Michelin is reportedly back in the running to become F1’s sole tyre supplier from 2017. It is already known that the French marque, like the sport’s current partner Pirelli, has been approved by the FIA and forwarded to Bernie Ecclestone for negotiations about the new deal. But it was strongly believed that the clear favourite is the incumbent Pirelli, mainly because F1 supremo Ecclestone supports the Italian company’s approach with ‘show’-designed degrading tyres and lucrative trackside advertising deals. It was also said that Pirelli has the backing of the teams in not wanting to switch to an 18-inch rim profile, as per Michelin’s demands.
According to three authoritative media reports, however, Michelin should not be considered out of the running quite yet. The German-language Speed Week said the announcement of the 2017 decision is actually now overdue, indicating that negotiations between Pirelli and Ecclestone have been intense. And the BBC reports that Ecclestone “is coming under pressure behind the scenes to pick Michelin rather than Pirelli”, as the fallout of the Spa blowout saga continues. “Governing body the FIA is also said to have doubts about the Italian company,” the report added.
Tensions between Pirelli and leading drivers are also running high, as when Sebastian Vettel was asked at Suzuka about the controversial new high pressure regulations, the Ferrari driver insisted: “No comment really.” And in a third media report, by Germany’s authoritative Auto Motor und Sport, it is explained that the Pirelli vs Michelin race is “still quite open”. “The sympathies of the teams are evenly distributed” between Michelin and Pirelli, it said, adding that while Ecclestone is on Pirelli’s side, Michelin has a powerful ally in the form of Frenchman and FIA president Jean Todt.