UK-based tyre maker Avon has admitted that it is looking into the possibility of becoming Formula One's new supplier, taking over from Bridgestone at the end of the current season.
The company first emerged as a candidate to take over the supply contract during last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, but is only the latest in a growing list of possibles, which has seen the likes of Goodyear and Dunlop mentioned, and both Kumho and Hankook express interest before fading away. With Bridgestone seemingly set on withdrawing after four years as sole supplier following Michelin's exit in 2006, F1 is desperately seeking to confirm a replacement with, ironically, only the French concern also appearing in the frame.
The teams, however, are wary of welcoming Michelin back with open arms, with Bibendum claiming that it would want paying for its supply, which would feature a switch to 18-inch wheels from the 13-inch rims currently in use. The French company has also said that it would only return to the top flight if there was a 'tyre war', allowing it to compete against at least one rival, and an emphasis on 'green' issues, that would allow it to demonstrate its commitment to the environment.
Whether Avon would be a significant-enough opponent for Michelin to accept the challenge remains to be seen - the British brand is not known for its road-going tyres in the way that Bridgestone or Goodyear are - but it has expressed an interest in breaking into F1 after years of being associated with series lower down the ladder, such as F2, F3 and, until last season, A1GP.
"The company is in discussion with the relevant parties and cannot comment further at this stage," a statement from Avon's motorsport division claimed, before confirming that 'as a major motorsport tyre manufacturer, Cooper Tire, through its Avon Tyres Motorsport operation, has been approached to supply Formula One'.
Interestingly, it is being suggested that Bridgestone could provide 'technology and personnel' to help Avon make the step up to F1, which may help assuage the teams' concerns. However, with designers keen to know what wheels and tyres their cars will be running on next season, the pressure is on to confirm a supplier as soon as possible.
"Michelin has made a proposal that is under evaluation to make sure that it is the best proposal from the technical point of view and the commercial point of view," Ferrari
team boss Stefano Domenicali has claimed.
"On the other hand, I know that there is a possible discussion to have another tyre competitor who can be ready to come for next year.
"I think we will know something more, I would say 100 per cent, by Barcelona, so the situation of tyres should be almost clear, if not defined, by then."