A clear message from Michelin

There is a sound argument for control tyres in Formula 1, even if it may ultimately have a detrimental effect on the quality of the F1 show, removing a key element of uncertainty. Intensive tyre development is expensive and leads to development which can stray into areas where safety is brought into question. At the same time there is a strong argument that F1 needs to be pushing new technologies rather than seeing itself solely as show business and trading on that. In future all the F1 teams will have the same tyres and as was seen in the mid-1990s this is not necessarily a good thing.

The downside of a single tyre is that the remaining tyre supplier will find that the promotional value of F1 will be greatly reduced as tyres will only be mentioned when they go wrong whereas competition has meant that the publicity is a great deal more positive by nature. There are some companies which are happy to simply take the long term view and add victory after victory so that ultimately they can claim to have won X number of races. It does not matter to the customer that the results were achieved without opposition.

Michelin has always made it clear that bidding for a control tyre deal made no sense as it is illogical to get into an auction to pay more money to get less of a return on the investment and for some months it has been widely accepted in F1 circles that Michelin would not be staying in the sport if there was a control tyre regulation. Michelin fought the idea but at the F1 Commission at the end of October the company was deserted by one of its teams and a key vote on tyre regulations for 2006 was lost. Michelin was deeply unhappy, notably the fact the vote which is shared by the tyre companies, wielded at that particular meeting by Bridgestone, did not reflect its views. There is a strong belief in Clermont-Ferrand that Bridgestone ought to have abstained and that others present should, at least, have challenged the vote.

There has been antagonism between Michelin and the FIA since Indianapolis last summer: Michelin has rarely missed the opportunity to criticise the federation, and the FIA has rarely missed the opportunity to take a snipe at Michelin. The result has been a state of unhappiness on both sides.

"This decision is the result of the realization that there is a profound disagreement between the sports philosophy that has always been driving Michelin and the management practices of the F1 authorities," company boss Edouard Michelin said in the statement. "There are constant changes to racing regulations without warning. Such practices also make planning for the future completely impossible. If F1's ways of functioning were to be significantly modified, Michelin would not hesitate in proposing its services to the different teams once again. Michelin would have liked to have extended its long-term Formula 1 involvement, because the demands of Formula 1 as well as the collaboration with partner teams have been such a source of progress and fruitful exchanges."

One can say that there is a certain amount of sour grapes in the statement but the sport would do well to ask questions about whether it wants to see big global companies departing in such a fashion.

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