Michelin to Return to Formula One in 2011 - Report

Formula One is set to debut a new tire war starting the 2011 season, as emerged after the latest meeting of the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) in Sepang, later today. Bernie Ecclestone also attended the meeting, which apparently was focused on finding the solutions for a new tire supplier in the series.

Bridgestone announced their quit from the series at the end of 2010 last year, and recently confirmed their decision (despite the latest discussions between the Japanese officials and F1's Ecclestone).

According to the latest reports from Malaysia, it seems that Ecclestone has already prepared a Plan B for securing a tire supplier in the series starting next season, in the person of French company Michelin. The Frenchmen used to supply some teams with F1 rubber until 3 years ago, when the FIA decided upon a single tire supplier for the championship.

Despite constantly dismissing allegations that they are considering an F1 return, Michelin now seems eager to make that move on one condition: the teams to pay for their tires, while also F1 to provide “free advertising around the grand prix circuits.

However, Michelin would not agree to become single tire suppliers for the series, but battle its rivals Bridgestone – who, according to some source, are rethinking their decision to retire pending some further cost reduction offers from the FOM – each supplying their tires to different teams.

It seems what Michelin is looking for in between EUR2M to EUR5M per year from each team, in exchange for their tires. Additionally, the teams would have to agree to the “advertising revenue lost by giving Michelin free circuit hoardings to come out of general revenue,” as reported by the GMM news agency. Basically, the teams will get less revenue at the end of each season.

Additionally, in case Michelin will return to the series, it seems that their proposed variant of tires include a rear tire width of no less than 18'', as compared to the current 13'' ones, as reported by Autosport. If the info were to be true, that would lead to a massive revamp of car development for the 2011 season of F1, as a bigger size of the rear tires would affect the cars' handling.

Generally speaking, if we put 18-inch tires on the current cars suddenly, then it will have big oversteer – and will have less traction very quickly. Teams would have to redesign the rear suspension, aerodynamics and brake discs. It would be a lot of money and a lot of work,” said Bridgestone's director of tire development Hirohide Hamashima, according to Autosport.

In case the FIA will rule a new tire change for the 2011 season – increasing the width – it would oblige Bridgestone to develop a new tire also, meaning some additional high costs for the Japanese manufacturer, who might pull out of the race completely.

And, with the sums of money asked by Michelin to provide the teams with the necessary tires, some other manufacturers – Hankook or Kumho, for example – might offer their services to some F1 teams for a lot less money, creating a true tire war in the series.
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