The Formula 1 teams have demanded a quick answer to the question of who will supply the grid with tyres in 2011.
Since Bridgestone announced its intention to withdraw at the end of this season there had been little news on a possible replacement until Michelin – the obvious candidate for the job – finally conceded that it was interested, albeit on its own terms.
One problem is that the French company has always insisted it wants competition rather than a sole supplier role, as the F1 rules currently demand, while there is also a discussion about whether teams will now have to pay for their tyres.
The French company pulled out of F1 at the end of 2006, in large part as a result of the fallout of the previous year’s US Grand Prix fiasco, and the subsequent heavy-handed reaction of the FIA.
But with Jean Todt rather than Max Mosley now at the helm, relations between both parties have improved.
Michelin wants to build on its sports car racing technology and switch from 13ins to 18ins wheels. That would finally bring F1 into the modern era with a low-profile tyre with a better marketing fit.
The change would entail significant alterations to the cars’ suspension, but in order to cut development costs there’s a chance the FIA will mandate that the brake/upright dimensions stay the same as now, effectively still filling a ‘virtual’ 13-inch space within the larger wheel.
Cooper Avon has also emerged as a surprise last-minute bidder for the job.