Pirelli Intermediate Tires, wheels, Pirelli during the Australian GP at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on Thursday March 30, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Lionel Ng / LAT Images)

F1: Michelin ‘surprised’ Bridgestone eying tire deal

(GMM) Michelin’s motorsport boss says he’d be “surprised” if Bridgestone really is serious about taking over from Pirelli as the sole tire supplier in Formula 1.

It is believed the FIA has now approved the technical applications of both Pirelli and Bridgestone for the contractual period beyond 2024, with commercial negotiations now set to take place without a specified deadline.

Bridgestone and Pirelli aside, the other most recent tire supplier in F1 was Michelin – but boss Matthieu Bonardel says the French marque is definitely not interested.

“If there is an invitation to tender from F1, we of course take a very close look at it,” he told f1-insider.com.

“But for us, there are simply certain criteria that have to be met,” said Bonardel. “We must be able to be innovative. We use motorsport as a test laboratory.”

Afraid to take the risk, Frenchman Mathieu Bonnardel (left), director of competition at Michelin talks to Scott Clark, Executive Vice President, Automotive, Motorsport, Experiences, and Americas Regions. Photo Courtesy of Michelin

However, he says Pirelli – and Bridgestone, if the Japanese company secures the 2025 contract – has to produce tires designed to spice up F1’s show.

“We want to tell a story that fits Michelin’s brand philosophy – that we produce high-quality tires that last longer and are sustainable,” he said.

“But in the F1 tender, there is just half a line on sustainability. There are practically zero expectations in this regard and it doesn’t matter at all. We could burn the tires after the race and nobody would say anything.”

Bonardel also said F1 tires are not designed for peak performance anymore.

“The reality is that the tire is used to create a difficult situation for the driver. He has to manage them, and that paints a bad picture of the tire.

“We want the drivers to be able to fight and be happy with their tire partner,” he added. “Maybe Pirelli doesn’t care, but it’s a must for us. So as long as they have that philosophy, we’re out.”

Michelin’s Bonardel also suspects that Bridgestone doesn’t really have a realistic chance of beating Pirelli to the deal.

“I’m not sure Formula 1 is really interested in having another tire manufacturer,” he said. “The invitation to tender is not written for a newcomer, but for the current supplier.”

Some believe that is why Bridgestone is currently staying very quiet about their supposed application.

“In terms of philosophy, mindset and strategic goals, Bridgestone is not that different from Michelin. They are certainly closer to us than Pirelli,” Bonardel said.

“I’d be surprised if Bridgestone wants to demonstrate tire degradation just to be in Formula 1.” [Editor’s Note: It’s obvious they do, and they have a PR department that knows how to manage “the message”]

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