, Michelin CEO Florent Menegaux explained that while a return to F1 is always on the table, the French tire company simply cannot agree with how the series relies on tire degradation to improve "the show."
"The question is, how do we leverage technology to have a good show? And that’s where F1 comes into play, because we have been discussing with them for a very long time—and we are not in agreement," Menegaux told The Drive. "Because they [F1] say to have the show, you have to have tires that destroy themselves. And I think, we [Michelin] don’t know how to do this. So, we cannot agree.
"Teams should be understanding tire performance and capitalizing on the fact that the tire is going to be performing from the first lap around the circuit to the last. The drivers will tell you they want to be at their maximum all the time. And when I hear the drivers in Formula 1—I like Formula 1—but they say no no, it’s not possible," he added.
Menegaux's mention of tires that "destroy themselves" specifically highlights the fact that Pirelli tires are designed to degrade at specific rates to improve on-track action. However, it's worth pointing to the many instances where tires have literally destroyed themselves in dramatic fashion at circuits with high top speeds due to running on the very edge of performance. The most recent example of this took place in Baku back in 2021.
Tire degradation has always been a hot issue in F1 regardless of era or tire supplier. Even back in the days of Michelin and Goodyear, tire deg, performance, and the political games that always surround F1 gave people plenty to talk about. For Menegaux, however, it's rather simple: Why is Michelin involved in racing, to begin with?
"First, we need to remind ourselves why Michelin is in racing," Menegaux told The Drive. "The first element is not about the show. It’s not about the brand. It’s about the technology. We are in racing because it’s the best way to very quickly live test new technology. That’s the first reason.
"And of course there are side benefits—a side benefit is the show. A side benefit is the brand awareness. But in terms of brand awareness, Michelin is one of the best-known brands in the world. We don’t need to do this," added Menegaux.
The French executive has led the truck and passenger tire divisions for Michelin across North America, Africa, and Europe, but has also been deeply involved with racing, overseeing Michelin's motorsport activities between 2008 and 2014. Menegaux's experience with series like WRC, WEC, Formula E, and MotoGP reinforces his idea that teams and drivers should understand tire performance and be able to capitalize on that performance in order to win.
"In MotoGP we provide tires soft, medium, and hard for every type of circuit, every race. And every type of bike can win with soft, medium, or hard without changing," said Menegaux. "It’s the way you set up your bike, the type of circuit, and the way the pilot operates. So when we can influence the regulations so that performance is obtained while using far less materials and making a very good show, then it’s ok. In MotoGP, even not the top racing teams can win. And they will tell you that the tire we provide helps them to do that. That’s why we are not back in Formula 1."
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