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F1 “show” of no interest to Michelin

Michelin has ruled out any possibility of a return to F1 while the sport insists on tyres that “destroy themselves for the show”.

Though the FIA has begun the tender process for the supply of tyres to F1 from 2025, thus far only the current supplier, Pirelli has shown any interest.

Of course, the desire to ‘level the field’ rules out any hope of a potential tyre war, but many were still hoping for an alternative to the Italian manufacturer which has been the sole supplier since 2011.

French manufacturer Michelin first entered F1 in 1977, in competition with Goodyear, Dunlop and Bridgestone. Gradually taking the fight to Goodyear, Michelin withdrew at the end of 1984 having won 59 grands prix.

It returned again in 2001, now in competition with Bridgestone, but left again in 2006 in the aftermath of the infamous 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

Many would love to see the Michelin name return to F1, even as sole supplier, but the French company is adamant that as long as the sport continues to dictate that tyre degradation is necessary for “the show” it isn’t interested.

“The question is, how do we leverage technology to have a good show?” Michelin CEO, Florent Menegaux tells The Drive. “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.

“They say to have the show, you have to have tyres that destroy themselves. And I think, we don’t know how to do this. So, we cannot agree.

“Teams should be understanding tyre performance and capitalizing on the fact that the tyre is going to be performing from the first lap around the circuit to the last,” he continues.

“The drivers will tell you they want to be at their maximum all the time. And when I hear the drivers in Formula 1, and I like Formula 1, but they say no no, it’s not possible.”

Acting on the wishes of the sport’s powers that be, Pirelli provides tyres that degrade over a specific timeframe in a bid to improve the show. However, over the years there have been a number of cases where the tyres have been pushed to the limit, with dramatic consequences, most notably Baku 2021.

“First, we need to remind ourselves why Michelin is in racing,” says Menegaux. “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.”

Between 2008 and 2014, Menegaux oversaw Michelin’s involvement in various forms of racing, including WRC, WEC, Formula E, and MotoGP, and it is this experience that convinces him that drivers and their teams drivers should be able to understand tyre performance and use that knowledge in order to win.

“In MotoGP we provide tyres 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.

“It’s the way you set up your bike, the type of circuit, and the way the pilot operates,” he adds. “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 tyre we provide helps them to do that. That’s why we are not back in Formula 1.”

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