Since 2007, Formula One has had one tyre supplier support the entire grid. From 2007 through until the end of 2011 it was Bridgestone, since 2011 the sport has had Pirelli.
In the Bridgestone era the supplier was often criticised for not giving a tyre that degraded quickly enough to provide close racing. While the debate about what makes for closer racing can be debated for an age, it looks to have been an unfair argument given 2010 was the closest season in recent memory.
The Pirelli era has had tyres that are often difficult to warm up in the correct fashion, easy to damage with flatspots in lock up situations and degrade often very quickly. Admittedly, Pirelli was brought in to help have tyres that degrade quicker, but in 2013 this became almost dangerous as tyres were de-laminating themselves at risk and were putting drivers and marshals at risk.
Pirelli vs Michelin: Who Should Supply Formula One?
Earlier this season a tender period was announced and entrants to be the Formula One official tyre supplier for 2017-2019 could be put forward. Pirelli have lodged their entry and so have Michelin. As far as we are aware no other tyre manufacturer has lodged an entry.
Within Michelin’s entry has been the stipulation for an 18 inch rim to be introduced to the sport. They claim that this is because the current 13 inch rim is no longer relevant to road car development as they are now rarely seen on road cars.
Are Michelin correct in this argument? Would a bigger tyre be more suitable for a single seater series? The argument has always been that Formula One has been the forefront of new road going technology and that tyres should be treated no differently.
Recently at the Monaco Grand Prix weekend Sky F1’s Martin Brundle, a former Grand Prix driver himself; took a GP2 car fitted with a Pirelli 18 rim set of tyres out on the circuit and he gave his thoughts on the idea.
Pirelli wish to stay with the 13 inch rim and pursue that direction of development, but again: Is this the direction Formula One should go in?
The other idea proposed is a tyre war. Veteran drivers from that era claim it made for great racing as Bridgestone, Michelin and Goodyear fought it out. Different conditions and temperatures on any given day could have given any competitor an advantage.
Damon Hill proved this in the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix in the under-performing Arrows-Yamaha with Bridgestone shod tyres. The heat of the day proved too much for the Goodyear runners and Bridgestone had the advantage.
Do we wish to see a tyre war? Or perhaps do we need to see a supplier who can give the demands of Formula One the performance balance it needs regarding wear and road-going uses? It’s a debate that will go on for a while to come until a decision is made very soon.